What springs to mind when you think of White Tea? Its name alone somehow suggests all things delicate, like clouds in the sky or the gentle feel of velvet. This is not far from the truth, either. In fact, Known and loved for its mild, often sweet flavours with light grassy undertones. This is mainly due to the minimal processing required in its production. Yet, compared with the likes of its cousins, Black Tea, Green Tea, and even Oolong Tea, this beverage remains relatively unknown to most outside of China. Now its becoming more and more popular due to the recent scientific studies into white tea benefits.

White Tea has been rising steadily in popularity. But what makes this tea so Special? And why, after hundreds of years, has it only very recently been cast into the limelight? To fully understand this, we must first explore White Tea from plant to teacup, and everything in between. We will also examine the fascinating history behind this beverage, and perhaps most importantly, it's absolutely incredible health benefits. The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company will be concluding our “health January” with one of the healthiest brews of them all: White Tea.

What is White Tea
What is White Tea?

White Tea comes from the same plant as any other tea (not to be confused with herbal and fruit tisanes). This is known as Camellia Sinensis. However, unlike other teas, this type of tea is harvested, usually by hand, before the plant’s leaves have had the opportunity to fully unfurl and also while the buds are still very young.

Contrary to popular belief, White Tea does not get its name from the light liquor it creates, rather the silvery pekoe (hairs or dust) that grow on these unopened buds of a tea leaf. The processing of White Tea begins with withering, again like any other tea, but the leaves are not allowed to oxidise for a lengthy period of time. The withering of this Tea can sometimes take days to carry out, and often results in the water content of the leaves falling below 10%.

Oxidation, on the other hand, is the biggest differentiator in how various teas are processed. It essentially refers to how long tea leaves are allowed to be exposed to oxygen after they’ve been harvested. By rights, the longer a tea is left to oxidise, the darker it becomes. This is not the case with White Tea.

Its processing (or, rather, lack of), coupled with its very short oxidation period results in a brew that is unmistakably delicate and very fresh. Most consider White Tea the least processed of any tea; that actually goes for Green Tea, too. There are many different types of White Tea (we’ll get to that later), but most follow a similar processing method with only very minor differences.

Mostly grown in China, although other countries such as India; especially the regions of Assam and Darjeeling are currently experimenting with production. The most famous White Teas originate from the Fujian Province of China, specifically the Fuding, Zheng He, Songxi, and Jianyang prefectures and counties. These hilly territories with their rich soils, year-round mild climates, and abundant rainfalls contribute greatly to White Tea’s unique character.

Loose Leaf White Tea

Three Main Types of White Tea

The most commone white teas are Yinzhen (sometimes known as ‘Silver Needle’), Bai Mu Dan (or ‘White Peony Tea’), and Shou Mei. Although White Teas do not work on a grading system per se, it is still helpful to think of grades when understanding the three main types of White Tea. Silver Needle Tea, for example, could be considered the highest grade. Bai Mu Dan, meanwhile, is recognised as a sort of middle-grade tea. Finally, you have Shou Mei, which is typically very low grade.

We cater only to the two higher grade teas as we prefer to ensure quality with each one of our brews. There are also numerous lesser-known White Teas available (especially through us), but as a rule of thumb, there isn’t as much in the way of a vast selection to choose from. This is mostly because, within the global tea industry, White Tea is largely recognised as “a new brew”, especially when compared with Green Tea; a beverage that is quite literally thousands of years old. White Tea, however, is but a few hundred years old, as we are about to find out.

History of White Tea

History of White Tea

White Tea as we know it today is considered within the worldwide tea industry, a relatively new invention. It was first developed in the Fuding prefecture of the Fujian Province, southeast China. This dates back to the Song Dynasty (906-1127), with it first mentioned in a publication called “Treatise on Tea” written by Emperor Huizong himself (1107-1110). Despite this, earlier records indicate that an almost “prototype” form of White Tea; one that used slightly different processing methods, and is not strictly a White Tea; as it was developed during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

This period saw early harvest White Tea leaves appear solely in compressed cakes. It’s believed that pieces were broken off from these tea cakes to be steeped in earthenware kettles. Returning to the Song Dynasty, White Tea was, for a very long time, strictly reserved for royals of the Emperor’s court. According to legend, it could only be served as a “tribute” to the Emperor by virgins with white gloves as a symbol of honour and respect. There is no real historical evidence to support this, but it certainly makes for an interesting story.

The first published account of White Tea consumption in the English language would not arrive in the west until 1876, where it was actually categorised as a Black Tea because it was not steamed like Green Tea. The reason that knowledge of this brew took so long to reach English-speaking ears is likely due to the immense difficulty of transporting, especially anywhere outside of China.

During this time, White Tea was prone to spoiling easily and was especially hard to store. Thankfully, this doesn’t necessarily apply today. As loose leaf tea production methods developed over time, so too did the process in which White Tea could be exported. Now, everyone and anyone, even those beyond the Fujian Province and the rest of China, can enjoy this exquisite tea.

But White Tea’s history did not stop there. Following the invention of Silver Needle Pekoe Tea and Silver Needle Tea (1769 and 1885 respectively), a new White Tea was developed in 1922 called White Peony Tea. After Silver Needle Tea, this particular beverage remains one of the most popular despite being so new.

The most recent development in White Tea’s history only dates back to 1968, when new transportation techniques were adopted in order to improve the arduous process of exportation. Today, there is a new reason why everyone is flocking to this tea: its health benefits, which are, incidentally, proven.

This is according to numerous scientific institutes across the world that have been striving to uncover this brew’s true beneficial potential. In fact, in the last decade alone, we have come to know that, when consumed as part of a healthy and active lifestyle, White Tea could be the miracle we are looking for. So, now you know the history, let’s explore the science of White Tea.  Health Benefits of White Tea

Health Benefits of White Tea

Before we delve into greater detail, it's important to know the basics of White Tea and its health benefits. We are asked many questions about White Tea, most of which refer to its medicinal qualities. The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company have compiled a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) and their respective answers for you to examine. After that, we will explore the ins and outs of this tea and why it might have the potential to improve your everyday way of life:

Does white tea have caffeine?

Most of the time, very little. There are a lot of factors to take into account when examining the caffeine content in your morning cup of White Tea. Its very much depends on where the plant was cultivated, how the tea itself was processed, and ultimately, how it was brewed.

Quite possibly the most important, when in dried form it typically contains 4 to 6% caffeine. However, when a tea; no matter the type; is steeped for five or more minutes in boiling water, it will likely transfer a far larger quantity of caffeine per cup.

If you are looking to cut down on your caffeine content, White Tea is a great place to start providing you follow the brewing instructions available on each one of our White Tea. Once you have achieved that, you will be enjoying a tea with much less caffeine than Black Tea; which often has 150% more caffeine per cup; Green Tea; which has around 50% more caffeine.

For comparison, the below list may give you some idea of the caffeine content in each one of your favourite teas and or coffee:

  • On average, White Tea contains 15 to 20 mg of caffeine per cup.
  • On average, Green Tea contains 30 mg of caffeine per cup.
  • On average, Oolong Tea contains 45 mg of caffeine per cup.
  • On average, Black Tea contains 50 mg of caffeine per cup.
  • On average, Coffee contains between 65 and 150 mg of caffeine per cup.

We have a clear winner, and it’s White Tea! However, caffeine can be a tough cookie to crack, so it’s important you know the facts, even when you are not consuming White Tea. For this, we recommend you read this article: How Much Caffeine in Tea and Coffee

White Tea vs Green Tea?

It very much depends on your perspective. However, it’s no secret that Green Tea has had the most attention these past few years. Both Green Tea and White Tea are renowned for not being overly processed. This, in turn, allows them to retain most of their beneficial antioxidants. Yet White Tea, as we’ve already established, is even less processed than Green Tea, meaning that it retains an even higher level of antioxidants, 1 point to White Tea.

But then, it’s also important to note that caffeine is not all bad and can, in fact, have health benefits of its own. As we already know, Green Tea typically has more caffeine than White Tea. So, that’s 1 point to Green Tea. Furthermore, Green Teas are largely considered less expensive (alas, this isn’t always the case).

As a result, Green Tea is more widespread and more extensively studied. Let’s call that 1½ Points to Green Tea, as it doesn’t necessarily mean its any healthier. In fact, regarding this point, one study that has been conducted on White Tea potentially tips the balance in its favour. This study was published in the “Journal of Nutrition and Cancer”, and researched the effects of Green and White Tea on the liver and lungs of mice with induced oxidative stress and DNA damage.

Although both White Tea and Green Tea were effective in fighting oxidative stress and DNA damage, researchers noted that White Tea “was found to be more protective” than Green Tea. 2 points to White Tea. Do we have an all-round winner? We’ll let you be the judge.

Health benefits of White Tea

White Tea Benefits

Is 2018 going to be the year of change for you? If so, consider adding White Tea to your diet to help you along the way. White Tea is known for containing a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and special antioxidants, as well as many other pharmacological elements. This includes amino, calcium, caffeine, catechin, gallic acid, magnesium, manganese, polyphenols, potassium, theobromine, and zinc. Astoundingly, this is just to name a few. Combined, these compounds make a magnificent cocktail of healthiness. So, what does this mean for you personally? Let’s explore:

Antioxidant in White Tea: We skimmed over it previously, but now it’s time to examine the importance of White Tea and its richness in antioxidants. These antioxidants are, potentially, the answer to a number of ailments prevalent in western society, most notably cardiovascular disease and even; although studies are preliminary; cancer. The most important antioxidant compounds found in White Tea are polyphenols, specifically ones known as Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).

This is similar to Green Tea, although it has higher concentrations of EGCG, making it a truly wonderful tool when combating free radicals in the body. Free radicals are harmful unpaired electrons introduced to the body through the natural process of oxidation. EGCG, meanwhile, can combat and ultimately neutralise these free radicals, thus reducing the risks of a number of chronic conditions.

White Tea Weight Loss: We might be well into the new year, but for some, a hopelessly slow metabolism can mean losing weight is a lot harder for some. This beverage when consumed as part of a healthy and active lifestyle, can actually boost your metabolism, no matter how slow it currently is. Again, this is a quality often associated with Green Tea, rather than White Tea, but a 2009 study published in “Nutrition and Metabolism” revealed that the latter beverage possesses the very same properties.

According to research, White Tea extract effectively reduces the deposition of triglycerides in human adipocytes, or fat cells, and promotes the breakdown of fats. For those who are not so scientifically-minded (which goes for many of us), the EGCG content in White Tea is at least partially responsible for the weight loss abilities of White Tea.

Anti-Aging Properties: The miracle that is EGCG strikes again, this time helping you to look and feel more youthful. A recent study by BioMed Central has established that White Tea has antioxidant activity that directly affects the overall health and appearance of your skin. Researchers with this study looked specifically at the effects on structural proteins found in the skin called elastin and collagen. Elastin is responsible for maintaining elasticity of the skin along with aiding in wound repair. Collagen, meanwhile, is a protein found in connective tissue that supports the skin’s strength as well as elasticity.

Ultimately, the breakdown of these two proteins can lead to age-related wrinkles and sagging skin. The research reads:

“White tea whole extract exhibits comparable anti-elastase activity to EGCG alongside very high collagenase [enzymes that break the peptide bonds in collagen] inhibition at a very small final concentration of 25 μg which suggests additive or synergistic activity between the catechins within the tea extract particularly in the case of collagenase inhibition. Also, as collagenase is a zinc-containing metalloproteinase, the catechins within the tea extract which are known to be metal chelators may bind to the Zn2+ ion within the enzyme thus preventing it from binding with the substrate”.

Not sure what any of that means? It was discovered that White Tea helped to prevent the breakdown of Elastin and Collagen, which meant stronger, better skin. Furthermore, the amounts of White Tea used in the experiments were far less than one would typically consume in the average-sized cup. This begs the question: could there be even more to the anti-ageing properties of White Tea than we already know? Probably.

Improved Cardiovascular Health: The frequent consumption may help to decrease blood pressure. This is according to a 2001 study published in the “American Journal of Epidemiology”, which indicated that components such as catechins help to dilate blood vessels which, in turn, allows for reduction in blood pressure and better flow throughout the body. Furthermore, White Tea could also help in treating dyslipidemia, endothelial function, and even inhibit low-density lipoprotein oxidation. What component of White Tea could possibly do that? You guessed it: EGCG.

Improved Oral Health: As if it hadn’t done enough already, White Tea can also put the gleam back in your smile. Compounds such as polyphenols can help reduce plaque formation by blocking the growth of bacteria. Additionally, the fluoride found in White Tea has a high bioavailability, which can prevent cavities.

Research published in the “Dental Research Journal” has suggested that with every cup of White Tea consumed, an estimated 34% of its fluoride content is retained. At first glance, this doesn’t sound like much, but in reality, 34% might just be enough to avoid a dreaded trip to the dentist!

Reduced Risk of Type II Diabetes: There are two main ways that White Tea reduces the risks of Diabetes. The first refers to the polyphenols present in this brew which, as we already know, have antioxidative properties that help protect against inflammation and possibly even carcinogens.

Human trials conducted in a Chinese study showed that regular consumption of White Tea could significantly benefit diabetes patients. Another study conducted on diabetes-induced rats showed that White Tea benefits reduced the symptoms of the disease. Furthermore, the destressing abilities of White Tea alone could potentially reduce the risks of Type II Diabetes  and even, as mentioned before, help you lose weight.

This is according to new research indicating that chronic stress disrupts sleep and our sugar levels. This leads to increased hunger and comfort eating. From there, this can then lead to further disrupted sleep, even higher levels of stress and even more disrupted blood sugars. In time, this not only causes unhealthy levels of body fat, but also increases the risk of Type II Diabetes.

White Tea, on the other hand, can counter these measures. Because ultimately, what could possibly be more relaxing than sitting on the sofa after a long, hard day while enjoying a sweet, delicate, invigorating cup of White Tea?
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Our Selection of White Teas

Knowing that the tea you sip could potentially improve your health is a great place to start. But for many, the most important quality to your cup must be its wonderful taste! The flavour profile of White Tea can vary from brew to brew. It is often described as being mild, subtle, or delicate; sometimes floral, sometimes fruity; and can even boast notes of honey, melon, peach, apricot, vanilla, or chocolate.

If you have a favourite flavour then now is the time to explore the vast range of White Teas available through the Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company. Let’s begin with the best of the best: Ying Zhen Silver Needle Top Grade Tea. By rights, everything you need to know about this tea is in the name; however; if you are looking for more then consider this beverage for its mellow flavour and smoky aftertaste. Then we have our White Peony Tea for those who enjoy intense floral notes.

Still deciding? What about trying something a little different with our Pomegranate White Tea? As the name will likely suggest, this beverage is scented with pomegranate and contains cranberry pieces and rose petals. It also uses the finest quality Pai Mu Tan tea leaves which, when combined with other flavours, offers a pleasant aroma and a subtle, fruity taste.

If you really want to rock the boat out, however, then perhaps our White Kenya Matcha Tea might be of interest. This beverage is a perfect example of the ever-expanding industry surrounding this tea. It is grown in the Nandi Highlands of Kenya, Africa, and boasts fresh grassy notes with earthy undertones. Our newest White Tea to come from outside of China, meanwhile, is our truly special Assam White Tea. This brew is created in a way much similar to Chinese Ying Zhen Tea. It’s made up of large white buds and offers a delicate character with a touch of distinct fullness.

Other beverages to consider include Nepal Silver Tip White Tea, Elderberry Cassis and Aronia White Tea, Creme D Orange Green and White Tea (which, yes, also contains Green Tea), and Yunnan Special White Tea. Alternatively, we have our standalone Pai Mu Tan White Tea, our White Monkey Tea, and our Kenya Pai Mu Tan Lesla Estate Tea. Believe it or not, we have so much more to offer, but the rest is down to you. Explore our selection today, and find out which White Tea suits you best.