Monday, December 9, 2013

Tea Time: Neither Black Nor Green, But Tea All The Same!

White tea is something of an anomaly. The dried leaves can be green just like regular green tea, but the caffeine level rivals that of stout black teas, in my experience. The tea is lightly processed and said to contain more antioxidants than other varieties. The brewed beverage has a rather faint color, relative to green and black teas of any kind. 

My experience with white tea has been limited, and restricted to flavored white teas. Partly this has to do with the simple fact that white tea only made an appearance on the scene in the late nineteenth century, unlike other varieties of tea, which have been around for millennia! 

I have enjoyed all of the types of white tea I've tried up to now, and have noticed that I never have any desire to add adulterants, which is always a good sign, as Jalé mentioned recently in a comment about fine green teas. It's the flavor of the tea itself which makes the cup enjoyable, not the extras thrown in. It may be that people are accustomed to serving and drinking most teas with lemon or cream and sugar because such measures have been necessary to render the liquid potable. Not so with white tea!

I do not have any examples of straight-up, unflavored white tea on hand, but I recently happened upon this lovely specimen, Tazo Berryblossom White, which features white tea leaves laced with huckleberry and cranberry flavor. That may sound like the liquid should be red, but this is not a rich elixir composed of literal pieces of dark red fruit, à la Rote Grütze. Here we have only a soupçon of fruitiness, the intention obviously being to allow the tea flavor itself to shine through. White tea is light and refreshing like sencha, and also very smooth, but not at all vegetal. The natural berry flavoring in this case is quite subtle--so much so that I would never have guessed which fruits were implicated. Yet the tea is delicious!

As you can see in the above images of Berryblossom White in the process of brewing, this is a whole leaf tea--no dusty lint in this snazzy package:

There is quite a lot of caffeine, however, which makes this an early afternoon-only tea for me. My experience suggests that white tea may contain even more caffeine than black! I was very surprised at this discovery, because it seems logical that a dark Assam would be more laden with caffeine than a light wispy white tea. Doesn't Assam look a lot more like ... coffee?

White tea is bound to appeal to those who like Darjeeling and oolong teas, which are also on the lighter side (though not as light as this) and best imbibed without cream, in my opinion. I cannot really imagine adding anything to this particular brew, which is perfectly composed. The flavor is very appealing, as is the scent. The dried leaves offer a gentle fruitiness mingling with the parfum characteristic of flavored black teas.

Now it's your turn: please share your experiences with white tea!


  1. I'm enjoying your articles on tea - they are so well-written and informative - plus the pictures are great. They almost make me "feel" the aroma of the teas described. I must say, your white tea sounds delicious, the huge whole leaves show its great quality. What I love about white tea is its place between oolong and green variants, it is milder, but just as fragrant and the effect (caused by the high amount of coffein contained in the tea) is very refreshing, particularly in the morning. White tea is also very economical, you can use the same tea-leaves three times. Have you tried this, Shera? Btw, most "White tea" fragrances disappoint me. Elléna did "Thé blanc" for Bvlgari, as far as I remember, and the scent was just "meh". I have got two white teas at home which I drink regularly, Pai Mu Tan and another one with pomegranade and ginger (natural, of course). When I have a cold, I drink Pai Mu Tan with added fresh, finely chopped ginger. But normally, white tea is best enjoyed "pure" (as you already said).

  2. Thank you, Jalé!

    It's good to know that I'm not merely imagining the high caffeine content of white tea! For me, it's a great choice on an afternoon when I'm feeling groggy, because milk and cream always make me feel a tad groggy (I appear to be mildly lactose-intolerant), so when I take my stout black teas with cream (which is an aesthetic necessity for me), my quest for caffeine is somewhat compromised...

    I did not know that the white tea leaves can be infused multiple times. I learned this about green tea in Japan--they use the same tea leaves all day long! I'll definitely try that, because caffeine is water soluble, so most of it comes off in the first infusion. That means that I should be able to enjoy white tea later in the day if I use the same leaves! Great tip! ;-)

    Glad that you mentioned ginger, as a discussion of that magical substance will be featured here at the salon de parfum tea corner very soon!

    Have I tried Bvlgari's Thé Blanc? I'm not sure, which of course implies that if I did, I have forgotten about it because it was meh to me, too! I know that tea fragrances in general have suffered in my memory from associations with Elizabeth Arden, whose juices are sometimes frighteningly poisonous to me. I do own a few nice tea perfumes from Anthropologie, and also a cologne from the Berdoues 1902 collection. The latter is made from natural essences, and I like it a lot.

    I'll do a couple of white tea bag reviews to supplement the above discussion, as I have a few varieties in my tea chest. ;-)


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