Simple yet complicated in manufacturing, white tea consists of only the tender unopened buds of particular varieties of the China bush tea from the Fujian province of China. The traditional budset of two leaves and a bud from Anhui province is called Imperial Silver Needles. Two leaves and a bud – such is the composition of the special varietal grown for white tea. They open to reveal a covering of fine white downy hairs, thus the name, white tea. Bai-cha is the Chinese name for white tea.
The buds are shaded the last few weeks before picking, and then dried in a shaded area with good air circulation. This prevents chlorophyll from developing and turning the buds green.
The teas are identified by both their place of origin as well as style. Two styles are the traditional-style white tea and the modern new-style leaf white tea. They are different in appearance. Traditional style white tea uses only the buds and the modern uses very few buds if any. The original white tea made from the Fujian budset is the Bai Hao Yin Zhen (flowery white pekoe or silver needle) , made from picking the plump spring buds. The liquor is pale in color and delicate in flavor, reminiscent of ripe melon or peaches.
The new style white tea or modern tea is processed very little with withering in the shade and indoor withering with cool air and a final additional thorough drying to prevent enzymatic changes. The new style white teas are enabling more tea enthusiasts to enjoy the fine flavor for less cost than the original budset white tea.
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