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THE INITIAL Nature of Chinese White Tea

White tea has caught the imagination of several western tea drinkers due to its unique and delicate flavour and organic image.

The organic image comes from it being among the least processed teas, there being only two easy steps in its production – ‘withering’ and ‘dehydrating’. The processes used in production of Green, Oolong, Black tea are usually extensions or additions of the primary process to add ‘rubbing’, ‘shaping’ or ‘baking’. The almost ‘unprocessed’ nature minimises the break down of the enzymes and oxidization.

By reason of its simpler and common production process, some historians believe that White Tea was among the very original Chinese teas, its use dating back to at the very least two thousand years. The easy procedure for its production has been honed into an art form over time practiced by skilled and experienced exponents.

White tea’s production is almost exclusive to the FuJian province of Southern China, its environment being particularly fitted to the plants’ cultivation. Production is focused in areas such as for example FuDing and ZhengHe, seen as a a hilly terrain, mild temperature and abundant regular rain. FuDing, for example, has a year conditions of 18oC and rain fall 1660mm. The soil in these areas is predominately a red or yellow colour.

All teas (excluding herbals) are manufactured from exactly the same plant called “Camellia sinensis”. There are a few premium species that are cultivated specially for making premium white tea, for example, FuDing Da Hao (Big Fur), ZhengHe and FuAn Big White. Premium tea leaves have fuller/stronger bodies compared to their closest sibling green tea. The leaf tips are usually covered by rich silvery white fur, which forms the ‘silver’ appearance of the final product such as for example Silver Needle.

The FuJian province of Southern China is really a traditional tea country, well-known for Oolong plus some Green Teas – in addition to its White Tea Production. Despite the Chinese tendency to preserve trade secrets, over two thousand years of tea production and export to other lands has led to leakage of skills and knowledge required for processing many Chinese teas. Including for green and black teas has eventually been exported to foreign countries. The specialist skills connected with White Tea production have so far remained in the Fujian region.

Imitation products are sold on the market. The plants found in these imitated products are color-lightened (whitened). The manufacture can be different. A processing step ‘Sha Qing – traditionally found in green tea production is added instead of the ‘withering’ step – the distinctive process in making authentic premium White Tea.

White Tea is not as widely consumed in China as other styles due to the highly localized production. This rarity has contributed to its value. Premium silver needle is particularly treasured and associated with gift giving. Beyond China, and amongst Chinese expatriates, White Tea popularity keeps growing.