Move aside, Green Tea! White Tea benefits are hitting the headlines, not least of all for the reports of its potential anti-aging powers.
Never heard of White Tea? Don’t think it would be ‘your cup of tea’, even if you had heard of it? After reading through the following, you might give it a second thought.
Recent Research on White Tea Health Benefits
Early indicators from a recent research study are that white tea reduces the risk of inflammation which is characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers as well as wrinkles.
From the School of Life Sciences at Kingston Uni in SW London we hear from Prof Declan Naughton that his team carried out tests to identify plant extracts that protected the structural proteins of the skin – specifically elastin and collagen Collagen is a protein found in connective tissues in the body and is important for skin strength and elasticity. The results of their tests showed white tea prevented the activities of the enzymes which breakdown elastin and collagen which can lead to wrinkles that accompany ageing.
The researchers were actually ‘blown away’ by exactly how well the white tea had performed in the testing. “We were testing very small amounts far less than you would find in a drink,” Prof Naugton said.
The evidence from this exciting research is strong that white tea could not only keep you healthy but also looking younger.
What Exactly is White Tea?
All tea comes from the same source : the Camilla Sinensis plant (except for the variety Camellia sinensis var. assamica, but that’s for another post…)
Whilst green tea and black tea both come from the Camilla Sinensis plant, they are picked later and are much less processed than white tea, which is made from immature tea leaves that are picked very carefully just before the buds have fully opened.
A silver ‘fuzz’ covers the buds and turns white when the tea is dried – hence the name ‘white’ tea. The buds cannot be picked on rainy days or when frost is on the ground. Additionally, there are only 2 or 3 days during the year when the buds can be picked, making this tea rare and precious. This is the least processed tea – very little fermenting and rolling is involved in the process in comparison to green and black tea.
The most popular types of White Tea are White Peony and Silver Needle, although you’ll see increasingly more regional varieties and flavored samples becoming available.
White Peony is made from unopened tea buds, as well as the two newest leaves to sprout.
Silver Needle is the most expensive and revered of Chinese Teas – it is made only from the single tips of the tea stem which when dried, look like silver needles.
When is White Tea Normally Taken?
The news coming through from the studies reporting the benefits of white tea suggest that 2-4 cups per day give greater health benefits than only one cup – so enjoy freely, without guilt.
In the true spirit of Tea Party Girl, we suggest setting aside a few minutes every day for your own Tea Ritual. Spend a few quiet moments just breathing deeply, relaxing and enjoying your tea. You may not be able to do this for very long, but the health benefits from the tea, and the moments to meditate will provide valuable stress relief.
How Does One Brew White Tea?
Naturally, white tea can be bought as loose leaves or as teabags and while loose tea is typically going to be of a higher quality, choose whichever is going to work for you.
Knowing what you now know about this special tea, if the tea you are buying is in an opaque container, be sure to check whether it is buds or buds and leaves – make sure you get what you intended to buy!
Tea freshness is important so be absolutely certain your white tea purchase is fresh. Ask the tea shop you are purchasing from to ensure that you’re buying the most recent harvest, from the most recent northern hemisphere spring. You will be paying good money for the tea – it must be fresh.
Water quality is important. As an avid tea drinker, you will know that the quality of the water will affect the quality of the beverage once prepared. If you can, choose a good quality water. If you live in an area with hard or unpleasant water, filter it before you use it to brew. White tea has very delicate flavors – you don’t want them masked by bad water.
Water temperature is important. Before adding the boiled water to the white tea, it should be no more than 158ºF to 167ºF (70ºC to 75ºC) or 160-170ºF (71-77ºC) at the most. You can test this with a thermometer, or purchase a modern tea kettle which prepares the water to a desired temperature. (Tea Party Girl will be doing a review of such kettles in weeks to come.) . This is a critical step, because if the water is too hot, the tea will be scalded, causing it to become bitter and astringent.
Brew Using Your preferred method. You can use a tea infuser basket, a tea ball, or a teapot.
Measure. Allow 1.5 tsp of loose tea per 8 oz of water into the infuser basket, tea ball, or teapot.
Infusion. White tea can withstand longer infusion times than other tea types before pouring. It is not unusual to steep for 7 to 10 minutes, but you may like to experiment with a shorter steep initially (1 to 3 minutes) and then to graduate to longer steeping times, to find the steeping length you prefer.
Resteep. The great news is you can resteep the same leaves for several cups of white tea, with steeping times increasing as needed. Some sources recommend a 90 second to 2 minute steeping if you intend to steep the leaves several times and gradually increasing the steeping time for each resteeping. This will help offset the higher investment cost of the tea! White tea should be served au natural, unadulterated by milk or sugar, as the beautiful, subtle flavor of the tea will be drowned out by any additions.
Serve in a beautiful tea cup and enjoy!
How Should it be Stored?
Keep your tea in an airtight container in a cool dry place to prevent oxidation – remember this tea has only had the minimal amount of processing and we don’t want to add to it! White tea doesn’t keep for years like black tea does – it is best consumed within six months of purchase. It can be kept in the refrigerator – and this is recommended by some – but keep it constantly refrigerated if you do this – and warming and cooling repeatedly will degrade the tea.
Does White Tea have Caffeine?
Yes, like black tea and green tea, white tea has caffeine, although a very small amount.
By comparison with black tea (60-90mg) and green tea (35-70mg) white tea has only 30-55mg per 8oz cup. Compare this to approximately 150-200mg of caffeine for a cup of coffee and you’re miles ahead. Note that these figures will vary depending upon the tea itself and the steeping time.
What Are the Benefits of White Tea?
Because white tea comes from the same plant as green and black tea, it has all of the same benefits offered by these versions of tea – and some.
White tea is loaded with antioxidants, flavinoids & catechins (both classes of antioxidants), is a natural killer of bacteria and viruses, contains small amounts of fluoride and other tooth-benefitting nutrients, and can thin the blood. So in summary, if you believe all that is reported, white tea benefits are claimed to be that it :
- protects against cancer,
- protects against heart disease,
- protects against stroke (these three are leading causes of death in the Western world)
- increases good cholesterol and decreases bad cholesterol
- eases the symptoms of illness and promotes recovery
- strengthens the circulatory system
- strengthens the immune systems
- strengthens bones and teeth, promotes oral health
- builds healthy skin
- reduces stress and increases energy
- can inhibit the skin aging process (and some claim, reverse it)
- may or may not aid in weight loss
What ancient China has known for centuries, modern science is discovering today – tea is good for you. It is known that green and black tea have many health benefits, and because white tea is the least processed and has the highest antioxidant levels – white tea benefits are outstanding.