White tea doesn’t get the credit it truly deserves. It is often thrown to the wayside of more prominent green and black teas. White tea is stigmatized as being milder and less powerful than its counterparts, which is not true at all. There’s a lot of benefits to white tea that make it worthwhile to keep in the radar of your tea spectrum.
What is white tea?
The white tea we know and love today originally came from the very first white tea plants cultivated in China in the 1700’s, Da Bai & Da Hao. At first, white tea was harder to transport. Because of its delicate nature, it would spoil faster than other teas. As a result, it wasn’t enjoyed too far out of the original growing region. As cultivating and processing methods improved, the tea was eventually able to withstand long transportation methods and has come to reach nearly every corner of the Earth.
White tea is the least oxidized of any tea, being harvested while the buds and leaves have yet to open, resulting in a fine layer of white hairs to remain on the plant. The small amount of processing and low oxidation give way to a bold and delicate flavor, which is prominent in high grade white teas such as Bai Mudan. (1)
Don’t be fooled by the smooth body of white tea: It contains enough caffeine to keep you up at night. Although not considered to be as potent as green or black teas, white tea still contains enough caffeine to give you a mid-afternoon boost.
How do I prepare it?
Depending on the type of white tea you have, it may be more tolerant of hotter water, up to 190° F. But for the most part, you will want to stick to around 160-180° F water for 3-5 minutes. Overheating this tea won’t cause as bitter of a flavor as with green or black teas, but the flavor notes will be much less noticeable. And with higher quality white teas, you can steep it multiple times.
Some of the most common flavor profiles of white tea include things such as melon, peach, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, apricot, chocolate, and citrus. Although a milder flavor, you’ll find no need for additives such as honey or lemon.
Why is White Tea Different Than Other Teas?
While all teas have substantial health benefits, white tea is known the most for its anti-aging properties. English researchers recently performed an experiment detailing the anti-aging properties of over 20 different herb and plant extracts, including other types of tea. The result? White tea blew them all away.
The study looked at two structural proteins found in skin, called elastin and collagen. Elastin maintains the skin’s elasticity and helps repair wounds, while collagen is found in connective tissue and supports skin strength. When these two proteins break down, it can cause age related wrinkles. White tea and white tea extract are often used in beauty care products due to their anti-aging properties.
The study showed that drinking white tea did indeed help prevent the breakdown of these proteins, resulting, in healthier, younger looking skin samples. The amounts of tea used in this experiment were much smaller than what would typically be drank, so the true power of white tea could be far more than we imagine. (2)
Loaded with Antioxidants
Tea is chock full of molecules called polyphenols, which help the body fight off free radicals. Free radicals are responsible for causing you to age faster, break down the body’s immune system, and can lead to many harmful diseases. White tea is very high in the polyphenol catechin, which has strong anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. White tea is nearly as high in antioxidants as its more processed form, green tea. (3)
Can Support a Healthy Metabolism
White tea contains a catechin called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is known for its preventive properties in green teas. However, when mixed with the other polyphenols in white tea, has shown promising research in the field of weight loss.
Healthy Gums and Teeth
White tea contains a small amount of fluoride, which helps your enamel from breaking down. It fights off bacteria and sugars that wear and tear the teeth and gums. Tannins, which are another type of polyphenol, work in conjunction with fluoride to help your teeth fight against plaque causing bacteria. (4)
Supports Bone Health
Osteoporosis affects millions of Americans, especially over the age of 50. It leads to an increase of bone breaks and fractures by hollowing out bones. Medical research has shown that free radicals as well as chronic inflammation can lead to acceleration of osteoporosis. The catechins in white tea have shown promise in fighting against these harmful catalysts. (5)
Supports Brain Health
We’ve known for years that tea improves the health of your brain. But recent studies on lab rats have shown that white tea extract can help diminish the amount of decline in cognitive function. The rats’ brains were “effectively protected against oxidative stress and toxicity.” (6) The extract was found to help prevent oxidative damage to all the cells of the brain. Research is still being conducted, but results are looking promising.
White tea naturally wards off virus-causing bacteria because of its’ high antioxidant count. While it is strong against well known ailments such as the cold and flu, it also has shown promise in fighting off HIV by building a strong immune system.
Due to white tea’s minimal amount of processing, it is left with a heavy dosage of L-Theanine, an amino acid responsible for keeping your brain alert and aware. Ironically enough., it also has a calming effect on the mind, making you ready to take on anything. The small amount of caffeine and large amount of L-Theanine help reduce stress and anxiety to help you utilize your body’s energy more efficiently.
White tea flies under the radar of most tea shops and cafes. But with all the benefits coming into the public eye, we’re sure to see a spike in its inevitable rise to popularity. There’s so many different white teas available, all offering a subtle nuance here or a flavor difference there, it’s no wonder that so many fruits have been incorporated into white teas to make for a refreshing iced rendition or a hot cup with mint and lemon. And white tea is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. As Henry James once said, “there are few hours in life more agreeable that the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”