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Health: My Cup of Tea - 3/09

Much has been said about the health benefits of green tea. Only recently has the western world been introduced to white tea, another health dynamite that has been enjoyed in China for a thousand years. Let's have a drink.

What is White Tea

White tea, likes its cousins green, oolong, and black tea, comes from the tea plant, camellia sinensis. How the leaves are picked and processed determines the type of tea being produced. White tea is made from very young tea leaves that are picked before the buds fully open. The picking window is short and occurs in early spring. At this time, the buds and the leaves are still covered with silvery white hairs, thus its name. They are then steamed and dried to produce the tea.

There are four main varieties of white tea, each with different proportion of buds and leaves.

  • Silver needle (bai hao yinzhen), the highest grade, contains only the bud covered with silvery hair
  • White Peony (bai mu dan), the next grade, contains the bud with two leaves
  • Tribute Eyebrow (gong mei) , the third grade, is made with small leaves
  • Long Life Eyebrow (shou mei), the lowest grade, is made with a mixture of leaves
The Taste Test

Enjoying white tea can be an acquired taste. It is a very light beverage. The strength and body intensifies as you go down the grade level.

  • Look: Pale and clear
  • Taste: Very subtle with slight sweet bias. Carries a light fragrance. No aftertaste
  • Feel: Light bodied. Smooth and silky to the mouth
Health Benefits

With minimal processing, white tea retains many of its nutrients and health benefits.

  • Rid free radicals: White tea is loaded with antioxidant, which helps to rid damaging free radicals from the body. Some of the antioxidant is said to have cancer preventing effect.
  • Protect the heart: It helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, thus protects the heart
  • Boost immune: Its antibacterial and antiviral property helps to boost the immune system, and guard against common colds and flus.
  • Protect teeth: It contains a small amount of fluoride which promotes teeth health
  • Rejuvenate skin: By getting rid of the free radicals resulted from sun exposure and stress, white tea helps to repair damaged skin.
Brewing Tips

Brewing the tea is simple:

  • Use 2 teaspoons of tea per cup
  • Use water at about 175ºF. Avoid water that is too hot as it can bring out the tea's bitterness.
  • Steep for 4 minutes
  • Re-brew 1 - 2 times, if desired, by extending the brewing time by a few minutes each round