In itself, the color white is fairly inauspicious. Defined as the absence of any color, the color white often goes overlooked for its understated nature. Yet, the color has come to symbolize purity, serenity, and simplicity. And just as white light is but a coalescence of the many other colors of light, white tea is a category of tea which encompasses a wealth of complex flavors and characteristics. Whether you’re just delving into white teas or a veritable white tea connoisseur, this is a helpful guide to our white teas.
For every action taken during the manufacturing process, there is an equal and opposite reaction – the creation of respective flavors and aromas. Yet, white tea’s defining characteristic is the lack of manipulation during manufacturing. Ironically, the absence of process creates a classification therein. As such, white tea best represents Camellia sinensis herself. White tea’s iconic flavors are light and floral with traces of fruit and smoke, all of which directly stem from naturally-occurring chemical compounds found in the plant. With white tea especially, the quality of the tea leaves bears particular importance in determining the complexity of the finished cup. In this case, the growing conditions prior to harvest are of great importance. Altitude, time of harvest, and plucking style are all examples of techniques which grant us the complexity we expect in the flavors of a white tea. Of course, the flavor profiles of white teas range in complexity depending on the plant, production style, and a number of other factors. We pride ourselves in offering a variety of white teas, ranging from those suited for beginner palates to those whose tastes are more advanced.
For Beginners: Blends
For anyone new to white teas, we’ve found that one of the best ways to try out white tea is in a blend. Blends are designed to highlight and complement the different flavors found in the tea with the addition of other organic ingredients. Blends place a clear emphasis on creativity, each one a unique composition reflective of the culture or story which inspired it. Take for example our Perfect Day, a favorite choice among those who are new to white tea. Perfect Day is a fragrant blend of organic white tea with drifts of apricot, apple and elderflower, and the perfect choice for tea drinkers who gravitate towards bold flavors. For those who enjoy a more understated blend, our White Earl is a lighter version of the classic Earl Grey. This blend is a half step away from a pure white tea, separated only by a showering of luscious, all-natural bergamot aroma.
For Beginners: Pure
If you strip away the supplemental ingredients and aromas found in blends, the next step is to experience white teas in their own right. Without these extras, the true flavor of white tea can shine through. In choosing which white tea to try, there are two main styles – traditional and new style. Traditional white teas are entirely composed of buds from the tea plant. The “traditional” categorization for bud teas hails back to white tea’s origins, when teas harvested for the emperor had a requisite make up of just buds. It took over 10k buds for just one kilogram of tea, harvesters painstakingly using the imperial plucking technique to ensure they were only getting the best part of the tea plant. Pu Er Bai Ya is our bestselling bud tea, a white tea of pure buds from ancient tea trees in Yunnan.
For Intermediate Levels
Inverse to traditional teas, the term “new style” denotes a mix of stems, leaves, and other parts of the plant. Lapansi Antlers is a white tea which falls under this categorization. Something of a tea anomaly, Lapansi Antlers takes the new-style tea classification and elevates it. A product of the second largest tea producing region in Africa, Lapansi Antlers benefits from the textbook weather conditions found in Malawi. While Malawi mainly produces African Assamica, a variety traditionally used for crush, tear, curl black tea, this tea also has the capability to turn out delicately floral white teas. Thus comes this rare white stem tea from one of Malawi’s original tea estates. Locally referred to as “The Antlers”, these charming, velvety stems are hand-sorted for their unique form and revered for their warming taste.
Other teas whose origins shaped their production and cultivation style include the “silver needle” style of teas. Originally reserved for Chinese emperors and dignitaries, silver needle teas share a birthplace with white tea itself. Eager to create our own take on the iconic tea, we sourced an award-winning first-flush variant which hails from Kenyan highlands. This silver needle, or sindano in Swahili, contains only the tenderest buds of the early spring harvest, sun-dried at low temperatures to retain its unique flavor and beautiful white down. Silver Sindano is a prime example of how the Chinese orthodox tradition still serves as the blueprint for innovation even beyond the region. This tea, a product of both Chinese praxis and Kenyan innovation, reminds us that cross-cultural inspiration still takes place today.
With so many white teas to choose from, it goes without saying that this tea family has something for everyone.