White tea is not green tea, nor can it be easily defined as just a harvest of tea leaf buds in the spring. White tea was named for the under belly of its unopened leaf buds that retain baby fuzz and make the buds look silvery white. But not all unopened buds are then automatically white teas.
The criteria of single origin white tea is three fold:
- It has to be of the Fujian Da Bai varietals #1, or #2. These varietals produce large, full, whitish leaf buds with a lot of flavor. Indigenous to the northern Fujian area around Fuding, near Taimu mountain, Da Bai varietals are suitable for making green tea as well.
- It must follow the white tea processing method, which is strictly sun or hot air dried. Modern day production methods include a room where hot air is forced through a room full of bamboo racks of leaves, which will wither and dry during this time.
- The Da Bai varietals must be grown in northern Fujian. If taken elsewhere,the tea may mutate to adapt to new soil conditions, and the much regarded health benefits of white tea, including having the highest anti-oxidant content and lowest caffeine, may no longer exist.
Tea is always a function of its terroir. Even the best varietals may no longer deliver the taste and health benefits you are looking for. Therefore, origin control is key! If you find a white tea from Vietnam or Sri Lanka, you have to decide for yourself if you are trying to buy an authentic white tea or not. But if you do purchase single origin tea from the Fujian region, you will find a sweet, mellow, melon-smooth cup full of calming stone fruit fragrance. Enjoy!