The highest grade of Chinese white tea is produced by plucking buds before they open, withering them to allow the natural moisture to evaporate and then drying the leaves. A bud processed this way will have a silvery appearance and will produce a pale, straw-colored liquor that is naturally sweet and soft. If the white tea has leaves along with the buds, the leaves are dried in their natural shapes, creating a mix of light to dark greens. White tea is very natural and gets its name from the silvery down that covers the buds known as "Hao".
White tea, made with unopened bud sets, is most famously known as Yin Zhen or Silver Needle. The buds are silvery in color with hues of light green and yellow, showing a covering of fine, downy white hair. Plucking the leaf of a high-grade white tea, such as Silver Needle Yinzhen, should be done in clear weather - no frost, dew or rain. The picker is taking well-shaped and plump buds, before the buds have a chance to open to leaves. The tea maker preserves these natural attributes and the sweet, subtle notes held within. The result is savory liquor that cups clean, straw-colored. Its flavors suggest light honey and chestnut.
Another style of white tea varietals from Fujian Province uses the unopened bud and the first leaves processed together. Well-known varietals of this style include White Peony "Bai Mu Dan" and Drum Mountain White Cloud "Gu Shan Bai Yun". These white varietals offer what is often described as a "mouth feel", when tasting a premium tea.
Traditional Fujian white tea is produced in 3 counties - Fuding, Zhenghe and Shuijie/Jianyang. These areas and their respective varietals belong to a class of Camellia Sinensis known as Da Hao, or Big Sprout. In the best of years, the harvest of authentic Fujian white tea is comparatively small. We source our whites in the coastal and northern counties (Fuding area) of Fujian Province. Each year, we also look for white teas made "fresh" to a local custom and not generally exported. Teas such as "White Cloud" and "Big White" are high-grade "fresh" teas grown on small farms and made to local style.
White teas capture a moment of spring in their buds and leaves. The minimal processing preserves the natural flavors and aromas of the varietals. A well-made white tea will satisfy both the most experienced tea drinker as well as someone just beginning to enjoy tea.