What is White Tea? Scientific Name – Camellia sinensis
Native – China (Fujian province), Eastern Nepal, Eastern Thailand, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, and India
Curious about the history behind the origin of white tea?
Well, white tea was born as an accident some 5,000 years ago in China. It so happened that while traveling along the countryside, the emperor Shen Nung suddenly felt thirsty, and was provided with boiled water. Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately), some leaves of white tea flew and fell into the pot of water, giving it a distinct and likable flavor. The emperor took an instant liking to this particular drink and asked the inhabitants to search for the origin of this particular leaf. And thus, our special white tea was born!
Interesting, right? Well, everything about this tea is interesting from its color to its flavor.
White Tea Benefits That Will Surprise You
Coming to the scientific aspect, white tea is derived from the sun-dried buds and leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis. This type is least processed out of all other variants. Since it is packed with all essential nutrients, white tea is considered superior to all teas.
So, why do we call it ‘white tea’? It is simply because the buds of the plant have fine, silvery-white strings. These impart a light and sweet flavor to this beverage. The amount of caffeine in white tea is far less when compared to black or green tea.
In addition to aiding weight loss and helping in the treatment of diabetes, white tea is beneficial in numerous ways. These include improving skin and hair health, treating acne, helping treat cancer, reducing inflammation, improving the health of liver and kidneys, maintaining reproductive health, keeping the heart healthy, enhancing memory, energy, and alertness, supporting the treatment of hypothyroidism, and improving oral health. White tea during pregnancy is also believed to be very helpful.
Types of White Tea
Sometimes, knowing about the types and varieties of tea help you find the perfect tea for you. Read on to know about main types of white tea along with other available teas across the world.
Bai Hao Yinzhen (Silver Needle)
Bai Mu Dan (White Peony)
Shou Mei (Noble, Long Life Eyebrow)
Gong Mei (Tribute Eyebrow)
White Puerh Tea
- Bai Hao Yinzhen (Silver Needle): This royal variety is the most cherished one in China and the world. Grown in the Fujian Province of China, the silver needle leaves are approx. 30 mm in length and the buds are covered with visible silvery hairs. This is why it occupies the top position in the hierarchy of white teas, making it the most expensive variety. The best white tea leaves are plucked in spring, especially from the middle of March to the middle of April when it is not pouring. The top characteristic of the best brewed silver needle white tea is the pale yellow hue that comes with the best temperature of water (75 degrees Celsius). You can invariably see the white hairs dangling off the leaves under the light. Silver needle white tea carries a light, delicate, fresh, and sweet taste. Make sure you add two to three teaspoons of tea leaves and steep this tea for a longer time (five to eight minutes) to extract the best out of it.
- Bai Mu Dan (White Peony): This variety is slightly different from the one described above. It includes new leaves as well as the center needle sprout of the plant. While it is widely accepted as the cheaper counterpart of silver needle white tea, you may be surprised to know that this white peony tea is actually preferred by white tea lovers because of its full flavor and lower cost. The plucking process of this tea is similar to that of silver needle, focusing on the spring season without rains. The best white peony is derived from the proportion of ‘two-leaves-to-a-bud’ and is withered to make green leaves, which eventually make the tea. While brewing this tea, you will be able to identify a distinct aroma that will make you feel all good and light-hearted. The tea is known for its pale green/ golden color and fruity taste that is devoid of grassy flavors.
- Shou Mei (Noble, Long Life Eyebrow): The last category of Chinese white tea is the Shou Mei, which comes from naturally withered upper leaves and tips of white trees. This tea, similar to the silver needle, is grown in the Fujian Province in China and is known worldwide for its greenish color and full flavor. The inferior qualities generally give a dark golden hue to the brew and must be avoided.
- Gong Mei (Tribute Eyebrow): This variety is generally taken to be the third preference amongst tea lovers. Gong Mei is more processed than the other two variants mentioned above. It comes from Xiao Bai (small white) trees consisting of young leaves that are slightly bent (hence the name ‘Eyebrows’) and no buds. This variety has a dark golden color and full flavor and is often served with dim sums.
- White Puerh Tea: This variety is grown in the mountain peaks of Yunnan Province in China and is plucked in spring. Every step of harvesting this variety is done by hand. It is known for its rich and sweet taste and imparts an amazing aroma.
Other Types of White Teas, as we discussed earlier, there are different other types of white tea that are grown all across the globe. Let’s take a look.
- Ceylon White: As the name suggests, this tea is grown in the SriLankan region and is considered to be one of the top varieties, making it super expensive. It is grown and harvested by hand, and thus can be called an artisan’s work. The leaves are sun-dried and then rolled gently with hands. Ceylon white or silver tips tea is known for its delicate and light flavor with light coppery hues.
- Darjeeling White: Just like Ceylon white tea, Darjeeling white tea is also an artisan’s work and is grown in a rainy climate. The leaves are super fluffy and light and impart fragrance like honey. A cup of Darjeeling white tea has a delicate flavor and scent, is pale golden in color, and is really yummy to our taste buds.
- Assam White: A rare variety that is grown the region of Assam and carries very light leaves. The brewed Assam white tea gives out a naturally sweet and malty taste.
- African White: This variety is grown the Kenyan and Malawi regions of Africa and has a rich and distinct flavor that appeals too many. The caffeine content in this type is higher than that in other varieties.
White Tea Benefits
Let us now look at the important white tea properties here:
Antioxidants – The level of antioxidants in white tea is similar to that of green and black tea.
Epigallocatechin Gallate And Other Catechins – White tea contains a variety of active catechins including EGCG, which is very useful in fighting chronic diseases like cancer.
Tannins – While the levels of tannins are lower in white tea as compared to the other varieties, it is still useful in warding off a lot of conditions.
Theaflavins (TFs) – These polyphenols directly contribute to the bitterness and astringency of the tea. The quantity of TFs found in white tea is the lowest when compared to black and green teas. This gives the tea a sweet flavor.
Thearubigins (TRs) – The mildly acidic thearubigins are mainly responsible for the colour of black tea. They are in less quantity in white tea when compared to black and green teas.
But what is so great about white tea? Keep reading!
You can consume white tea just like your regular tea, and reap the many benefits it offers. There are host of white tea health benefits, a few of them have been listed below.
- Helps in Weight Loss: Have you ever considered white tea for weight loss? If not, then it’s a high time you hit it. Obesity is probably the number one ailment in the world today, and people never seem to get tired of searching for a solution to it. And amongst the many solutions, white tea appears to be a promising one. In one new German study, it was found that white tea helps in weight loss by burning the existing fat cells and preventing the formation of new ones (1). White tea is also found to be less processed than its counterparts, and happens to contain more of those ingredients that are responsible for burning fat. In fact, the Chinese had concealed the many health benefits of white tea for a long time, and scientists dub it the ultimate health drink. According to the Harvard Medical School, the catechins found in white tea can also promote weight loss (2). All forms of tea, including white tea, are loaded with antioxidants (3). These can aid in the weight loss process. Tea catechins are also found to have antiangiogenic properties that may prevent obesity (4).
- Aids in the Treatment of Acne: Look at the people around you, and chances are that a majority of them have some form of acne. Acne is not a harmful or dangerous issue, but it doesn’t look good anyway. According to a study conducted at Kingston University, London, white tea has antiseptic and antioxidant properties (5). Most dermatologists believe that antioxidants protect the skin from the cellular damage caused by free radicals, and keep it healthy (6). You can, ideally, consider drinking white tea for acne treatment. Take one cup of white tea twice a day regularly. The antioxidants in white tea flush out the toxins in your body, whose accumulation could have a negative effect on your skin and result in acne. You can also use white tea topically by boiling two white tea bags and then allowing the solution to cool down through refrigeration. Soak cotton balls in the solution and rub them on your skin for a few minutes, post which you can wash your face with cold water.
- Can Be Beneficial In Pregnancy: As already discussed, white tea contains antioxidants. In one Scotland study, it was found that antioxidants offer cell protection from the increased oxidative damage during pregnancy (7). However, there are a few concerns. White tea contains caffeine (though less than other teas, except green tea (8), whose intake must be limited during pregnancy. This is because the unborn baby can’t metabolize caffeine like the mother. According to certain research papers, intake of excessive amounts of caffeine can increase the chances of birth defects, miscarriage, and stillbirth (9). Hence, it is always better to consult your doctor and take their advice regarding the intake of caffeine during pregnancy.
- Helps in the Treatment of Cancer: According to a study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, white tea might have an anti-cancer effect. In fact, white tea was found to be more effective than green tea in destroying cancer cells in the study (10). As per another Malaysian study, white tea has excellent antioxidant and antiproliferative effects against cancer cells. The tea not only destroys the diseased cells, but also protects the healthy cells from DNA damage (11). According to the Oregon State University, white tea is the least processed amongst other teas (12). White tea is a great source of antioxidants and polyphenols, both of which are cancer-fighting compounds (13). It also has been found that tea (especially white tea) has certain positive effects on the metabolism that can block some of the cancer-causing effects. White tea is also a photoprotective agent, and can be used along with other methods of sun protection to increase the impact (14). White tea contains EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), an effective antioxidant. Topical application of EGCG has been found to protect the skin cells from damage (15). In one American study, the antioxidant had also shown to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer (16). Catechins, a type of antioxidant, are known for their excellent anti-cancer properties. It has been found that white tea contains the highest concentration of catechins (17), making it one of the ideal foods for cancer prevention or treatment.
- Improves Hair And Skin Health: White tea is replete with antioxidants, and according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the anti-inflammatory properties of these antioxidants strengthen the connective tissue and help reduce allergies like dandruff or eczema (18). Antioxidants can also help treat hair related disorders like hair fall and the like (19). We have already seen that white tea contains EGCG. According to one Korean study, EGCG can enhance hair growth in humans (20). An American study has also proved the efficacy of EGCG in supporting the survival of hair cells (21). Research conducted at Konkuk University, Korea, had named the antioxidant to be one of the useful ingredients in the treatment of scalp seborrheic dermatitis (22). Skin infections caused by gram-negative bacteria (bacteria that show resistance to multiple drugs) were found to be otherwise treated with the help of EGCG (23). EGCG is also considered the fountain of youth for skin cells, is it has been found to have benefits for skin conditions like psoriasis, wrinkles, rosacea and wounds (24). Due to the high phenol content, white tea strengthens elastin and collagen (important proteins found in the connective tissues), thereby making the skin strong and preventing wrinkles (25).
- Can Help In the Treatment of Diabetes: White Tea Benefits – Can Help In the Treatment of Diabetes There is no wonder if you find at least one person in every family to be a diabetic. With changing lifestyles and deteriorating lifestyle habits, diabetes, unfortunately, is only becoming a more common henomenon. However, research throws a positive light on white tea, with regard to its ability to treat or even prevent diabetes. Human trials conducted in a Chinese study showed that regular consumption of white tea could significantly benefit diabetes patients (26). Another study conducted on diabetes-induced rats showed that white tea reduced the symptoms of the disease (27). Diabetes can also have undesirable effects on the cerebral cortex (the part of the brain that plays a role in consciousness). A Portuguese study conducted in 2015 had called the regular consumption of white tea to be a safe and inexpensive strategy to prevent the negative effects of diabetes on the cerebral cortex (28). Another study conducted in Portugal suggested that the consumption of white tea could be a natural and economical way to counter the harmful effects of prediabetes on male reproductive health (29). However, the study also warrants further research. The catechins in white tea must be given the credit for the tea’s anti-diabetic properties, as they have been found to play an important role in the treatment or prevention of type 2 diabetes (30).
- Enhances Energy and Alertness: As we already know, white tea goes through the least amount of processing, and hence has the highest concentration of L-theanine (31) (an amino acid that boosts alertness and has a calming effect on the mind). White tea contains less amount of caffeine than other teas, and, as a result, is more hydrating – this helps in sustaining energy. An American study had found that L-theanine, along with a little amount of caffeine, could increase levels of alertness and reduce tiredness (32). Numerous studies had also shown that the combination of L-theanine with a little amount of caffeine can lower anxiety levels (33). The amino acid can also improve memory and reaction time (34). L-theanine present in white tea can also reduce mental and physical stress (35). The amino acid is found to increase the production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain (36), which are basically neurotransmitters that elevate your mood and keep you happy and alert.
- Helps Reduce Inflammation: The catechins play a mighty role here – they reduce inflammation, and also reduce the risk of diseases linked to chronic inflammation (such as cancer, diabetes, and atherosclerosis) (37), (38). In one Japanese study, catechins were found to suppress the inflammation of the muscles and accelerated recovery after exercise (39). They were also found to suppress the effects of factors that cause fibrosis (40) (the scarring of connective tissue usually due to injury). The EGCG found in white teas has excellent anti-inflammatory properties. It treats related ailments like cold and flu, and also kills various bacteria and viruses, including the virus that causes influenza (41). EGCG also fights atherosclerosis that is caused by inflammation due to environmental pollutants (42).
- Can Be Beneficial To the Kidneys: In a Polish study conducted in 2015, consumption of white tea was linked to the reduction of adverse effects of environmental pollution on the human body, including the kidneys (43). Another study conducted in Chandigarh, India, showed the role of catechins (because of their antioxidant activity) in offering protection against renal failure (44). A Chinese study on rats concluded that catechins could prove to be a potential treatment for kidney stones in humans (45).
- Improves Liver Health: The catechins (which are also found in green tea) were found to offer protection against hepatitis (46). In one Chinese study, tea catechins were found to prevent hepatitis B infection (47). An American study had also substantiated the antiviral effects of catechins that can help in blocking the life cycle of hepatitis B virus (48). However, excessive intake of catechins was also found to be toxic to the liver (49). Hence, exercise caution or consult your doctor before taking white tea for the liver.
- Is Good for the Heart: A Spanish study involved the use of adriamycin, an anticancer agent that can increase oxidative stress in cells. Consumption of white tea for over 12 months was found to reverse the oxidative damage done to the cells in the heart. The heart had also recovered its antioxidant activity, but at the highest dose of white tea (50). White tea was also found to show antioxidant effects on the heart in one study conducted in Greece (51). White tea was found to contain the most antioxidants compared to other types of tea. The catechins found in white tea had shown to lower cholesterol levels, decrease blood pressure, and improve the functioning of the blood vessels, thereby eventually lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease (52). An American study had also found tea catechins to have a beneficial effect on coronary heart disease (53). The same was concluded in a 2001 study conducted in Netherlands (54).
- Is Good for the Teeth: White tea contains fluorides, flavonoids, and tannins, all of which could be beneficial to the teeth in various ways as per a study conducted in India, the fluoride from the tea could be helpful in reducing caries. Tannins inhibit the formation of plaque, and flavonoids prevent the growth of plaque bacteria (55). There is another point to be noted here – white tea does contain tannins, but only in less quantities. Hence, it is not as likely to discolor your teeth as other teas (56) (except for green and herbal teas). White tea was also found to deactivate the viruses and destroy the bacteria that cause cavities in the teeth (57). In one study, white tea extracts were added to a variety of toothpastes, and according to the findings, the antibacterial and antiviral effects of the toothpastes were enhanced.
- Improves Reproductive Health: A Portuguese study had concluded that white tea extract could play a role in improving male reproductive health (58).
- Helps Treat Hypothyroidism: Again, it’s the catechins. In one Indian study, the catechins were found to possess antithyroid properties, and taking them was an effective way to prevent hypothyroidism (59).
- Can Improve Memory: White tea is a good source of antioxidants, and one of the best sources of catechins. This makes it one good food for improving memory, or even slowing memory decline. A study conducted in Portugal had established the role of catechins in protecting the brain from age-related memory decline (60). According to another study, regular consumption of white tea had helped improve the health of cerebral cortex in pre-diabetic rats, suggesting it could help achieve similar results in humans as well (61).
- Anti-aging: With time, our skin becomes saggy and loose because of the presence of free radicals in our body. This accelerates the aging process of the skin. Do not fret! Having white tea regularly can help prevent wrinkles and loose skin. White tea is rich in polyphenols that help neutralize the free radicals. This amazing tea also has antioxidant properties revitalize your skin and stop premature aging.
- Helps in Digestion: Do you experience frequent bouts of indigestion or heartburn? I suggest you have white tea twice a day for better and prolonged relief. A cup of white tea will give you instant relief from stomach cramps and nausea and reduce stomach acidity within no time. Embracing white tea is also a good way to enhance the natural detoxification in the body. So many blessings in a cup!