White tea was initially produced in the 1870's in the northeastern part of Fujian Province, in areas ranging from Zhenghe to Fuding. The aroma is fresh, mellow, floral with a note of cut hay and a malt undertone. Infused properly, it is an easy tasting tea that is fresh, slightly sweet, with medium body and yet light enough for all-day consumption. The Fuding (fú•dǐng) variety, which normally is a very low fermentation style, tastes brighter and the Zhenghe (zhèng•hé) variety, which is more fermented, is comparatively sharper and deeper, giving much fuller body.
White tea differs from other teas not only in the kind of leaf used, but also in the actual processing. The leaves are not steamed or pan-fired (the process used in green teas). Rather, they are naturally withered and dried in the sun. If mechanical drying is required it is a baking process at temperatures less that 40˚C. White teas that are withered in conditions that are too hot with become reddish and in conditions that are too cold they will become blackish. You will see on our Imperial White Peony that the tea maker struck the perfect balance between solar and indoor withering resulting in a perfect white tea.
The western cosmetic industry has recently discovered the benefits of white tea. In addition to its anticancer properties, tea has a calming and detoxifying effect on the skin. White tea is especially potent in that it is has three times as many antioxidant polyphenols as green or black tea and has been shown to be 100% more effective in mopping up free radicals that cause skin to sag. Some of the world's top cosmetic companies are becoming very interested in white tea for skin creams and the result is that high grade white tea is becoming even more rare than before.
Researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute in Oregon tested white teas on selected rats to test for the ability of white teas to inhibit natural mutations in bacteria and to protect the rats from colon cancer. Interestingly, white teas were found to be more effective than green tea in inhibiting the early stages of cancer but researchers were quick to point out that their study was on rats and the effects should not be extrapolated to humans. The researchers also discovered that white tea contains higher levels of caffeine compared to green tea brewed under the same conditions. They suggested that this could occur because white tea oxidizes during withering whereas in green tea the oxidation process is stopped early in the tea making process by steaming or pan firing.