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White Tea

white teas taste sweet, smooth, and nutty, with notes of apricot


What Is White Tea?

White tea consists of tea leaves from the Da Bai ("Big White") variety of the Camellia sinensis plant. It is easy to see the origin of the name, as the young buds of this variety are coated in a silvery down.

Cultivation of these plants developed in Fuding County, in northeastern Fujian province. Today, white tea is now grown in many other areas. But the unique terroir of its original provenance are critical to the quality of flavor. We consider white teas to be the champagne of the tea world, and source only from this traditional region.


white teas are grown in fuding county, fujian


How Is White Tea Made?

The most traditional way to craft white tea involves a unique step called "fading". The leaves are gently laid on bamboo mats and left to dry in the sun. This slow drying process produces very slight oxidation. The minor browning differentiates white tea crafting from that of green teas. (Green tea leaves are roasted immediately to halt oxidation before it begins.) After fading, the white tea leaves are gently baked to remove any traces of moisture. Baking and drying the leaves preserves them for storage.

White teas are defined by their variety, rather than their rate of oxidation. This means that modern white teas are not always crafted in the traditional way. For instance, rolled white teas (often used for jasmine scenting) are steamed. This application of heat after picking halts oxidation without the fading process. Some tea makers also experiment with higher rates of oxidation. These non-traditional techniques create new and interesting flavor profiles within this classic variety.


white teas are dried in the sun in a process called fading


 Signs Of Quality

The best quality white teas are made up of only of the youngest buds of the Da Bai variety. These young leaves contain more natural sugars and carbohydrates. The plant stores these compounds as energy reserves for the growth process. In the finished tea, these produce a smooth texture and naturally sweet flavor. One common myth is that all white teas are made of young baby leaves. But most white teas on the market consist of larger, more mature leaves picked from further down the stem.


Spring silver needle buds covered in white down


In fact, high quality harvests consisting of selected buds occur just once a year. In the springtime, these premium teas are the first ones plucked. The tea plant spends the cold winter in dormancy. In this state, it is absorbing nutrients from the soil but producing no new leaves. In the spring, the plant sprouts a large number of new buds, which are then harvested carefully by hand. These unopened buds, covered in white down, are usually given the name Silver Needle.

Later harvests are picked during periods of warmer weather in the summer. At this stage, the plants grow faster, and the harvests include more mature leaves. These later harvests usually produce more vegetal flavors, with a drier mouthfeel.


young leaf harvest vs mature leaf harvest


White tea has become popular in recent years for it's lauded health benefits. As with all teas, mileage is likely to vary with the quality and freshness of the leaves. Leaves picked early in springtime have higher concentrations of caffeine, theanine, and antioxidants. They are the most potent within a year of harvest, though flavor complexity can develop with a year or two of aging.

White Teas To Try

  • As a classic example of premium white tea, this tea is made of only the youngest buds for a flavor that is smooth and delicate, with a rich texture on the palate and notes of rose, apricot, and cream.

    Fuding Silver Needle 2017
    Quick shop

    漢字 有機銀針白毫

    origin Fuding County, Fujian

    craft faded (air dried)

    flavor notes apricot, marzipan

    漢字 有機銀針白毫

    origin Fuding County, Fujian

    craft faded (air dried)

    flavor notes apricot, marzipan

    Harvested the third week of March, each down-covered leaf bud was picked by hand from a high elevation grove of Da Bai tea trees in Fuding County, Fujian. Once gathered, the buds were scattered on bamboo trays and slowly wilted with constant airflow for 30 hours. This step, called "fading",...


  • An excellent white tea for daily drinking, Bai Mu Dan includes both buds and leaves, traditionally faded to create complex notes of dried apricot and almond in a liqour that never becomes bitter.

    Bai Mu Dan
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    Bai Mu Dan

    $14.50

    漢字 白牡丹

    origin Fuding County, Fujian

    craft faded (air dried)

    flavor notes apricot, almond

    漢字 白牡丹

    origin Fuding County, Fujian

    craft faded (air dried)

    flavor notes apricot, almond

    Our Bai Mu Dan comes from Fuding County, Fujian Province. Its two leaf and a bud combination comes from the Da Bai tea tree, picked in mid-April after the individual tea buds that make up Silver Needle have been gathered. Once picked, the leaves undergo a gradual "fade", during which...


  • For something off the beaten path, try our Xin Gong Yi, made with Da Bai leaves, but uncharacteristically oxidized to over 30%, resulting in a tea that is bold yet round, with notes of dried fruit and roses.

    Xin Gong Yi (New Craft) 2017
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    漢字 新工藝白茶

    origin Fuding County, Fujian

    craft twisted

    flavor notes raisin, apricot

    漢字 新工藝白茶

    origin Fuding County, Fujian

    craft twisted

    flavor notes raisin, apricot

    Our Xin Gong Yi white tea was harvested early April from Fuding County, Fujian Province. The hand-picked leaves consist of a bud and single leaf combination. The buds contribute florals and texture to the tea, while the leaves give it complexity.   Xin Gong Yi means "new craft". What distinguishes...