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White tea is known to be one of the most delicate tea varieties because it is so minimally processed. White tea is harvested before the tea plant’s leaves open fully, when the young buds are still covered by fine white hairs, hence the name “white” tea.
These buds and unfurled leaves from the newest growth on the tea plant are handpicked and then quickly and meticulously dried, so the leaves are not allowed to oxidize as long as leaves plucked for green or black tea production. This minimal processing and low oxidation results in some of the most delicate and freshest tea available.
It’s important to know that all tea—white, green, oolong, black and even pu-erh—comes from the same Camellia sinensis plant, an evergreen bush indigenous to both China and India. Hundreds of cultivars and hybrids have evolved from the Camellia sinensis plant over time, each thriving in diverse geographical areas of the world. But it’s ultimately the variety of tea plant and how the plant’s leaves are processed that defines the final type of tea that ends up in your teacup.
One of the biggest differentiators in how various teas are processed is oxidation—that is, how long tea leaves are allowed to be exposed to oxygen once they’ve been harvested. The longer tea leaves are exposed to oxygen, the darker the leaves become and the deeper the flavor profile that’s developed. During processing, tea masters use many different methods to create and control oxidation, including rolling, shaping or crushing the leaves to speed up oxidation, and steaming, firing or roasting the leaves to stop it.
White Tea: Green Bud → Withering (72 hrs) → Drying (110°C/65°C)
Our white tea is neither rolled nor fired, so it is essentially non-oxidized and it is the least processed. Instead of being exposed to an artificial heat, the leaves are simply allowed to wither and dry in a carefully controlled environment, which results in the most delicate, fresh-from-the-garden tasting tea.
Black tea leaves are harvested and allowed to fully oxidize before they are heat-processed and dried, creating the deep brown to black color and rich, malty flavor black tea is known for. Green tea leaves are harvested and then quickly heated—by pan firing or steaming—and dried to prevent too much oxidation from occurring that would turn the green leaves brown and alter their fresh-picked flavor.
White tea is so minimally processed that much less oxidation occurs. As soon as the buds are plucked they are allowed to wither and air dry in the sun or in a carefully controlled outdoor or indoor environment. Some buds may be steamed or exposed to low heat to help dry them more quickly to stop oxidation. Some minimal oxidation occurs as the buds are allowed to dry naturally, but since oxidation is not encouraged manually, white tea has a much softer, delicate flavor profile than its green or black tea cousins. Purchase white tea online from here
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