Blog 45: How to Tell If A White Tea Is Aged

Updated: Oct 19, 2018

In our previous blogs, we talked about how a white tea ages over the years (click here for previous blog). New white tea and aged white tea have very different characters. New white tea is vivid and nifty, and aged white tea is mature and sophisticated. New white tea tastes young, fresh and mellow; on the other hand, aged white tea has a silky and rich flavor. When choosing a white tea, we can just select a product based on our own preferences. However, how do we know if a white tea is new or aged? Today, let’s discuss how to distinguish new and aged.


Pouring a new white tea

Time is the only factor that determines whether a white tea is new or aged. New white tea is defined as fresh tea from the same year’s harvest. This includes all major white tea products such as Silver Needle, White Peony and Shou-Mei/Gong-Mei. For tea mountains that only have one harvest a year, new tea is only produced in spring. For tea mountains that harvest semi-annually, new tea are harvested in spring and autumn. Usually, Silver Needle and White Peony are only harvested in spring, and Shou-Mei/Gong-Mei can be harvested in both spring and autumn. For instance, this year is 2018, and all white tea produced in 2018 are considered as new tea. After a year, in 2019, these white tea would be aged for a year. After 3 years, in 2021, they would become authentic aged white tea. Yes, the threshold of an aged white tea is about 3 years. After aging for 3 years, no matter how many years a white tea is aged, it’s still called an aged tea.


But we cannot simply rely on what a tea vendor claims that how many years a white tea has been aged. We can always start to identify a white tea’s age by its appearance. If a tea has more green leaves, it means this tea is still young; if a tea has more tawny and maroon color, it means this tea has been aged. New white tea, regardless varieties, have a range of pure greens. Age white tea, however, have a dominant yellowish-green.


The special aromas are another key element in distinguishing new and aged. A white tea’s aromas are constantly changing during the aging. A new white tea generally has a refreshing, “empty mountain after the rain” smell. Among all aromas, floral smell is the most characteristic. New white tea from higher quality growing environment have more complex floral substances. Compared to that of new tea, aromas of aged white tea have less floral smells but more medicine-like smells. This is the best way to identify an aged white tea without brewing it.


If we have the chance to brew a white tea, we cal also tell a white tea’s age by brewing it. Tea soup of a new white tea is primarily bright and glossy yellowish-green. An aged white tea is oxidized in storage, and its pigment substances are slowly disintegrated. Tea soup of an aged white tea tends to be a lot richer. A well-aged white tea can have a bright amber color.


Of course, the difference in the taste is what we value the most. This is also why some tea drinker prefer aged white tea while others prefer new white tea. New white tea has a green-tea-like exhilarating and refreshing taste. Despite being similar, the flavor of a white tea is slightly thicker than that of a green tea. The flavor of an age white tea is completely transformed into an herbal-medicine-like taste. Some tea lovers prefer aged white tea because of this stronger medicine taste.


Finally, an aged white tea doesn’t necessarily mean a tea is always better. Only a good white tea come from a good mountain can get better with aging. A rubbishes tea aged for 10 years is just a 10-year-old rubbish. That’s why we always suggest our customers to age their own white tea instead of purchasing an aged one from a vendor. Aging white tea yourself is the only way to guarantee you get an authentic aged tea.


I hope you enjoyed today’s blog. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment, tweet us @valleybrooktea or email the author directly at zhang@valleybrooktea.com. Please also follow us on Instagram @valleybrooktea and join our mail list to get our daily tea updates and our latest promotions!