Updated: Oct 19, 2018
In June, our white tea appreciation month, we have multiple blogs to give you a comprehensive introduction to white tea. If you haven’t had the chance to read our previous blogs, we highly recommend you to check them out. In our last blog, we discussed the harvest of white tea. Today, let’s continue our journey and talk about probably the most anticipated topic: the making of white tea.
White tea cherishes the beauty of the natural taste delivered by the simple processing. Therefore, the tea-making of white tea is a straightforward process. Less is more. White tea is like a delicate child. Intervening its natural state can sometimes lead to an unexpected defeat. After the harvest, fresh leaves of white tea are full of water and life. The “white fur” gently puts a soft coat over the green leaves. Traditionally, all fresh leaves are carefully placed evenly on sifters that made of natural green bamboos. This process is called Tan-Qing (Chinese: 摊青, meaning spread out the fresh leaves). Once sifters are covered by fresh leaves, they cannot be moved around anymore. Any movement during this time could cause the loss of the “white fur” and have a negative effect on the final taste.
After Tan-Qing, it’s the withering process. The withering happens in such a natural manner that there is not too much a tea maker needs to do. Sun withering is the most ideal. Pure sun-withered leaves eventually release a sharper and clearer flavor. Sun-withered white tea has a distinct taste of the “sunlight”. Personally, I interpret this “taste of sunlight” as a flavor that’s full of energy. The purpose of the withering is basically to trigger the water loss of leaves. Water to leaves is like blood to human. The more water leaves lose, the weaker they become. Sun withering makes the “water losing process” a lot smoother; thus, it keeps the alluring essence within the leaves. Sun-withered white tea can better preserve its flower-like fragrance and the sweet taste, and it has a better aroma when aged. Of course, this doesn’t mean that as long as there’s sun out, we can do the withering. A blazing sun could destroy the nutritions in leaves. When this happens, leaves would turn a much darker color and lose their freshness as if all leaves suddenly lose their spirit.
After the withering, it’s the “drying” process. In modern tea-making, there are two major methods: handcrafted charcoal heating and machine heating. This process is similar to the “roasting” and the “drying” process in oolong tea-making. Despite the similarities between the two, white tea is not roasted at all. The key difference is that only a very low-intensity heat is applied when drying white tea leaves. The purpose of it is simply to dry the leaves, not to give leaves a new flavor or a new nature.
The natural withering takes up to 40 to 60 hours. At the end of the withering process, the water content of leaves is down to 18% to 26%. Withered white tea leaves would have a slightly darker green color. The edge of the leaf would curve inwards, and the tip of the leaf has an upturned look. Some finished white tea, such as silver needle, has an adorable furry rabbit-ear look.
At this point, the making of white tea is officially completed. However, the story of white tea doesn’t end here. As a tea that can be aged, the nature of white tea would change after aging for a few years. If you’re interested in how white tea ages, please read our previous blog “The Journey of White Tea”.
We hope you enjoyed today’s blog. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment, tweet us @valleybrooktea or email us at email@example.com. Please also follow us on Instagram @valleybrooktea and join our mail list to get our daily tea updates and our latest promotions! Finally, If you are interested in ordering some white tea, don’t forget we have a white tea sale for the entire month of June! Use code: whitetea186 and get a 10% off on all white tea products!