Blog 23: White Tea - The Oldest and The Youngest Tea of All

Updated: Oct 19, 2018

June is our white tea appreciation month. White tea is ideal for the summer season, we’d like to provide some interesting and factful knowledge for our fellow tea lovers before the hot day comes. During the month of June, you and I will explore the world of white tea. Together, we will look into the history, the historical and modern origins, the production and the benefit of white tea. If you are new to our tea blog, you might also want to check out our previous blog about white tea.


Unlike many other teas, white tea has not always been considered a popular tea. As a slightly fermented tea, white tea is the easiest and the simplest tea to make. Different from the tea-making of oolong tea, there is no rolling and hot fixation (hot stirring) in that of white tea. To process white tea, we just need to harvest fresh leaves and put them in sun drying or mild heating process. The simple process allows white tea leaves still preserve their original shapes. The natural sun drying also permits microorganisms to further ferment tea leaves. That’s why white tea can be aged. Aged white tea acquires the benefit of mild herbal meditation medicine. While fresh white tea is considered a colder tea in nature, aged white tea is mild and suitable for people of all ages.


Because white tea is so simple to process, many people conclude that white tea was the first tea that people made, and it should be more ancient than green tea. Of course, these are just unsupported claims. Luckily, the Chinese language allows us to research further and find the true origin of white tea.


White Tea

In his popular book, the Classic of Tea, Mr. Lu Yu recorded white tea in the 7th chapter. In this chapter, he wrote that “there are white-color tea mountains 300 miles south of the county of Yong-Jia” (Chinese: 永嘉县东三百里有白茶山. Here, I’d like to point out that Mr. Lu mistakenly put “east” instead of “south” in his book. 300 miles east of the Yong-Jia was actually ocean. It should be 300 miles south of the Yong-Jia). The place recorded in Mr. Lu’s book is in fact today’s Fuding, Fujian, the famous white tea producing area. Therefore, we can conclude that at least in Tang Dynasty (618-907), people already discovered white tea in Fuding, Fujian. The name “white tea” (白茶) appeared later in 1107. In the book Treatise on Tea, the Emperor Huizong of Song Dynasty detailed that a type of tea leaves that had a white color.


Despite there are numerous historical records of it, white tea is relatively new type of tea. The making of modern white tea happened only in the recent couple hundreds years. All historical records about “white tea” were actually discussing the “white color” of tea leaves rather than white tea as a tea category. Also, since both oolong tea and black tea are from Fujian, white tea has unavoidably faced fierce competition from its hometown. The limited interests in white tea resulted in low production. In quite a long time, white tea was only appreciated by a small number of tea drinkers. However, since the early 2000s, there are more and more people who prefer white tea over other non-fermented or lightly fermented tea. Tea lovers around the globe finally realize the simple tea-making process of white tea demands strict organic growing environment. Only the best white tea producing areas can preserve the original natural taste and fragrance of fresh leaves. In addition to white tea’s pesticide-free quality, white tea’s herbal medicine use is also further explored and treasured by tea lovers.


Nowadays, we can say that the modern white tea is actually reborn with renewed interests in it. This is why we call white tea the oldest tea and the youngest tea. If you are interested in ordering some white tea, don’t forget we have a white tea sale for the month of June! Use code: whitetea186 and get a 10% off on all white tea products!


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 contact@valleybrooktea.com. Please also follow us on Instagram @valleybrooktea and join our mailing list to get our daily tea updates and our latest promotions!


*Correction: in an early version, we mistakenly put "Fuding, Fujian" as "Fuqing, Fujian". The correct one should be Fuding. Fuding and Fuqing are both towns in Fujian Province, but only Fuding produces white tea. We sincerely apologize for the mistake.