What do white peony, silver needle, and shou-mei tea have in common? They’re all white teas!
This delicate cousin to green tea and black tea may taste like fruit and flowers, but it actually packs quite a punch in the health benefits department. Join us as we learn about white tea and its benefits.
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8 Health Benefits of White Tea
White tea is pretty tasty, but it isn’t just known for its flavor. White tea is also full of healthy benefits!
Because white tea does not go through oxidation, it is the closest you can get to making tea with unprocessed tea leaves — that’s why the effects of white tea are so strong. Here are some of our favorite ways that white tea can support your body.
Rich in Antioxidants
White tea is rich in antioxidants, which are compounds that can track down and neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms that are missing an electron.
As they search for their missing electron, free radicals can do a ton of damage. This damage can lead to premature aging and long-term health consequences.
Free radicals are created in your body during its natural processes, but they are also produced in the environment. For instance, many free radicals you’re probably exposed to come from UV radiation, pollution, and smoke. It’s nearly impossible to get away from free radicals — that’s why antioxidants are so important.
Your body makes antioxidants, but these often aren’t enough to stop the constant stream of free radicals you’re exposed to every day. When free radicals outweigh antioxidants, that can lead to oxidative stress (AKA free radical damage).
That’s why it’s important to supplement your natural supply of antioxidants with dietary aids like white tea. Some of the main components of white tea like catechins, polyphenols, and flavonoids are antioxidants.
However, white tea also has an extra-special antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate. Also known as EGCG, this powerful antioxidant has been shown to help support your body and your immune system in many different areas. In fact, this and other antioxidants in white tea are responsible for some of the following benefits.
May Promote Heart Health
Having a healthy heart is important. However, long-term heart health depends on the choices you make today. Choices like whether or not you should drink a cup of white tea.
The catechins in white tea can do a lot of amazing things for your health, but one of those things is to help protect your heart. They do this partly by promoting healthy LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure levels.
The antioxidant properties of white tea can also help support your body against the risk of potential heart conditions, as well as promote healthy blood vessels. This helps your whole body since healthy blood vessels can help get your blood where it needs to go.
Supports a Healthy Metabolism
Many people associate a healthy metabolism with weight loss, but a healthy metabolism is so much more than that. A healthy metabolism is all about creating energy and burning energy, and it affects many of your other systems. For instance, a healthy metabolism can help support your brain.
Your metabolism is highly dependent on your body’s ability to process insulin, a hormone that helps get nutrients from the blood into your cells. The more that insulin is able to work, the more balanced your blood sugar is.
White tea can support your body as it processes insulin, and because of that, it can also help promote healthy blood sugar levels. While this is due to many components in white tea, you can thank EGCG in particular for this benefit.
Supports Oral Health
You might not think of tea as something that can be good for your teeth, but white tea is a great way to protect your oral health. This tea works in a few ways to preserve your health.
First, some of the antioxidants in white tea can neutralize bacteria that can cause bad breath. While it’s no excuse to pack up your toothbrush, you may want to make white tea a part of your pre-date ritual.
Second, some of the catechins and flavonoids in white tea can actually help protect your teeth against acid and sugar. Basically, white tea is a superhero.
If you have a low caffeine tolerance, then white tea may be for you. High caffeine sensitivity is often associated with caffeine jitters, which refers to the shaky feeling you might feel when you’ve ingested more than the recommended daily amount of caffeine. This side effect is largely related to your heart rate.
Luckily, white tea has the lowest caffeine content out of any other true tea (AKA teas made from the Camellia sinensis plant — but more on that later), coming in between 15 and 30 milligrams per cup. This means that even those with high caffeine sensitivities can likely enjoy this type of tea without an issue.
As an added bonus, white tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that is known to promote feelings of relaxation and diminish feelings of stress. This secret ingredient can help with inhibiting the negative effects of caffeine like jitters and a mid-day crash.
White tea is also lower in tannins, an antioxidant that can tend to coat the mouth and make it feel dry. Black tea is high in tannins, although they are also a signature component of red wine. Although many people enjoy tannins, they are often an acquired taste.
Have you ever wondered how the sun contributes to premature aging? Basically, UV radiation creates free radicals. Remember those?
Free radicals can alter your skin cells, causing your collagenase and elastase enzymes to misfire. Collagenase and elastase are designed to break down collagen and elastin respectively. These are both proteins that combine to help your skin stay firm, plump, soft, and rebound from stress.
This process is normal, but sun damage can cause your collagenase and elastase to go a little overboard, and sometimes they end up breaking down healthy proteins. This is what can lead to premature aging like wrinkles and fine lines.
White tea helps to slow down this process, and one study in particular showed that white tea extract can help protect against these damaging effects. White tea is no replacement for sunscreen, but it is a great way to add another layer of protection to your skin.
What Is White Tea?
So, now you know what white tea can do for you — but what is it, really?
Like black and green tea, white tea comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. This plant grows natively in China and India, but it now can be found all over the world thanks to the wonders of cultivation.
Camellia sinensis is also called the tea plant since all “true” teas come from its leaves. All other teas are considered herbal teas, which often come from medicinal herbs and plants like chamomile, peppermint, and rosemary.
Still, just because all true teas come from the Camellia plant doesn’t mean they all taste the same. For white teas, the Camellia plants are finely cultivated to evolve a little differently from their cousins.
Specifically, white tea varieties have been cultivated for the fine white hairs that coat their leaves, also known as bai-hao. This fur contains nitrogen and amino acids that highly impact the tea’s flavor.
Harvest season, oxidation, and growing conditions all affect the nuances of white tea, too, making it slightly different than its true tea counterparts For instance, a white tea leaf has significantly less caffeine and is much lighter in taste than black tea.
Both green and white teas are made from the youngest tea leaves, which are called the flush. For white tea, cultivators use unopened leaf buds and young leaves that have just opened.
Because the leaves are so young, white tea doesn’t contain as much caffeine as other teas that are made with more mature leaves. However, these leaves are incredibly high in antioxidants.
White tea leaves are plucked during the first harvest, which is often between April and May, depending on the growing region. Once plucked, the tea leaves undergo processing.
Whereas other tea leaves are left in a hot room to oxidize or are cut and bruised to bring out the flavor, white tea leaves are simply withered and dried.
White tea makes up a small fraction of tea production, as it can only be grown in certain regions to maintain its unique flavor. Like all light teas, white tea comes from China.
While India does produce massive amounts of tea (and is in fact one of the largest tea producers in the world), the Indian variety of tea plant is best suited to darker teas like black tea and oolong tea. This is why India is known for Darjeeling, Assam, and Nilgiri black teas.
On the other hand, China’s version of the tea plant is ideal for lighter teas like green tea and white tea. However, whether a tea plant can grow leaves for white tea depends on its soil.
Soil and growing conditions can heavily affect the way that tea leaves taste. white tea plants are grown in regions where the weather and soil are wonderfully balanced to create light, floral flavors.
This is why most white tea is grown in the Fujian province in China. This growing region gets lots of rain and is highly elevated so that the plant grows more slowly and has more time to store up flavorful compounds from the soil.
Types of White Tea
There are actually a few types of white tea: silver needle, white peony, shou-mei, and gong-mei. These different versions are distinguished by how fine their tea leaves are.
Silver needle is the finest white tea. Also known as bai hao yin zhen, this tea is made from leaves that have just barely sprouted. Even then, only the tips of the leaf sprouts are used. The final result looks like fine silver needles, hence the name.
White peony tea, also known as bai mu dan, is made from the same leaves after they have just unfurled. Instead of just the tips, white peony tea is made with the full leaf.
Finally, shou-mei and gong-mei tea are made from white tea leaves that are a few days older. The quality of white tea is dependent on a small window of time.
Because of the unique growing conditions and harvesting process, white tea has quite a unique flavor. While different sub-varieties have subtle differences, white tea is generally known for its light and floral taste.
We could keep trying to put words to a taste, but you’ll really have to try it for yourself. We recommend a cup of Sage Rose White Tea by Wight Tea Co. This tea’s flavor is rich and bold, featuring sage, rose, and lemongrass.
How to Enjoy White Tea
To properly enjoy white tea, simply pick out your favorite tea. We recommend Sparkling Rosé *Glitter Tea* by Magic Moon. Heat your water until it’s between 175℉ and 185℉, then pour it over your tea bag or tea infuser. Steep for one to three minutes and enjoy plain or with your favorite sweetener. You can also try our popular White Tea Vodka Smash recipe for a delicious tea-infused cocktail!
White tea is one of the most delicate teas, and there’s a lot that goes into making it. Not only is it delicious, but this tea has health benefits that range from supporting your heart to improving your skin.
If you want to discover white tea for yourself, take a look at our carefully curated online collection to continue your educational journey!
White Tea Shop
Explore our collection of premium white teas that you'll love for their subtle aroma and intricate taste. Anti-oxidant-rich, white tea is a delicate tea of luxury and is nominally processed. Relax with these different types of white teas at any time of the day.
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About Sips by: We’re a female-founded and led startup that makes discovering tea fun, personalized, and affordable. The Sips by Box is the only multi-brand, personalized tea subscription box. Each month, we match tea drinkers across the U.S. with delicious teas from over 150 global tea brands that we’re sure they’ll love. Based out of Austin, Texas, we are adept at savoring a hot mug even when it’s seasonally inappropriate.
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