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Guide to Brewing Tea Part VI: White Tea- The Oft Forgotten Category

By Dchew78 @peonyts

Here’s a confession, on our blog we tend to be a bit short on white tea related information, especially in comparison with oolong and green teas.

Of course this can be explained as a correlation to the number of varieties of oolong and greens (estimated 300 & 700 respectively) versus white teas (where only 3 are considered traditional white teas).

While brewing of green tea has 3 main types (top drop, mid-drop and bottom-drop) and brewing of oolong tea often depends on the sub-category, brewing of white tea is somewhat more straightforward.

That is not to say there is no dispute, there are some who insist boiling or near boiling water is the way to go for white tea.

Brewing Parameters

Guide to Brewing Tea Part VI: White Tea- The Oft Forgotten Category
Personally- at least for silver needles and white peony- I prefer temperatures akin to green tea- i.e. hovering around 80⁰C. This extracts a sweet and brisk quality in the leaves without the somewhat brackish quality I would get from boiling water.

However because the leaves are un-rolled, the juices need a longer steeping time to be extracted. You can start anywhere from 2 minutes though 4-5 minutes generally do the trick better, particularly for Silver Needles which tends to be subtler.

I would recommend circa 3 grams to 100 ml for both Silver Needles and White Peony.

Brewing Techniques

Like certain green teas- e.g. Huangshan Maofeng- Silver Needles are best brewed with the ‘mid-drop’ method- i.e. add 1/3 water then add leaves and water again. This due to the fact that Silver Needles take a long time to sink and adding of water mid-way expedites this process.

Another point to note is that unlike green teas, the lid of the gaiwan should be covered completely to allow the substances in the leaves to dissolve completely.

Putting it all together

The basic steps are the same:

Guide to Brewing Tea Part VI: White Tea- The Oft Forgotten Category
i)   Warm the pot with hot water and discard it

ii)   Add 1/3 of hot water

iii)   Add tea leaves

iv)   Fill the vessel with hot water

v)   Cover the lid

vi)   Infuse for 2-5 minutes

vii)   Decant the liquor into a serving pitcher

viii)   Pour into drinking cups and serve

ix)   Repeats steps iv-viii)

Brewing Vessel

Guide to Brewing Tea Part VI: White Tea- The Oft Forgotten Category
For Silver Needles, glass is often used because of the aesthetical value. From a pure gastronomic perspective though, it is not ideal as glass does not retain heat as well, particularly considering the long infusion time of white tea.

I would prefer a thicker ceramic material as it retains heat better for longer infusions.

Infuser mugs work pretty well for white tea since their thick materials retain heat well and though the dry leaves of White Peony can be rather big, they don’t expand further, being un-rolled to begin with. Hence the relatively smaller brewing area of infuser mugs does not prove to be a constraint unlike oolong teas.

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