White tea (白茶) is the uncured and unoxidized tea leaf. Like green, oolong and black tea, white tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. Oolong and black teas are oxidized before curing.
White tea contains buds and young tea leaves, with higher caffeine than older leaves, suggesting the caffeine content of white teas may be higher than that of green teas.
White tea is a specialty of the Chinese province Fujian. The leaves come from varieties of tea cultivars. Popular are Da Bai (Large White), Xiao Bai (Small White), Narcissus and Chaicha bushes. According to the standards of picking and selection, white teas can be classified into a number of grades, described in the varieties section.
Chinese White Teas
Bai Hao Yinzhen (白毫銀針)(Silver needle):
Is a white tea which is chiefly produced in Fujian Province in China with only limited or negligible production outside and more commonly just known as Yinzhen. Amongst white teas this is the most expensive variety and the most prized as only top buds are used to produce the tea. Most Yinzhen is made from the Da Bai or Large White tea tree race, however there are exceptions such as the big bud teas from Yunnan.
Bai Mu Dan (白牡丹)(White Peony):
Is a White tea that includes new leaves as well as the center needle sprout. While widely considered to be a lower grade than Yinzhen, it is actually a separate category of white tea that includes grades of its own. Bai Mu Dan style is often preferred by white tea drinkers for its fuller flavor and greater potency than the Bai Hao Yinzhen style tea, which is made with undeveloped leaves, and so it is comparatively pale when brewed.
Gong Mei （工美)(Tribute Eyebrow):
Is produced using leaves from the Xiao Bai tea tree and is processed more than the Silver Needle and White Peony teas and is therefore considered a lower grade tea. "Eyebrow" teas are named for the long, thin, crescent-shaped leaves used in production.
Aged after oxidation, the Tribute Eyebrow offers a dark, full brew with a very earthy taste. It is popular in many Chinese teahouses and is sometimes served with Dim Sum.
Shou Mei （寿眉)(Noble, Long Life Eyebrow):
Is a white tea that is produced from naturally withered upper leaf and tips, with a stronger flavor reminiscent of lighter Oolong teas. It is mostly grown in the Fujian Province or Guangxi Province in China. Because it is plucked later than Bai Mu Dan the tea may be darker in color, but it should still have a proportionate green color. Some lower grades of Shou Mei may be golden in color with a lot of black and red leaves, making a darker brew with more depth.
Technically this tea, being a fourth grade tea, is a by-product of Bai Hao Yinzhen tea production and uses Da Bai or Large White leaves.