Varieties of White Tea

2/24/20242 min read

Varieties of White Tea

Just as with other varieties of tea, there are many different types and varieties of white tea, and it is not always easy to tell the difference between them. The exotic-sounding names traditionally given to each of the many different grades are certainly very evocative, and do much to add to the air of mystery and the exclusivity of each variety, but they give very little information about the tea itself. All countries, not just China, commercially produce white tea, and in many parts of the world. India, for example, produces huge quantities of tea each year, some of it white, as do Japan and Sri Lanka, so the popular tea is by no means the exclusive preserve of the Fujian province in China, which has been growing many other teas, including several types of white tea for almost a thousand years.

The Different White Teas

Noble, Long-Life Eyebrow (Shou Mei) - This variety of white tea is made from a different kind of tea plant than the three types of tea mentioned below. It is typically harvested later than the other three and has a darker appearance. It has a stronger flavor, comparable to Oolong tea.

Tribute Eyebrow (Gong Mei) - This type of white tea consists of what is left after the higher qualities of White Peony and Silver Needle have been harvested. It contains a few buds, but mainly young leaves.

Snowbud - This very light tea is a great and affordable introduction to the world of white tea. It lets you enjoy the subtlety and delicacy of this airy variety.

Song Yang - This is a white tea variety that is handmade in the Song Yang region of the Zhejiang province. Three thousand tea leaves are meticulously harvested and processed by hand to make one pound of this exclusive white tea.

White Peony (Bai Mu Dan) - The bud is harvested with two leaves. This is the second highest quality of white tea, and it comes from the same kind of tea plant as the Silver Needle. The buds and leaves are covered in the same white down as Silver Needle.

Silver Needle (Yin Zhen) - This is the highest quality of white tea from China. It is hand-picked during a short period in early spring before the buds develop into leaves. Only undamaged, unopened buds are chosen, and it is prohibited to pick them if it is raining or too cold. The buds are of uniform length and thickness. They are springy and fleshy to the touch and covered with fine, white hairs. There are no leaves or stems in Silver Needle tea.

Other Varieties

Apart from these Chinese teas, white tea is also produced in India and is then known as Darjeeling White. Like Silver Needle, it commonly consists of just the buds of the leaves. Sri Lanka also has its own reputable Ceylon White variety, in addition to the fine Silver Tips. Japanese growers of tea usually focus on green tea, the famous "cha", but small quantities of white tea are also made.

For some, the taste of white tea is too subtle, and many prefer to drink white tea enriched with flavor. There are several different flavors to choose from.

Despite the growing popularity of white tea in many Western countries, it can still be hard to come by a specific quality of white tea in specialty tea stores. Often, online vendors can offer the best selection and lowest prices, due to the volume involved. We would recommend that you buy loose-leaf teas instead of tea bags, because the resulting cup of tea will be of better quality.