FROM FARM TO CUP
In Chinese scientific treatise written by Tian Yiheng, "Zhuquan Xiaopin", it was mentioned that green tea is only second to white tea since white tea has a natural taste, that is not influenced by smoke, water, or heat.
In the strictest sense, white tea does not only refer to the tea itself only but it also refers to the process of making tea
THE TEA FARM
This is where we start. Selecting tea farms. Our criteria would be the altitude, soil fertility, weather, temperature, even angle of the sunlight because these are the important factors affecting the quality of yield. For higher polyphenolic content, preferred will be high altitude, slightly sloped mountains, colder weather, healthy herbivory. Climate changes affect the secondary metabolites in the tea plant. Experts are using the tea plant as the lens to the effects of climate changes on the plant world. We will try to get more updates on this for you.
High altitude tea farms , 2000 m above sea level
All tea processing starts from the harvesting of the leaves. The best harvest of the year for white tea is during the early spring (between March to April) when the buds are plump and ample.
Close to 100% of ultra high quality white teas are harvested by hand. Harvesting tea buds requires special skills that have been taught and passed on through many generations.
Seasonal farm workers are commissioned by tea farmers to help with plucking the tea buds. In order not to damage the tea buds and the leaf-sets, careful plucking techniques are used by the farm workers. Picking activity starts before sunrise when the buds are still supple and gently moistened by the morning dew.
WITHERING / WILTING THE TEA BUDS
The second step in creating white tea is WITHERING. This is a CRITICAL step in white tea production. The quality of the white tea will be dependent on the techniques and expertise applied during the withering process where physical changes to the buds take place.
Proper and even withering of tea buds are highly influenced by the standards of plucking and expertise of tea crafters as well as -- environmental conditions in the withering facilities; time; and temperature. Production of high quality white tea, really is a serious stuff!
The buds go through initial withering in a room with constant humidity and temperature. This takes about 7-8 hours. The buds naturally lose some water content slowly in order to retain polyphenolic contents. As moisture in the buds gradually disappears, they become darker (greener) and becomes flaccid. Losing water also makes the buds more concentrated with catechins and amino acids.
Experienced white tea crafters will continue on withering leaves by manually (by hand!) turning over the buds. They use a technique that has been passed on through generations.
White Tea also goes through very light fermentation (a tea process lingo which is basically natural oxidation or allowing oxygen to interact with the tea compounds). Because it is so lightly fermented, using natural light, white tea is sometimes classified as unfermented, although this is not 100% accurate.
So after the tea crafters are satisfied with the withering followed by very light fermentation which allowed the buds to become lightly mellow, the next step is- DRYING!
DRYING WHITE TEA
The final process in creating all teas is of course DRYING. There are 2 techniques: 1) slow drying under indirect sunlight and lower temperature; 2) rapid drying under direct sunlight and higher temperature.. Depending on the culture and tradition, white tea can be either slow dried or rapidly dried. Slow drying is the preferred method of The Whitea Tea Shop because this ensures higher antioxidants contents.
TEA SCREENING & PACKAGING
Tea crafters will screen the buds for its quality, then present them to tea masters for final tasting. The tea masters will describe the taste of the final product - level of "hui-gan", astringency, etc. They know all these by just using their taste buds and sense of scent. In bigger manufacturing facilities, they employ experts to do this job with the aid of machines and computers. But in The White Tea Shop, we collaborate with local tea masters and rely on their traditional techniques in describing the vintage white tea.
The 2019 harvest from the farm we collaborate with has bee hailed as the best that they have tasted in 7 years.
The White Tea Shop prefers that the white teas are packed by the tea crafters themselves and they pay extra so that screening and packaging are done simultaneously to ensure freshness.