Thirsty? As the days heat up, sipping cold iced tea under the hot summer sun can taste like paradise. Don’t settle for just any old tea. White tea is unique in boasting several powerful benefits. Produced mainly in China, white tea was once considered scarce and set aside exclusively for Chinese royals. Today, white tea is gaining recognition due to its mild flavor and health promoting qualities.
The Delicate Tea
White tea comes from a shrub called Camellia sinensis, the same species from which black, green and oolong teas originate. The differences between teas lie in leaf processing. White tea is made from the youngest leaf buds carefully plucked prior to opening, then air-dried. White teas are unique in that the leaves are only slightly oxidized and are not rolled prior to drying like other teas, which preserve the abundance of good-for-you antioxidants.
Quench your thirst for health with a cool glass of white tea, while partaking in exotic new ways to satisfy summer thirst. Brew the tea alone in loose-leaf form or try flavored bags with mouth-watering tropical pineapple, mango and other fruits like peach, pear and pomegranate. White tea is delicate and naturally sweet, lending a fresh aftertaste unlike the familiar “grassy” notes of green tea.
A study at Pace University revealed that White Tea Extract (WTE) may have prophylactic applications in retarding growth of bacteria that cause Staphylococcus and Streptococcus infections, pneumonia and dental caries. “Based on my research, white tea, in most cases, has a greater antimicrobial effect than does green tea,” says Dr. Milton Schiffenbauer, Professor Microbiology at Pace University in New York City. “My results indicated that white tea is more effective in inactivating bacterial virus.” In addition, Schiffenbauer has demonstrated that pomegranate juice, another antioxidant powerhouse, is effective as an antimicrobial agent.
Pomegranate white tea blends are easy to come by. Revolution, for example, now offers White Pomegranate Tea (A 16-infuser box is $ 5.99; revolutiontea.com), made with Bai Mu Dan “White Peony” and a burst of antioxidant-rich fruity flavor. White tea makes an excellent low-caffeine option for those watching caffeine intakes.
Mellow and Refreshing on Ice
If you enjoy a lighter taste, white tea may gratify your thirst, but it’s not an iced tea preference for all. It may not be your cup of tea if you prefer a glass of customary bold iced tea, but then again, the tea’s remarkable light delight may surprise you.
At one time white tea was set aside for royals, but now it’s easier than ever before to find. You can find them in supermarkets, health stores, tea shops and reputable online suppliers. Tea Forté, for example, now offers a Tea-Over-Ice™ “flash- chilled” line, for lasting freshness. Each infuser brews a refreshing 24 oz. pitcher of iced tea (a box of Iced White Ginger Pear is $24.00; teaforte.com) made in Tea Forté’s Tea-Over-Ice™ Brewing Pitcher ($42.00; teaforte.com). Enjoy white tea over ice this summer for a refreshing beverage.
Easy Brew Suggestion:
Remember the best of white teas come in loose-leaf. White teas are simple to prepare using loose-leaf and can go to three steeps by adding a couple minutes to each following steep. It’s best to use only good quality filtered water heated well before the boiling point.
Cold infuse tea by adding loose-leaf to ice cold water and chilling over night. To serve, strain the leaves, pour over ice and enjoy a first cup of the day. A faster method is to use an infuser type on-the-go mug (for example, a Timolino Travel Mug with Infuser is worth a try; $22.00 inpursuitoftea.com).
What the Tea Authority Has to Say:
“I prefer to use White Peony as the flavor is stronger and works well as an iced tea,” says Sebastian Beckwith, a ranking American tea authority based in New York City, and co-founder and President of In Pursuit of Tea. “I like to cold infuse white tea overnight in the refrigerator, Beckwith adds.”
White teas are not all created equal. Here are four common types:
1. Silver Needle (Bai Hao Yinzhen)
The highest grade with silvery white buds. The most delicate and expensive of white teas. Light and smooth, mildly sweet. Pale yellow color.
2. White Peony (Bai Mu Dan)
A mix of less buds and more leaves. Stronger flavor than Silver Needle. Nutty mellow flavor. Light amber color (great ice tea choice.)
3. Tribute Eyebrow (Gong Mei)
Lesser ranked but well-liked. Undergoes more processing than Silver Needle and White Peony. Earthy taste. Darker color.
4. Long Life Eyebrow (Shou Mei)
A lower quality white tea. Strongest of white teas with a bold flavor. Darkest in color.
Summer Tea Tip
Try making ice cubes with a portion of the brewed white tea to avoid watered-down tea. Notice white tea color appears much paler than green and black teas. Divide ice cubes among each tall iced tea glass, pour cool tea over ice, top off with a slice of lemon or lime wedge. Garnish with fresh mint for a healthy summer drink. Serve ice cold.