White tea is less well known than black tea, green tea, and wulong tea, largely because of the more labor-intensive preparations involved. It is also more sensitive to weather and even light conditions.
But white tea is reputed to have powerful healing qualities, and new technology is allowing for more efficient production.
The name “white tea” comes from the fine white-silvery hairs on unopened buds of the tea plant, giving them a whitish appearance.
It is a minimally processed form of tea, air-dried as with the herbal medicines of ancient China. And it is ascribed healing properties, too, once administered to treat fevers and even polio.
But production almost ceased in recent decades, reflecting the labor-intensive nature of preparation compared with other forms of tea.
“It’s not easy. It can’t be made too early in the morning or too late in the evening. The light will make a big difference,” said Mei Xiangjing, Fuding White Tea Cultural Heritage Inheritor.
“Traditional techniques have a disadvantage. It depends too much on the weather,” said Li Jiangfeng, Fuding White Tea Cultural Heritage Inheritor.
So inheritors are looking at how to combine modern technology with traditional techniques.
“I want to combine both techniques and carry them forward,” Mei said.
“The white tea made with new techniques or technologies actually tastes better!” Li said.
One innovation is the use of water extraction without sacrificing the original taste. It is something the next generation of tea masters embrace.
“I want to hand down the real techniques of making white tea and take them to a higher stage,” said Shi Meili, tea master.