White tea is grown and harvested primarily in China, mostly in the Fujian province. White tea is the subtlest of all the varieties of tea, using the finest tea leaves and only lightly oxidized. White tea contains high levels of catechins, some of which reduce the occurrence of atherosclerotic plaques and the severity of strokes and prevent cancer in non-human studies.
The name “white tea” derives from the fine silvery-white hairs on the unopened buds of the tea plant, which gives the plant a whitish appearance. The beverage itself is not white or colorless but a pale yellow.
Yellow teas are first withered, then heated to stop enzymes in the leaves from producing any further chemical changes. At this stage, leaves for Yellow teas undergo an added step in processing that Green teas do not. Small batches (a few handfuls) of the still warm leaves are covered with a clean cloth and held for up to several hours. The wrapped leaves are left to rest and only the gentle warmth within act on the leaves; no additional heat source is applied.
When asked why this was done, the explanation was that this “smothering” coaxes out more of the aroma and flavor in the leaves. The fragrance becomes distinctive and more pronounced. The cloth over the leaves allows the leaves to “breathe” yet some steam effect is created. This extra step accounts for the yellowish hue in the finished tea.