The authentic and the not so authentic white teas

White teaCurrent market of white tea

White tea is currently highly sought after on the market. The supplying price of the premium Silver Needle has once jumped 37% in a year a few years ago. Many consumers are however not fully aware that they are many varieties being sold under the name of ‘Silver Needle’, some are hardly related to the original.

White tea origin

The Fujian Province of south-east China is the birth place of all white teas. The production of the white teas here are concerned in three main areas, Fuding, Zhenghe and Jianyang. The main defining characteristics of the authentic Fujian white teas are:

  1. The tea plants. Special premium tea plants are cultivated to produce the premium white teas. For example, the top grade Fuding Silver Needle use exclusively the Fuding Da-Bai-Hao (Fuding Big White Down) tea plant species.
  2. The processing method. Simple but highly skillful. The timing and weather condition of the harvesting, the withering process and drying process are all crucial to produce a premium white tea. These skills are carefully guarded by the local farmers as their inheritance and intellectual property.

Mimic white teas

There are currently some products sold on the market that are not so authentic, but asking the same top price traded on the lack of experiences of certain consumers:

  1. Tea farmers outside of the above three pocket areas manufacture imitated ‘white teas’ using, for example, tea leaves traditionally used to process green teas, or event lower grade tea plants (eg Cai-Cha). Their processing skills are loose.
  2. Extension from certainly existing teas that were not traditional classified as white tea. For example, there is certain level of overlap of the processing between the Fujian white tea and the Yunnan Yue-Guan -Bai, although the tea plants are fundamentally different. The tea producers in the Yunnan Province have been recently producing a ‘Yunnan Silver Needle’ using the bud leaves of the Yunnan Yue-Guan -Bai selling at a much lower market price than the authentic Fuding Silver Needle.

Differences between the authentic and the mimic white teas

Apart from the different appearance, there are fundamental differences between the authentic Fujian white teas and the mimic white teas, in both internal quality and their taste. As for most of the tea experiences, time and comparison are needed to discern. For example, only the authentic Fujian white teas will offer the unique ‘sun dried aroma’ and the gentle honey and mellow flavor and the refreshing aftertaste, in additional to all the health benefits reported about white teas. Also, only the authentic white teas will age as the white teas should.