The art of brewing and drinking green tea has been around for centuries. In fact, green tea has been used for many different tea ceremonies in China and Japan. In these countries, there are rituals that must be followed and tools that must be used in brewing tea to be served to guests.
The Japanese tea ceremony, for example, is steeped in tradition, and is still used to celebrate special occasions today 茶葉送禮. The tea traditionally used for a Japanese tea ceremony is called Macha, a powdered green tea. In Japan, emphasis is placed on the ceremony itself, rather than the taste of the tea. Today’s Japanese tea ceremonies typically last about 45 minutes, but in years past a tea ceremony could last for as much as five hours. Tea masters study for years to master the flower arranging, clothing and tea making that is used in a ceremony.
During a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, guests enter, examine the tea utensils, flowers and art in the room. Then they kneel down and sit. They are served sweets, often soft cakes made of bean paste, while they watch the tea being made. The tea is made by a leaves practitioner, who has studied for years to ensure that the ritual is performed calmly and appropriately.
One of the most recent trends in Western tea drinking is white tea. Though white tea has been around for centuries, it has only recently become popular outside of the Asian world. And, even in China and Japan, where most white tea is grown, it was traditionally reserved for special occasions because of its rarity. Today, however, tea drinkers all over the world are enjoying white tea more and more.
White tea comes from the same plant as other teas, the camellia sinensis. But, it is harvested before the leaves are fully open and while the buds are still covered with fine white hair. This makes the tea leaves much mellower, resulting in a much milder tea than black and green teas. In addition to being harvested at a different time than other teas white tea undergoes very little processing, and is not fermented.
The leaves are simply steamed and then dried. Sometimes the leaves are even steamed and dried right in the tea fields and dried in the sun to protect the delicate flavor.
White tea’s flavor is much milder than black or green tea and it has a very delicate aroma as well. It brews to a very pale color and has a hint of sweetness. This mild flavor and aroma appeals to tea drinkers who might find black tea too heavy or green tea to have a bit of a grassy flavor. Because of this, white tea has opened tea drinking to a whole new group of drinkers who may not have enjoyed tea before.
In addition to being delicious to drink, white tea is also very healthy. In fact, while few studies have been performed on white tea, it is believed to be even healthier than green tea. In the past, many studies have been done on green tea and its ability to slow the aging process and prevent serious diseases like cancer and heart disease.
The reason that green tea has been shown to prevent disease and slow down aging is because of its powerful anti-oxidant levels. Anti-oxidants are present in high levels in natural tea leaves, but the fermentation process changes these anti-oxidants, reducing their effectiveness. Because green tea, like white, is not fermented it retains more of its natural anti-oxidants.
In addition, some studies that have been performed on white tea indicate that it is extremely effective in improving the immune system. In particular, white tea seems to have the ability fight off bacteria and viruses. And, white tea is high in fluoride, so that it prevents tooth decay and inhibits the formation of plaque.
If you’ve never tried white tea, you should certainly purchase some for yourself and see if it appeals to you. White tea is much rarer than black or green; far fewer gardens grow it, and typically just one crop is grown each year.
However, particularly if you shop online, you can find very high quality white tea. Sample some Silver Needles or White Peony to get a good idea of what unadulterated white tea tastes like. It’s likely that you’ll find it a very refreshing beverage both cold and hot