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Three Completely Different Ways to Enjoy White Tea

[2024.06.01] Posted By

White tea has been gaining popularity and attention recently, prompting exploration into various ways to enjoy this delicate tea. Here, we introduce three distinct methods to savor white tea, each offering a unique and delightful experience.

About White Tea

The classification of white tea is primarily based on its crafting process rather than its visual appearance or colour.
White tea undergoes a distinct crafting method characterized by the absence of rolling and inactivation of enzyme by heat treatment. Instead, the leaves are allowed to naturally wither, gradually reducing moisture content. Once the moisture level reaches approximately 20% or lower, the tea is dried using either sunlight or airflow, without undergoing common heat treatments such as pan-frying or steaming, as seen in other tea production.
This unique crafting approach bestows two notable features upon white tea, setting it apart from other types:

1. Enzymes (oxidizing enzymes) are preserved in their natural state.
2. The tea components stay unchanged without heat-induced oxidation.

A comprehensive understanding of these two characteristics unveils three distinctive traits of white tea outlined below.

1. Brewing white tea advances enzymatic oxidation, creating a fruity flavor

White tea contains active enzymes, particularly Polyphenol Oxidase (PPO), which catalyze oxidation in tea. These enzymes, being proteins, require sufficient moisture and temperature to function. Interestingly, they become inactive at temperatures between 60°C to 70°C due to their protein nature.

One might naturally assume that enzymes deactivate as soon as tea is brewed. However, when brewing white tea with hot water, the internal temperature of the tea stem gradually rises. This gradual increase triggers the sudden activation of enzymes, leading to enzymatic oxidation during the brewing process.

As a result, white tea brewed with hot water undergoes a colour transformation from green to a beige-brown hue, releasing a fruity aroma reminiscent of Darjeeling black tea. This enzymatic oxidation enriches the tea’s flavor profile, imparting delightful fruity notes to the brew.

When brewing white tea, my goal is to quickly stop enzymatic oxidation while controlling its progression to avoid excessive oxidation. This method highlights a fresher, fruity aroma in the tea. To achieve this, I preheat the tea ware, then pour boiling water over the tea leaves. After 10 seconds, I discard this initial pour, repeat the process with a second pour, and discard it after 5 to 10 seconds. Finally, with the third pour, I allow the tea to steep for about 10 seconds. The main objective is to rapidly raise the temperature to effectively deactivate the enzymes.

Brewing white tea at lower temperatures causes a slower temperature increase, which can lead to more enzymatic oxidation and a noticeable change in flavor.

2. Cold brewing yields a vibrant green hue and a refreshing aroma

When it comes to cold brewing white tea, the process provides a significantly different experience compared to hot brewing. Using cold water, the activation of enzymes is minimal, which preserves the pure essence of white tea. While hot water brewing triggers enzymatic fermentation and results in a brownish hue, cold brewing maintains the vibrant green color of the tea leaves. This method not only keeps the tea’s natural appearance but also retains its delicate and fresh flavor profile.
Cold brew white tea boasts a distinct taste and aroma profile, characterized by its refreshing fragrance reminiscent of flowers or perilla leaves. To prepare, I typically use 5g of tea leaves in 2 liters of cold water, allowing it to steep in the refrigerator for half a day to overnight. Afterward, I remove the steeped tea leaves to enjoy the refreshing cold brew white tea.

In cold brewing, the enzymes within the tea leaves remain inactive, preserving their fresh green colour. This contrasts with hot water brewing, where enzymatic activity leads to oxidation and a change in colour.

3. Aging white tea leads to a notable transformation, enriching its aroma with notes reminiscent of honey and grapes.

White tea, akin to Pu-erh tea, is revered for its potential to age gracefully over time.
Over the years, as white tea matures, it develops a uniquely sweet and robust aroma, distinct from its fresh counterpart. In fact, white tea tends to exhibit more pronounced aging characteristics compared to Pu-erh tea. When aged in an oxygen-free environment for an extended period, white tea undergoes a remarkable transformation. It acquires fragrances reminiscent of grapes, tropical fruits, and honey, while the taste becomes smoother and more velvety, offering a truly indulgent tea-drinking experience.

We personally favor a delicate and refined approach to aging, opting to store our white tea in an oxygen-free environment. However, the more common practice involves allowing oxidation through exposure to oxygen over time.

The aerobic aging method significantly expedites the aging process but may introduce off-notes and a slightly musty aroma, leading to a transformation towards a somewhat dark tea profile. Aromas include dried fruits, dried mushrooms, and woody scents. In contrast, anaerobic aging progresses at a slower pace, resulting in a fresher and more vivid fruity flavor, reminiscent of natural wine.
For enthusiasts of anaerobic aging, keeping HOJO’s white tea unopened is recommended to preserve its integrity. Conversely, for those opting for aerobic aging, resealing the bag after opening and storing it for several years is advisable. It’s worth noting that aging occurs more rapidly in environments with higher temperatures.

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