Indian White Tea (Loose-leaf), from Frontier Coop in album tea

In Albums: tea

Large pieces of white tea leaf, with heterogeneous color: silvery, green, and brown

Feb 27th, 2013, by Alex Zorach

This photo shows loose-leaf Indian white tea, sold by Frontier Coop.

White teas were historically produced only in China, but due to their increasing popularity (which I think is in part due to irrational hype about their supposed "health benefits"), they have begun to be produced in a variety of other countries as well. India is one of these countries, and according to RateTea's listings, India is the next country after China with the largest number of commercially-available white teas on the U.S. market.

I have no idea where this particular tea is from. In India, again from RateTea's data, the most likely place seems to be Darjeeling (in terms of numbers of white tea available), followed by Assam, but other regions, including Bihar and Kerala, also produce teas available in the Western market.

The large leaf style suggests that it is similar in style or production method to Bai Mu Dan (white peony) or Shou Mei (Longevity Eyebrows), probably Shou Mei, rather than the tippy Bai Hao Yinzhen (Silver needle) style. However, this pic does show a small amount of downy tips, the silvery buds covered with downy white hairs. Look at a typical photo of bai mu dan for comparison: the leaf style looks similar to bai mu dan but the color of this tea is considerably darker, more like shou mei, suggesting greater oxidation. Pai mu dan from Zhenghe county, however, shows a similar dark color to the leaf of this tea pictured here.

I am personally a huge fan of these large-leaf, darker styles of white tea, rather than silver needle (which consists exclusively of tips). The larger-leaf teas have a more robust flavor, tend to be much cheaper, and are considerably lower in caffeine, all of which are qualities I appreciate in my tea.

A part of me wonders if the lighter-looking styles of tea are more of a gimmick, more for appearance than flavor.