I just bought some white tea from Amazon (perhaps my first mistake), thinking it would produce a liquid that is more pale than the green tea that I've been drinking, but the liquid seems almost as dark as the green tea. If there a brand or a type of white tea that yields a more pale liquid? Does it have to do with the quality of the tea leaves or anything like that?
re: The Dairy Queen
It should look like your urine after drinking about 10 cups of water.
White tea is made from immature tea leaves that are picked shortly before the buds have fully opened. The tea takes its name from the silver fuzz that still covers the buds, which turns white when the tea is dried. The exact proportion of buds to leaves varies depending on the variety of white tea. For example, Baihao Yinzhen, the creme de la creme of white teas, is made entirely from fresh buds picked within a two day period in early Spring.
The key to really good white tea lies in what happens after the buds are plucked. Tea leaves destined to be sold as white tea undergo less processing than black and green tea leaves. Instead of air-drying, the unwithered leaves are merely steamed and never fermented. Black tea, meanwhile, is fermented. Green tea is withered in hot air and quickly steamed or pan-fried. So there's less processing with white tea, which makes it so delicate and pure in flavor and complexion.
Best is subjective.
I've sampled 30 or so pure white teas, and I just don't tend to like baihao yinzhen (which is also called silver needle white tea). This tea is widely considered the "highest grade" of white tea, and it tends to fetch the higher price, but the question of whether or not it is "best" is a matter of personal taste.
I personally prefer darker white teas, including Bai Mu Dan (white peony), and Shou Mei (longevity eyebrows). Silver needle tends to be so pricey, and its flavor is subtle, something that I'm not always in the mood for, whereas the darker ones are both more affordable, and I think more accessible to most tea drinkers in the West. But I also have found that the particular source of tea is usually more important than the variety. I've had examples of all three of these grades / types that I've loved and examples of all of them that I thought were low-quality.
I think a more important issue is to find a reputable company to buy from.
White tea ranges hugely in how dark it is, depending on a wide range of factors.
Lighter is not necessarily better. For example, most white tea in China is grown in two counties in Fujian province: Fuding, and Zhenghe. Fuding teas tend to be lighter than similar teas grown in Zhenghe, including teas of comparable quality. I've seen some written claims that the Zhenghe teas actually taste better because they are being selected for bolder flavor rather than the Fuding teas which have been selected more for their delicate appearance.
The grade and type of white tea also greatly affects the color. "Lower grades" tend to consist of larger leaf, and tend to have a darker color, and a richer, stronger flavor.
Whether or not this is a good thing is largely a question of personal taste. I personally tend to prefer the low grades, with, among Chinese white teas, my favorite type being "Shou Mei" or "Longevity Eyebrows", which is not the lowest grade, but is lower grade than white peony or silver needle.
I do think that brand / company / source of the tea tends to be more important than the type. White tea often oxidizes more as it is stored, because, unlike green tea, it is not heated enough during its production to kill the enzymes that cause oxidation. So freshness is more important than with green tea even. But then...some people really like aged white teas. I recently tried a shou mei tea aged since 2009 and it was quite outstanding!
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I'd ask Jim at Coffee & Tea Limited. He knows everything!
Another local place is Tea Source. There's one in Highland Park. http://www.teasource.com
752 Cleveland Ave S
edited to add - I use Colgate Optic White after drinking tea - it's kind of a standstill effect but it prevents further staining.
How did you brew it? White teas should be brewed at 120-185 degrees (many green teas should be brewed with water under 185 degrees as well). The temperature of the water and the length of the steeping will affect the color of the tea. You should experiment with the tea you have before running out to buy more (expensive) tea.
That said, white tea refers to the lack of oxidation on the leaves and not the color of the beverage it produces.
re: Ruth Lafler
Very good advice. It's always a good idea to develop your brewing chops on something cheaper, and picking up tips online or however from those with more experience is a cost-free, painless way of gathering knowledge.
Read the second paragraph in the link I posted to learn why it's called "white." It actually is based on the color of the liquor.