White tea is very different from other types of tea such as green or black tea. White tea leaves are plucked from a special varietal tea bush called Narcissus or chaicha bushes. Secondly the leaves are not steamed or pan-fired (the process used in green teas) or fermented and fired (the process used in black tea). The leaves are naturally withered and dried in the sun. If mechanical drying is required it is a baking process at temperatures less that 40’C. Thirdly only special ‘two leaves and a bud’ are selected. These leaves must show a very light green almost gray white color and be ideally be covered with velvet peach fuzz down. Sowmee is one of the lower grades of white tea, but despite this it has the properties attributed to white teas. The leaves for Sowmee are plucked during late April, May and June. The lack of processing and hand selection is evident in the leaf appearance of Sowmee as it is somewhat mixed and tending flaky and flat. This Sowmee has a more pronounced taste profile – almost oolong tea-like. Many white tea drinkers prefer this cup in that there is a ‘substance’ to the taste compared to the delicate nuances of other white teas.
Researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute in Oregon tested white teas on selected rats to test for the ability of white tea to inhibit natural mutations in bacteria and to protect them from colon cancer. Interestingly, white teas were found to be more effective than green tea in inhibiting the early stages of cancer but researchers pointed out that their study was on rats and the effects should not be extrapolated to humans. The researchers also found that white tea contains higher levels of caffeine compared to green tea brewed under the same conditions. They suggested that this could occur because white tea oxidizes during withering whereas in green tea the oxidation process is stopped early in the tea making process by steaming or panfiring.
The western cosmetic industry is beginning to make a white tea extract to be worn underneath your moisturizer. The reason is that it seems white tea has been shown to be more effective in mopping up free radicals that cause skin to sag. One tea expert has been quoted as saying ‘unlike black or green tea, it isn’t rolled or steamed, this preserves its antioxidant properties’.
Hot tea brewing method:
Traditional method (see note below): When preparing by the cup, this tea can be used repeatedly – about 3 times. The secret is to use water that is about 180°F/82°C. Place 1 slightly heaping teaspoon in your cup let the tea steep for about 3 minutes and then begin enjoying a cup of enchantment – do not remove the leaves from the cup. Adding milk and sugar is not recommended. Once the water level is low – add more water, and so on and so on – until the flavor of the tea is exhausted. Look at the pattern of the leaves in the brew, not only do they foretell your fortune but you can see the bud and shoots presenting themselves, looking like they are about to be plucked.
Modern Method: Bring filtered or freshly drawn cold water to a rolling boil. Place 1 slightly heaping teaspoon of loose tea, 1 tea bag or 1 Q3 single serve packet for each 7-9oz/200-260ml of fluid volume in the teapot. Pour the boiling water into the teapot. Cover and let steep for 3-7 minutes according to taste (the longer the steeping time the stronger the tea). Adding milk or sugar is not recommended.
Note: Traditionally, the recommendation has been that green tea be brewed at 180°F/82°C. Regretfully, modern society makes it necessary to consider that water may not be free of harmful bacteria and other impurities. Therefore you need to boil water to kill bacteria. If you wish to use traditional brewing temperatures bring the water to a boil and allow it to cool to the desired brewing temperature – it’s the food safe thing to do!
Iced tea brewing method (Pitcher): (to make 1 liter/quart): Place 6 slightly heaping teaspoons of loose tea, 6 tea bags or 6 Q3 single serve packets into a teapot or heat resistant pitcher. Using filtered or freshly drawn cold water, boil and pour 1¼ cups/315ml over the tea. Steep for 5 minutes. Quarter fill a serving pitcher with cold water. Pour the tea into your serving pitcher straining the leaves or removing the tea bags. Add ice and top-up the pitcher with cold water. A rule of thumb when preparing fresh brewed iced tea is to increase the strength of hot tea since it will be poured over ice and diluted with cold water. (Note: Some luxury quality teas may turn cloudy when poured over ice. This is a sign of luxury quality and nothing to worry about!)
Iced tea brewing method (Individual Serving): Place 1 slightly heaping teaspoon of loose tea, 1 tea bag or 1 Q3 single serve packet into a teapot for each serving required. Using filtered or freshly drawn cold water, boil and pour 6-7oz/170-200ml per serving over the tea. Cover and let steep for 5 minutes. Add hot tea to a 12oz/375ml acrylic glass filled with ice, straining the leaves or removing the tea bags. Not all of the tea will fit, allowing for approximately an additional ½ serving. A rule of thumb when preparing fresh brewed iced tea is to increase the strength of hot tea since it will be poured over ice and diluted. (Note: Some luxury quality teas may turn cloudy when poured over ice. This is a sign of luxury quality and nothing to worry about!)
ANTIOXIDANT BENEFIT: More antioxidants are extracted from tea (L. Camellia Sinesis), or rooibos (Asphalatus Linearis), the longer it is brewed….and the more tea or rooibos that is used, the greater the antioxidant benefit.
Ideal Brewing Temperature: 85ºC/185ºF. For Food Safety reasons bring water to 100ºC/212ºF and let it cool down to 85ºC/185ºF.