White Peony is a flower, but it is also a sweet yet soothing tea with a naturally delicate flavor and soft mouthfeel. White teas are as close as possible to a freshly plucked tea leaf, as they are minimally processed and lightly oxidized. How much do you know about White Peony tea?
What is White Peony tea?
When we talk about White Peony Tea, we're not referring to the actual white peony flowers found in gardens. Rather, it is a distinct type of tea derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. White Peony is a renowned Chinese tea, primarily cultivated in various regions within Fujian province.
White Peony is often referred to as Bai Mudan in Chinese. where 'bai' translates to white, and 'mudan' means peony. This name, Bai Mudan or sometimes Pai Mu Tan, is reflective of its cultural and botanical origins.
The unique flavor profile of White Peony is a result of several factors:
- Specific region where it's grown within Fujian.
- Timing of its harvest.
- Meticulous processing method
Although this tea originates from the Camellia sinensis plant, the inspiration for its name comes from the resemblance of its infused leaves to the white peony flower. As the tea steeps in water, the legend has it, the leaves take on the delicate appearance of the flowers. creating a beautiful visual connection. So it’s not made from flowers…but it looks like them.
Origin and Cultivation
Originating in China’s Fujian province, White Peony is mostly produced in areas like Fujian, Zhenghe, and Fuding. The main tea cultivar of camellia sinensis used for White Peony is called Dai Bai, which translates to ‘big white’. White tea's popularity dates back to the Song Dynasty (960-1269), though it may have been enjoyed earlier.
During the Song Dynasty, white teas were processed into a powder and whisked, similar to matcha. This delicate tea was considered a tribute tea, worthy of the Chinese emperor. Subsequently, the leaves were also pressed into cakes, and later, they came to be enjoyed as the loose-leaf brew we know today.
How is White Peony Processed?
As we mentioned, white teas are minimally processed. They are the least processed of all the pure tea types.
- Harvest: White Peony is typically harvested in the spring. The timing is crucial as it can affect the quality of tea. The early spring harvests are often prized for their quality.
- Whithering and Oxidation: Each plucking consists of a fuzzy silver bud and either one or two young leaves. A key characteristic of this white tea is the lack of oxidation- the leaves are oxidized very little, typically no more than 5%. This minimal oxidation is achieved by carefully plucking the leaves to present bruising and initiating unwanted oxidation. After plucking, the leaves are withered, which naturally removes moisture and results in slight oxidation.
- Drying and Storage: After withering the leaves are laid out to dry for 1-3 days. This gentle drying process is crucial for halting the oxidation process. Unlike green teas, which are quickly pan-fired or steamed to prevent oxidation, White Peony undergoes a slower drying process, resulting in a less oxidized tea than many oolongs or black teas.
Types of White Tea
White peony is one of several varieties of white tea, each distinct in its leaf composition and harvest time. The five main types of white tea are:
- Bai Hao Yin Zhen (Silver Needle): Considered the freshest among white teas, Silver Needle comprises only the youngest, fuzzy silver buds. Lacking extra leaves or stems, this premium tea is known for its very light body and delicate flavor.
- Bai Mu Dan (White Peony): Containing both leaves and buds, White Peony is slightly less delicate than Silver Needle. Harvested in spring, it offers soft, subtle flavors, making it highly appreciated but not as prized as Silver Needle.
- Gongmei (Tribute Eyebrow): Gongmei is more robust in flavor, consisting entirely of leaves without young buds. It's an excellent choice for those who prefer a stronger tea.
- Shou Mei (Noble, Long Life Eyebrow): Harvested later than other white teas, Shou Mei's mature leaves impart a bolder, more herbaceous flavor. These sturdier leaves can withstand higher brewing temperatures and pair well with food.
- Fujian New Craft (DaBaiCha or DaHoaCha): Developed in the late 1960s, this type was created to satisfy increasing demands for white tea in China. It involves an additional rolling step after withering, which twists the leaves. This tea undergoes further oxidation compared to other white teas, resulting in the boldest flavor profile among them, offering a distinctive tea experience.
White Peony Tea Benefits
White tea, like White Peony, is known for retaining a wealth of nutrients due to its spring harvest and minimal processing.
Polyphenols, Antioxidants and Traditional Chinese Medicine
White Peony tea is rich in catechins and other polyphenols, compounds believed to bolster the immune system and combat certain diseases. Its antioxidant properties may aid in reducing inflammation. These antioxidants are also linked to potential benefits such as lowering blood pressure and reducing heart disease risk.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, white tea is valued for its cooling properties, believed to clear internal heat and aid in detoxification
Contrary to common belief, white tea, including White Peony, contains a significant amount of caffeine. This is attributed to the use of young leaves and the tea’s minimal processing. While its flavor may be subtle, it can be misleading in terms of its caffeine content. It's important to note that various factors affect the caffeine levels in tea. For a more comprehensive understanding of caffeine in tea blog, we encourage exploring our dedicated blog on the topic.
White Peony Tea Tasting Notes
White Peony is delicate and earthy. It also contains sweet, rounded, honey-like flavors. It has a hint of refreshing crispness that balances out the mellow characteristics. It has slight vegetal and fruity notes, creating a nuanced tea. The flavor of the tea lingers on the palate well after each sip.
Like any tea, white tea must be stored properly to ensure freshness. Keeping your tea away from light, heat, and odors is essential. Be sure to store in an opaque, airtight container to optimize freshness. If stored properly, your tea will last as long as you decide to keep it (if you can resist drinking it!). For more storage tips, check how to store loose leaf tea.
Use these measurements as a guide and adjust them accordingly to your taste.
- White Peony Tea: 6 grams (about two teaspoons)
- Water: 237ml, heated to 192°F (~ 89°C) ddddddto use 1.5 teaspoons of tea leaves for every cup of water to brew White Peony tea. Make sure your water is well below boiling, at around 175°F. Steep for 3 minutes in a small teapot and enjoy.
- Place the White Peony tea leaves in your brewing vessel.
- Pour the boiling water over the leaves and steep for about 1 minute.
- Strain and enjoy.
- Remember that it can be steeped multiple times!
You can also brew this tea gongfu style with a quick steeping time. White Peony does not tend to get bitter or astringent. Experiment with brewing times and leaf-to-water ratios.
White Peony FAQs
What’s the difference between White Peony Tea and Silver Needle?
White Peony and Silver Needle differ in both plucking and flavor profiles. White peony, consisting of both leaves and silvery buds, is plucked a bit later than Silver Needle. This results in a fuller flavor compared to the delicate, subtle taste of Silver Needle, which is exclusively made from young buds.
Additionally, Silver Needle is often processed in smaller batches, contributing to its exclusivity and distinct character.
Does White Peony Tea Stain Teeth?
Like all pure teas, White Peony contains natural tannins, which have the potential to stain teeth over time. This occurs with all the teas, regardless of the tea's light color. To minimize the risk of staining, it's a good idea to rinse your mouth with water after enjoying your tea. Regular dental hygiene practices also help in preventing tea stains on teeth.
Can I Drink White Peony Tea every day?
White Peony tea can be a delightful and refreshing daily beverage. However, since it contains caffeine, those who are caffeine-sensitive might prefer to enjoy it during the morning or early afternoon to avoid potential sleep disturbances. As with any caffeinated drink, moderation is key, especially for individuals with specific health conditions.