So What is the Difference Between White, Green and Pu'er Tea?

 With all the advice out there about the importance of drinking tea for health, it can be more than a little confusing to know if we’re choosing the right one.  

Today I am going to focus on three of my favourite types of tea, which are both delicious and minimally processed, meaning that they hold onto all of those health benefits and antioxidants that you’ve been hearing so much about.  Firstly, a fun fact, White tea, Green tea, and Pu’er tea ( Pu'er is a type of black tea) all come from the same plant, the Camellia Sinensis.  The difference between the teas is not the plant, as is often the case with wine, but the way we process them.  Read on to learn more about how each tea is produced, the health benefits and what you might expect from the final brew.

White Tea was first discovered in the Fujian province in China, and is among the rarest and most refined teas available. You might see so called “White tea” at your local supermarket which in reality is a mixture of Black, Green and White teas. Don’t fall into this trap!  Authentic White tea can be distinguished from its impure counterparts by its signature appearance. The real deal should have a silvery leaf with delicate white hairs that give it a velvety texture. These white hairs are removed from the plant just before the buds on the plant open, at which point they are harvested for production.. White tea is picked and processed entirely by hand, and only the most experienced tea pickers are trusted to pick the silver tips, usually in the morning light. It requires extreme care to avoid damaging the bud, which might lead to fermentation and subsequent bitterness in the resulting tea.  Once picked, the buds are carefully sorted to ensure the highest quality and
gently baked in filtered sunlight before they are packed in foil lined boxes bound for market.  
These teas can only be picked three days a year in early spring, and single tea picker ca only harvest 250g of buds per day, compared with up to 20kg for other teas.  No wonder White tea is so coveted among tea enthusiasts, and carries a price tag to match! The final product when brewed should produce a bright, golden tea which is mild, sweet and fresh. White tea, because it is the least processed of all the teas, has the highest quantity of antioxidants and the lowest quantity of caffeine, about 30-55mg per cup.

 

Green Tea also originated from China, though it is also grown in Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and India.  Green tea leaves are not oxidised and are simply heated to eliminate any enzymes that might cause oxidation. The leaves are picked, withered, heated and then rolled before drying and sifting, which allows the flavour to be released. Methods can vary somewhat by geography.  The leaves are not fermented as with black tea, which allows them to maintain light and mild characteristics, and so hold on to significantly more of those much needed natural vitamins and minerals and amazing health benefits such as speeding up the metabolic rate.  Green tea has all the same antioxidants found in white tea though slightly fewer, and its caffeine content is moderately higher at 35-70mg per cup.

 

Pu’er Tea in addition to coming from the Camellia sinensis plant must be grown in the Yunnan Province of China to be considered authentic, and is coveted by tea aficionados all over China. As with white and green tea, there are a number of knock-off pu’ers out there being marketed to the unsuspecting consumer.  The real defining characteristics of pu’er come from what happens to the leaf after it is picked, and pu’er is unique in its ability to improve with age.  Fresh picked leaves are tossed by hand in giant woks just long enough to stop the tea from oxidising, while preserving some moisture and natural bacteria. The Tea plant is then sun-dried and steamed, or the sun-dried tea leaves are soaked in water for a week which stimulates the natural process of microbial fermentation. The preserved bacteria can live on for decades, transforming the bitter green leaves into something dark, mellow and rich.  Pu’er can be sold young raw, aged raw, and ripe.  While there is a lot of variation, younger pu’ers tend to be a bit bitter, while mature pu’ers are richer, sweeter and more complex. Pu’er tea is loaded with antioxidants for good health and interestingly contains the naturally occurring lovastatin, and ingredient renowned for its ability to lowercholesterol. Black pu’er contains around 60-70mg caffeine, while Green varieties yield 30-40mg.

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