Loose White Tea Varieties
By Leaf Styles

There are five loose white tea varieties. When buying, it is important to know the type of tea you are paying for.

White tea can consist entirely of buds, or a mixture of buds and leaves.

There are 4 types of traditional white tea. They undergo the same withering-drying process, but are made from different leaves.

  • Silver Needle (Baihao Yinzhen)

  • White Peony (Baimudan)

  • Tribute Eyebrow (Gongmei)

  • Longevity Eyebrow (Shoumei)

The fifty type is known as New Craft or Green White Tea. It can be thought of as a hybrid between white tea and green tea.

English Name Chinese Name Leaf Style Processing Comments
Silver Needle Baihao Yinzhen Single buds Withering, Drying Highest grade. 10 Famous Tea
White Peony Baimudan One bud 2 leaves Withering, Drying Second best
Tribute Eyebrow Gongmei One bud 2,3 leaves Withering, Drying Third best
Longevity Eyebrow Shoumei One bud 2,3 leaves Withering, Drying No longer exported.
New Craft Whites Xing Gong Yi One bud 2,3 leaves Withering, Oxidation, Rolling, Drying Hybrid between green and white

white tea varieties

Loose White Tea Varieties #1:
Silver Needle

The highest quality white tea, Silver Needle, is the only white tea that is made entirely from those young, fat buds.

Wonder why it is called Silver Needle?

Well, it is covered with lots of white hairs, which give it a silvery appearance. It is also straight and long as a needle.

Modern Silver Needle white tea is harvested from the Big White (Dabai), Big Hair (Dahao) and Fuan tea plants.

They are mainly cultivated in the Fujian Province of China, in the counties of Fuding and Zhenghe.

Loose White Tea Varieties #2:
White Peony

The second best White tea, White Peony, is made from one bud with two slightly unfurled leaves.

With its straight bud and two clasping leaves, it is said to resemble a Peony Flower.

Wonder what a Chinese Peony Flower is about?

white tea varieties

It was the National Flower of Qing dynasty's China, and could become the current People’s Republic China's National Flower one day.

It is a beautiful flower that is exhibited in the historic city of Luoyang every April.

The White Peony white tea is produced in the Fujian counties of Fuding, Zhenghe, Jianyang and Songxi.

Loose White Tea Varieties #3, 4:
Tribute Eyebrow, Longevity Eyebrow

Modern white tea plants such as Big White and Big Hair didn’t exist until late 19th century. After they were successfully cultivated, they were used to produce Silver Needle and White Peony.

The original white tea plant is known as Vegetable Tea (Caicha) or Small White (Xiaobai).

Small White produces thin leaves that look like eyebrow. They were used to make lower quality white tea such as Tribute Eyebrow and Longevity Eyebrow, with Tribute being higher quality than Longevity.

That was the past. Today, even the Eyebrows are harvested from modern tea plants such as the Big White and Big Hair. These tea plants have fatter buds than Vegetable Tea.

Tribute Eyebrow now refers to the lower grade tea made from these modern tea plants. Compared to Silver Needle and White Peony, it is picked later in the season and consists of one bud with up to 3 leaves.

Longevity Eyebrow is less commonly exported these days.

Loose White Tea Varieties #5:
New Craft or Green White Tea

white tea varietiesThis is a new method of making white tea invented in 1968 to cater for the export market of Hong Kong.

Like the Tribute Eyebrow, it uses lower grade leaves consisting of one bud with up to 3 leaves.

Compared to the traditional white, it undergoes lighter withering, more oxidation, and is rolled lightly before being dried.

How can you tell a New Craft white apart?

While the Tribute Eyebrow brews an orangy-yellowish tea liquor, the New Craft is redder, and tastes stronger.

It is said that it tastes like green tea without the aroma, and red tea without the mellowness.

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Yuan Di Shun (2006). Zhongguo Baicha. Xiamen Daxue Chubanshe.

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