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White tea sounds rather fabulous, and indeed it is, for this tea consists of nothing but buds, which are covered with whitish hairs. A rare tea produced only in China, chiefly in Fujian province, it originally came from wild mountain trees. The connoisseurs seem to have been seeking the ultimate, and tender younger leaves were not fine enough for them, so they sought to get the leaves while they were still more delicate, before they have even burst from the bud. The Song dynasty "Tea Emperor" Hui Zong wrote that white tea has the rarest and most delicate flavor. He called it a special kind different from all others, but some people now consider it a form of green tea. White tea has now become more widely available, often sold as Silvery Tip Pekoe, a form of its traditional name, and now also under the simpler designations China White and Fujian White. Its main area of production is Jianyang County in northern Fujian province. When the buds are fully grown in spring, just before they open, they are plucked from the ends of the branches, along with a few attached leaves, Buds an inch long are picked out for first quality tea. The leaves are from two strains, Shui Hsien (Water Sprite) and Dai Bai (Dabai, Big White). Rolling and fermenting are not part of this tea's processing. The leaves are de-enzymized by steaming under the sun light. When they are infused, the buds stand upright like a forest of stalagmites in the cup. The pale yellow brew has mellow, sweet taste. The smaller buds and leaves become raw material for the Pai Mu Tan (Baimudan, White Peony) and Show Mee (Shoumei, Longevity Eye-brow) varieties. The bulk White Peony looks like a lot of tiny bouquets, with clusters of small round white flowers surrounded by gray-green leaves. They produce a clear orange-yellow beverage. This is also a rare tea. The Show Mee silvery leaves produce a light brownish orange drink with a sweet taste.

Kevin Woodward looks after the In Nature web site which offers top quality organic green tea, other teas from China and medicinal herbs for sale securely online. Memberships are available which entitles you to discounts on the products.

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