- Green tea and white tea come from the same type of plant, Camellia sinensis which origins in China- BUT there are many subspecies and cultivars, some of which are used exclusively for one leaf type or the other.
- Green tea is pan-fired or steamed while white tea is not.
- White tea is withered in the sun or a heat-controlled room.
- Both have great health benefits.
- Green tea tastes and smells a bit more bitter and grassy while white tea is more floral and fruity.
As mentioned above in our concise takeaway section, both green and white tea come from China and even more so come from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis var. Sinensis.
Though other variants and cultivars exist throughout both China and the wider world that produce only one or the other, some of the green and white you encounter might come from a specific variant.
For example, Fuding white tea comes from a specific variant that has small hairs.
Though China began the tradition of preparing green and white tea today, one can find both leaf varieties produced in other countries as well.
How are they processed?
The processing methods used for green and white tea are different.
First, there are some differences regarding the time of year when the leaves might be plucked. For example, white tea may be comprised of the downy buds of the tea leaves. Not all tea subspecies, variants, or cultivars have these downy buds and so some white tea can only come from a specific cultivar.
The silvery-white “hairs” on these early blooming buds are what gave the variety of white tea leaves “silver needle” their name.
When both leaf types are plucked, the farmers take great care to make sure they oxidize as little as possible. Oxidization means the leaves soak in oxygen which spurs a chemical reaction in the leaves. To stop this process the leaves are exposed to a heat source. The type of heat source each leaf type is exposed to is another one of their key differences.
In the case of green tea leaves, this may be a hot steaming or a pan firing. These days, pan firing is often used when processing green tea in China while Japanese green tea like sencha is known for being steamed. The mode of heat can affect and develop the flavor and aroma palette of the green tea leaves.
White tea on the other hand is withered after being picked to cease the oxidization process. This can include allowing the leaves to dry out in the sun or artificially withering them in temperature and heat-controlled rooms. Pan firing or steaming can be too intense for white tea leaves and will affect the tender and sweet taste of the leaves. So withering the leaves via sunlight or in a temperature-controlled room is used instead.
Another key difference between the two leaf types has to do with the physical condition of the leaves. Once again white tea is usually quite delicate and tender and so the leaves are allowed to remain in the condition in which they were withered. Green tea leaves on the other hand may be, in addition, to being pan-fired or steamed, twisted, or rolled into pellets or balls.
Green and other Camellia sinensis leaf types like Oolong may be twisted or rolled to enhance their flavor and aroma development as they are allowed to oxidize.
The Camellia sinensis plant is naturally caffeinated. Thus, both green and white tea are caffeinated, too. A 200 ml cup of green tea will generally have 30-50 milligrams of caffeine. This is much less than coffee and less than another Camellia sinensis tea leaf, red tea (black tea).
White tea is a bit of a wild card, with some leaf varieties like those that come from Fujian province in China capable of producing more caffeine than an average cup of coffee: 80 to 100 milligrams. However, the average 200 ml cup of white tea will grant you about 15 to 30 milligrams of caffeine.
Green and white tea follow similar methods for brewing with some slight variations. The temperature they use will be similar but their steeping times will differ for each leaf variety. Feel free to experiment with steeping times as leaves from different regions, cultivars, etc will require different steeping times. When brewing with loose-leaf tea be sure to rebrew several times to enjoy as much nuanced flavor and aroma as possible.
Use purified or filtered water when brewing. The water quality of your tea will be noticeable and so for exceptional tea use exceptional water.
Use water with a temperature of approximately 80 degrees Celsius.
Use water with temperature ranging between 65 to 70 degrees Celsius.
Flavors and aromas
Trying to square away a single set taste and aroma profile for tea leaves is a troubling task. This is because tea, like wine or coffee, can be affected by so many things including terroir, processing methods, and much more.
Despite this it is possible to give a broad general overview of tea leaves and how they mostly differ from one another. Green teas tend to be more vegetal and grassy, and have - as their name suggests - a rather verdant flavor and aroma palette.
White teas tend to be a bit more exotic with flavors and aromas that reminds one of tropical flowers, plants, and even fruit. While greens tend to err on the side of more bitter it is a white tea that can offer some truly sweet options for tea lovers. White tea also tends to be a bit milder as opposed to the comparatively more robust and bitter green.
As green and white tea both come from the same plant, their health benefits are nearly identical and one can’t go wrong with brewing one leaf type over the other. Here are just a few superb health benefits of green and/or white tea!
- Packed with antioxidants
- Teeming with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that help promote good overall help and boost our immune system
- Have caffeine : Caffeine can help to enhance mental and physical performance and also can spur on our metabolism and both teas can aid in digestion
- L-Theanine : This amino acid synergizes with caffeine. It calms us down and keeps us mellow and also brings us down from a caffeine high gently rather than leading to a crash as coffee does.
- Potentially help protect against developing several forms of cancer
- Promotes healthy skin and hair
- Can help prevent against the development of Alzheimer's and dementia
- Can protect our livers and other organs from damage and other ailments
Where to get White and Green tea?
- “Green Tea.” NCCIH, Oct. 2020, www.nccih.nih.gov/health/green-tea.
- Raman, Ryan. “10 Impressive Benefits of White Tea.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 10 Jan. 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/white-tea-benefits.
- “The Benefits of White Tea versus Green Tea.” COM, www.livestrong.com/article/250854-the-benefits-of-white-tea-versus-green-tea/. Accessed 11 Jan. 2023.