White tea is quickly becoming one of the most popular teas in the world. Tea connoisseurs everywhere are scrambling to learn about the different varieties of white tea and sampling them like made. The vast majority of white tea is grown in China, with Japan being the second most popular place for growing white tea.
However, each year more and more white tea comes from India and Sri Lanka, making these the two fastest growing regions for the production of white tea. Many people are not familiar with white teas from these countries, though black tea from both Sri Lanka and India are very common. As time goes on, it’s certain that you’ll see more of these white teas become available.
Sri Lanka and Ceylon Tea
Ceylon is the colonial name for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is the third largest tea producing area in the world, but is mostly known for its black teas. In fact, tea production is Sri Lanka’s largest employer, providing work for more than one million residents. Approximately 19% of the tea consumed in the world is Ceylon tea.
Tea is grown in Sri Lanka’s highlands over an area of about four thousand miles, and tea can be plucked all year long. White Ceylon tea is grown in the Nuwara Eliya region near Adam’s Peak, where the altitude is about 2200-2500 meters above sea level.
All Ceylon teas have a distinct flavor that is different from Indian and Asian teas. Ceylon is a very mild tea, and is often recommended for new tea drinkers since it has lots of flavor, but retains its mildness. When it comes to the Ceylon white teas, the color is very light with gold to copper color. You’ll taste a bit of honey and pine in a Ceylon white tea.
Ceylon white tea is harvested and rolled by hand. The leaves are dry and are allowed to wither in the sun. Because Ceylon white is only grown in a small area of the country, it is rare and highly prized. Because the tea is not mass produced, and because Sri Lanka ensures that tea farming can continue to be viable career for its citizens, Ceylon white tea is one of the most expensive white teas you can buy.
India and Darjeeling Tea
Darjeeling is a region in the northeastern part of India, in the foothills of the Himalayas, between Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. Darjeeling is one of the most well known tea producing regions in the world, and Darjeeling tea is known for its very distinct flavor. Today the Darjeeling region boasts more than 80 tea gardens over 19,000 hectares. Tea production employs over 52,000 Nepalese people full time, with another 15,000 people employed part time during the plucking season.
Darjeeling teas are known as the “Champagne of Teas”, in part because of the distinct muscatel flavor. You’ll also find Darjeeling teas to have a bit of a flowery note and a significant astringency. It is the exact combination of the moist cool climate, the fertile soil, heavy rain and gradually sloping terrain that gives the Darjeeling tea a flavor that cannot be matched by tea gardens in other parts of the world.
If you’ve tried Darjeeling in black tea, and been disappointed, it’s likely because you bought a tea that was labeled Darjeeling, but was actually a mix of teas, including Darjeeling as part of the mixture. Darjeeling experts believe that each year about 10,000 pounds of Darjeeling tea is grown, but about 40,000 pounds of tea is labeled Darjeeling. So, it’s important to choose tea that is labeled 100% Darjeeling to ensure you get that distinct flavor.
Darjeeling white tea is far rarer than Darjeeling black teas. Darjeeling white tea is very mild and slightly sweet like other white teas. It brews to a pale golden color, and because it is less compact than many other teas in loose form, requires more tea leaves per cup. However, it still retains the astringency and muscatel flavor of Darjeeling black in a lighter flavor.
Many tea drinkers who find black Darjeeling a bit strong will likely love white Darjeeling because it is more flavorful than many other white teas yet is not as robust as black Darjeeling.
If you’re interested in sampling a Darjeeling white tea, Darjeeling White Tips is a great tea to start with. It’s very indicative of most good Darjeeling teas, with a light sweet note and a flavor that reminds you of muscatel and other white wine. If you’ve found other white teas nearly tasteless, you may be pleasantly surprised by the flavor in a Darjeeling.
Because such a large percentage of the world’s white tea is grown in China and Japan, people often overlook Indian and Ceylon teas. But, in fact, some of the most delicious white tea in the world is grown in these two areas. As you’re sampling the many variations of white tea out there in pursuit of your favorite, don’t forget Ceylon and Darjeeling. You’re sure to love them both.
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