If you drink caffeinated beverages, we recommend that you choose organic white tea because it boosts your immune system, slows the aging process, facilitates weight loss, protects you from disease and even strengthens your teeth. More on all that below. First, what is white tea exactly?
White tea comes from the same plant (Camellia sinensis) as green tea, the kind served in Chinese and Japanese restaurants, as well as black tea, which is the tea used for iced tea, English Breakfast tea and other ordinary teas served in Western homes and restaurants. The differences between white, green and black tea are in the particulars of harvesting and processing.
Black tea is the most processed. After harvesting, mature tea leaves are first "wilted," which means they're dried for a few hours. The leaves are then "bruised" to break down the plant's chlorophyll and release tannins in a process called enzymatic oxidation. While this process changes the flavor and improves the tea's durability for long-term storage, it also destroys a lot of the plant's nutrients. Some call the process "fermentation," but that's a misnomer.
Green tea is also from mature tea leaves, which are picked, then "wilted," or dried, then heated via a frying, steaming or other process, before being dried again.
White tea is the least processed. First, white tea is usually the buds and young tea leaves, or just the buds. It's then "wilted," then dried. That's it. White tea is also less "processed" by you, the drinker. Instead of pouring rapidly boiling, 210-degree water on the tea, as is the accepted process for black tea, white tea traditionally uses water heated only to about 185 degrees. (When a tea kettle first starts to make a quiet "white noise," that's about 185 degrees.)
Although the Chinese have been drinking white tea for centuries -- possibly millennia -- researchers have just begun discovering its incredible health benefits in the past ten years. It turns out that nutrients are concentrated in the buds and young leaves that white tea is made with, and the minimal processing retains those nutrients best.
Very recent research in Germany has found, for example, that substances in white tea inhibit the growth of new fat cells in the body, and also promote the breaking down of existing fat cells.
Another study in the UK has found that white tea contains anti-aging properties. It contains substances that protect the structural proteins of the skin, specifically elastin and collagen, from the enzymes that create aging-related symptoms, including wrinkles. Researchers found that white tea reduces inflammation associated with not only wrinkles, but also rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers.
White tea has more polyphenols (specifically a powerful class of flavonoids called catechins), even than green tea, which have been found to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
White tea may also help you fight off bacterial infections, including staph infections, strep throat, pneumonia and dental bacteria. White tea also contains fluoride -- although not quite as much as green tea -- so it's good for your teeth. Plus, it doesn't stain your teeth the way coffee and black tea do.
More benefits: You don't take it with milk or sugar, neither of which is on the Spartan Diet. You drink white tea at a lower temperature than other teas. Because white tea should be drunk weak and in larger quantities -- and, because you re-brew leaves three or four times -- it can take quite a while to drink white tea. That protects you from the sudden caffeine shock of guzzling a coffee drink, and also from the inevitable crash.
White tea is very likely the healthiest caffeinated beverage around, the extra-virgin olive oil of the caffeine kingdom.
White tea seems like it's more expensive than other kinds. However, you use less of it, and you can brew three or four pots with the same leaves.
Our favorite white tea companies are Serendipitea and Rishi, which has a wonderful variety of awesome white teas (we prefer Rishi's Snow Buds when they're available, and White Peony when they're not). Buy in bulk to save money.