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Black, Green, Oolong and White tea leaf Varieties

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There is a tea on store shelves that has some people confused as to exactly what the difference is between it and the old standby teas is. It is white tea and this tea leaf is considerably more expensive than Black, Green or Oolong teas.

All four teas are derived from the camellia sinensis plant, so it has many people wondering why the white version of this common beverage is so much more costly than the others.

Although picked from the same plant, it is the method by which each tea is processed for consumption that makes the difference between oolong, black, and green tea. Black tea is fermented, while green tea is steamed rather than fermented, so as to allow the leaf to retain the majority of the polyphenols and antioxidants within it. The processing of Oolong lies somewhere in the middle of the way in which the green and black teas are processed.

White tea is most similar in its processing method to green tea, but what makes white tea truly unique is the period within which it is picked. For white tea, the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant are picked and harvested before the leaves of the plant are fully open.

The picking occurs at a time when the young buds of the plant are still covered in a fine white hair and hence is the reasoning why white tea is the name given to the tea leaves derived from this special picking.

White tea leaves are much rarer than other tea leaves and for this reason, much more expensive. White tea leaf is also the healthiest of any of the commercially-sold teas currently available to consumers.

Catechin concentrations are highest in unbroken unfermented tea leaves. As these are the main component of white tea, the antioxidant content surpasses even that of green teas for the health benefits that it can provide. Studies also suggest that white tea contains a higher level of gallic acid and theobromine than do varieties of green tea.

One of the most noticeable differences between green tea and white is that the green variety will have a bitter or grassy taste to it, while the white tea does not. The sweeter more subtle flavor of white tea makes it much more pleasurable to consume.

White tea usually contains even less caffeine than green tea which was previously known to be one of the lowest caffeinated teas available. Another significant difference between green and white tea is that the white variety contains less fluoride than does the green.

White tea is classed into four distinct groups. The highest quality of white tea is known as Silver Needle and this leaf is made from only the white buds of the Camellia Sinensis plant.

The next highest ranked category of white tea is White Peony and it is comprised of both the unopened leaves and young buds of Camellia Sinensis plant.

Long Life Eyebrow is the next category of white tea and it is made from the remaining leaves after the first two higher grades of leaf and bud have been removed.

The lowest category of white tea is referred to as Tribute Eyebrow. Although the lowest of the grades of white tea, it is still a beverage higher in antioxidants and other health benefits than black, green, or oolong tea. 

In a few instances, a name may be present on packages of white tea that is not a reference to its grade. Some varieties of white tea may instead bear the name of the area in which they are produced. Darjeeling Tea is one of these brands and it derives its name from where it is produced in India.

The majority of white tea is currently produced within China and Japan.

Other than the current high price tag it sports, the white leaf variety is currently one of the most excellent health choices in tea for consumers. White tea is currently one of the best options in a healthy hot beverage.