White Tea – how is it different to green tea?

White Tea is officially known by the botanical name of Camellia Sinensis (L.) and is one of the several types of tea that is available for consumption, harvested in certain parts of Southern Asia. The differentiating unique characteristics of white tea is defined by the process it went through whilst being processed.

White tea is the least processed tea type, produced using only from a selection of the leaves and only from buds of the Camellia Sinesis plant. The quality of the leaves can be categorised into superior and more inferior grades.

White tea was originally and historically produced in the Chinese province Fujian. The difference between white tea and green tea is that white tea undergoes a faster drying process, and therefore retains higher levels of catechins (antioxidant flavonoids) in comparison to green tea, hence is believed to be more beneficial to health.

The quality of white teas or green tea is dependent on the origins of the leaves; how they are processed, the agricultural practices, and the degree of maturation of the tea leaves. Scientific research has documented that white tea is the least processed of all tea types, including green and black tea, and thus contains more potent antioxidant agents and the highest content of phenolic compounds. Antioxidant components have been scientifically found to help reduce oxidative stress and the damage of free radicals, which can lead to DNA damage and accelerated ageing or mutations of cells which, in the worse case scenario, can lead to cancer.

To compare the production processes of both green tea and white tea, white tea is prepared from tea leaves that are very young and the buds or tea leaves are usually covered with tiny silvery hairs. The leaves are picked early prior to its maturation to prevent oxidation from occurring, which explains why white tea leaves possess a lighter and more delicate taste. In contrast, green tea leaves are rolled and steamed to minimise oxidation before it is dried.

What does White Tea contain?

White tea leaves contain a range of bioactive chemicals including proteins, minerals, amino and organic acids, methylxanthines (caffeine) and polysaccharides and polyphenols.

The most significant components of tea are flavonoids (phenolic derivatives) that are present in tea which are the primary health-contributory compounds in tea.

The main health benefits of white tea

  • Could help combat cancer-inducing free radicals
  • Improves brain and cognitive function, oral and reproductive health
  • Induces weight loss by helping the body to burn excess fat
  • Lowers cholesterol levels

According to the Journal of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (2007), comparing green and white tea, the following differences become apparent:

  • White tea contains less caffeine than green tea.
  • White tea contains higher antioxidant levels than green tea.

Beneficial effects of green tea

There have been numerous health benefits noted with drinking green tea. The primary ingredients involved in promoting good health in green tea are the polyphenol content and the catechin in green tea.

Green tea is frequently drank in countries such as Japan and in Asia, and a scientific correlation has been established between the protection against degenerative diseases, and is anti-cancerous, according to animal studies.

Green tea consumption have been found supportive in the prevention of many cancer types: lung, mouth, colon, esophagus, kidney, mammary glands, pancreas, just to name a few (Chacko et al., 2010).

Another added benefit of drinking green tea is that some studies have shown it to be effective in reducing weight, and blood glucose levels.

Side effects and precautions of drinking tea

However, overconsumption and excessive drinking of tea can also cause potential health issues. For instance, more recently other sources (Greenjoy.com) identify that green tea could cause problems especially in people with iron deficiency, and in some certain persons could cause stomach problems, and in some cases headaches.

The effects of green tea and weight loss maintenance

In the International Journal of Obesity (2009), the review of over 49 clinical studies have revealed that catechins which are found in both white tea and green tea helped to significantly decrease body weight as it can speed up metabolic rates, though it would seem that if you’re already a person who consumes a lot of caffeine on a daily basis, the benefits of green tea are lessened due to failure of one’s biological system to respond. Despite this finding, many clinical studies have found green tea to have some positive correlations with losing weight so for those who are looking to excess pounds off their weight, it may well worth try integrating healthier teas such as green and white tea into their daily routine, in replacement of coffee or fizzy drinks.

References: Chacko, S. M., Thambi, P. T., Kuttan, R., & Nishigaki, I. (2010). Beneficial effects of green tea: A literature review. Chinese Medicine, 5(13).

Hilal, Y., & Engelhardt, U. (2007). Characterisation of white tea – comparison to green and black tea. Journal of Consumer Protection and Food Safety, 414-421.

Hursel, R., Viechbauer, W., & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S. (2009). The effects of green tea on weight loss and weight maintenance: a meta-analysis. International Journal of Obesity, 33, 956-961.