White tea originated in China during the Chinese Imperial Dynasties (600-1300). Tea drinking was a vital part of Chinese culture during this time. Every year, citizens were required to make a yearly tribute to the current Emperor, and it was often done in the form of tea, much like a tea tax. The tea presented could not just be any tea, it specifically had to be one that was both rare and fine. The most “rare and fine” tea at that time was white tea because it was formed from the youngest and most delicate tea plant buds. Secret Imperial Gardens were developed to harvest these rare and honoring teas.
The white tea used during Imperial tea tributes were not like the teas used today. During the Song Dynasty (960-1297), the young tea buds would be plucked, meticulously rinsed, and ground into a white powder. This technique produced the most elegant cup of tea available in China and was only affordable to the Emperor.
The white tea we know today was cultivated in the 1700s from the original white tea bushes of the Fujian province in China. These tea bushes created large and beautiful tea buds where loose leaf tea varieties were developed. At first, loose leaf white tea was rarely available outside of the Fujian Province. Due to the minimal processing and delicate nature of the tea, without proper storage, it could quickly spoil. Once improved production and storage methods were developed, harvesting white tea became accessible to many other regions of the world.