White tea and green tea are two types of teas harvested from the same plant–Camellia sinensis. They can both have a high level of caffeine, a high amount of antioxidants and a delicious flavor, but what are the main differences between green tea and white tea? Most of the distinctions between white tea and green tea stem from the very different processing methods used to produce the two teas.
The main difference between white vs. green tea:
White teas are the least processed of all teas, with the tea leaves being picked and air dried until reaching the ideal moisture level of around 5-10%. White tea also naturally oxidizes while drying – so the only exposure to heat white tea has is to the sun.
Green teas are picked and then exposed to heat often in the form of roasting, pan-firing, or steaming. Exposing the tea leaves to heat turns off the enzyme that catalyzes the oxidation reaction, preserving the chlorophyll that gives green tea its name.
The type of heat used—dry heat versus hot heat—leads to two distinct taste profiles. Dry heat treated green tea has more of a floral, nutty, and sweet green flavor, while wet heat oxidation results in a more briny, oceanic, vegetal flavor profile.
While these two types of tea are similar, there are some other pretty distinct differences between white tea and green tea.
Keep reading to explore more about these two different teas and to determine which one is right for you!
White tea vs. green tea: everything you need to know:
- White tea contains 6-55 milligrams of caffeine per serving, with the typical amount being around 40 milligrams of caffeine.
- Pale yellow in color with a light body, mellow, and slightly fruity taste.
- Originally from China, but is now grown in many neighboring countries such as Nepal.
- Leaves are air dried.
- White tea is not oxidized and exposed to unnecessary heat during processing.
- Green tea usually contains around 30 to 50 milligrams of caffeine in a typical serving, while matcha green tea powder can contain well over 70 milligrams of caffeine per serving. Learn more about the differences between loose leaf green tea and matcha here.
- Yellow to bright green in color with a grassy, umami, vegetal taste.
- Originated in China, but also grown in other Asian countries. Matcha green tea powder is considered a product of Japan.
- Leaves are pan fried or steamed and oxidation is halted.
- Leaves may be pressed, curled or ground into a fine powder.
Expanding on the differences between green tea and white tea: Processing, brewing, and more
White teas primarily are grown and produced in China whereas green tea often comes from China and Japan, depending on the type of green tea.
White tea leaves are picked before full maturity. Green tea leaves are picked when they are still young, and may be shaded the last few weeks before harvest in order to produce matcha green tea.
White teas are air dried and allowed to oxidize for the least amount of time. Out of all the teas, white tea undergoes the least amount of processing. Green tea is allowed to oxidize for slightly longer than white tea and then is either pan fried or steamed, which halts the oxidation process.
Depending on the type of green tea used, it may be consumed either by steeping tea leaves in hot water or as a powder (in the case of matcha). It’s recommended green tea is made with water that is between 140-175°F so as not to burn the leaves. Green tea is steeped for the shortest amount of time- only one to four minutes, depending on the tea.
White tea is only consumed by steeping tea leaves in hot water. The recommended water temperature for white tea is 180°F and tea leaves should only be steeped for two to three minutes.
The supportive health benefits of green tea vs white tea
While both green and white tea contain L-theanine, the calming amino acid, green tea, and specifically matcha, is thought to contain a higher amount. L-theanine is helpful for preventing caffeine jitters and providing a relaxed yet alert feeling. Green tea is a powerhouse of antioxidants and may help to lower inflammation and prevent certain diseases.
White tea also contains antioxidants and can help lower inflammation, and boost overall health. White tea is particularly known for benefiting skin and many skin care products utilize white tea. It also has antibacterial properties, which can improve oral health.
Taste of green tea vs. white tea
White tea is known for having a very mild, delicate flavor and is sometimes described as having fruity notes such as apple or hay.
Green teas are more robust and are often described as being grassy, nutty, slightly vegetal or as having a strong umami flavor.
Appearance of green tea vs. white tea
Despite its name, white tea is not actually clear or white, but has more of a yellow hue. The fine, silvery-white hair left on the unopened buds of the plant are what give the tea its coloring. If using a full-leaf white tea, you’ll actually be able to see the whole leaf. In the case of silver needle white tea, it will appear more like white-tipped buds with very fine hairs. White tea leaves may be light green, brown or white.
Green tea can range in color from yellow to a very bright green depending on the variety. Halting the oxidation process is what gives green tea it’s bright hue. Green tea leaves are often pressed flat into needle-like shapes or curled. Whereas matcha will come as a very fine powder.
Caffeine content of green tea vs. white tea
White tea contains anywhere from 6-55 mg of caffeine per cup depending on variety.
Green tea contains anywhere between 30-70 mg of caffeine per cup depending on the variety.
What is white tea?
White tea comes from the plant Camellia sinenesis and is considered a very delicate tea. Common varieties include Darjeeling white, Ceylon white, white peony and silver needle. Compared to black and green tea, white tea is the least processed and oxidized.
In order to produce white tea, leaves and buds of the Camellia sineses plant are picked just before reaching full maturity, when they are still covered in fine white hairs. It’s this that gives white tea its name! Leaves and buds are hand-picked and immediately dried in order to minimize oxidation. It’s thought that because of the lack of oxidation, white tea contains a very high number of antioxidants even compared to other types of teas.
White tea also boasts many health benefits. It is high in a group of antioxidants known as polyphenols, which has been shown in studies to reduce inflammation and free radical damage. Polyphenols in white tea may also boost immunity and reduce the risk of some diseases, such as heart disease. White tea also appears to boost metabolism by about 4-5% and may aid in weight loss.
What is green tea?
Green tea also comes from the plant Camellia sineses and popular varieties include matcha powder, sencha, gunpowder green, hojicha, genmaicha. In order to produce green tea, leaves and buds are left to mature slightly longer than white tea, then picked and allowed to dry and slightly wither. They are then immediately cooked and preserved through a heat treatment. This process helps prevent the leaves from oxidizing and gives green tea its rich color.
While most tea undergoes a similar process, different green tea varieties undergo slightly different processes, giving them their unique flavor, taste, and appearance. For example, in order to make matcha green tea powder, the plant is shaded in the last few weeks before harvest, then the youngest tea leaves are picked, processed and ground into a very fine powder.
Green tea – particularly matcha green tea powder – is high in catechins, a group of antioxidants that have been shown to help reduce cell damage, lower inflammation, and improve heart health and hypertension. In addition, green tea may be useful for improving cognitive function and lowering stress. L-theanine, which matcha is particularly known for, may ease anxiety and improve focus.
Like white tea, green tea, and especially matcha green tea powder, may boost metabolism and can aid in weight loss efforts.
What are the similarities between green and white tea?
While these two different teas are quite distinct in flavor, color, and appearance, they do also share many similarities.
- White tea and green tea come from the plant Camilla sinenesis.
- Both teas are beneficial for our health.
- Contain similar antioxidant benefits.
- Contain catechins.
- Reduce oxidative stress.
- Can help improve immunity.
- Contain anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Support a healthy metabolism and can aid in weight loss.
- May reduce the risk of certain cancers and diseases.
The bottom line | Do a taste test between green and white tea!
So which tea is right for you? This depends and the answer may even change day to day! It’s difficult to say whether green tea or white tea is “better” as they are each unique, but also share many similarities. The best thing to do is experiment with trying both of these teas at different times of the day and seeing how you feel.
Due to the caffeine differences, green tea will have a bit more of a pick me up than white tea. Because of this, green tea may make for a better morning beverage, whereas white tea may be best later in the afternoon.
No matter which one you choose, you can feel comfort in knowing that tea is one of the healthiest beverages on earth- and for good reason!
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Disclaimer: These statements in this blog post have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. It's essential to consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any dietary or lifestyle changes.
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