There is a legend involving the origin of white tea and two brothers who lived in Nankeng.
Despite inheriting a tea garden from their parents, they didn’t share the same enthusiasm for tea production and were rather careless in nature.
While harvesting their tea, they didn’t bother to pick material which was consistent in size.
Then when it came to processing that material, they didn’t even attempt to apply basic green tea processing techniques. They considered it to be too much work and that it took a lot of coal to roast the leaves.
As a result of their laziness, the Xiao brothers didn’t follow the traditional processing methods of roasting and rolling the tea leaves. Instead, they simply dried the irregular leaves in the sun and cooled them in the shade before selling them. It was by chance that they discovered that this simplified process allowed the white hairs on the leaves to remain intact, giving the tea a distinctive appearance.
The tea became extremely popular and earned various names, including ‘bai hao cha’ (白毫茶) or white hair tea, ‘nankeng bai’ (南坑白) or white tea from Nankeng, and ‘xiao bai’ (小白) or small white.
The villagers were amazed by the striking appearance of the Xiao brothers’ tea and were determined to uncover the secret behind it. They tried to spy on the brothers’ processing techniques by hiding near their farm, but all they saw was the brothers drying the leaves. It didn’t occur to them that this was the only step the brothers took in the tea-making process.