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Immortal Musings

What is a"Trichome"?

by Ralph Kenney

October 16, 2015

What’s a trichome?

First let me say, I know the word trichome is going to result in many people interested in marijuana visiting this post. So let me say upfront, I’m not referring to that kind of trichome and we don’t sell that particular “herb” on our site J But I wish you all the best in your searching.

Ok, got that out of the way.

So what is a trichome and why should you care?

The word trichome reminds me of the name of some alien race (likely with three heads, only one of which will fall in love with Captain Kirk) on the old Star Trek series. “Eeek! Captain Kirk, that ship is a Trichome raider! We’re about to boarded.”

But no, actually a trichome is a part of many plants and is a small hair like growth on the surface of leaves (and sometimes stems). These little hairs can be very functional in some plants. For example, a Venus fly trap has highly developed trichomes used to capture it’s prey.

But the trichomes we’re interested in are on tea leaves. All tea has them.

For tea plants they serve as a protective coating that helps the leaves resist funguses, infections and cold temperatures. They are especially dense on newly budded leaves, where the most protection is needed.

However, they are quite delicate and when tea is processed they are usually lost during processing. The exception is white teas. White teas receive little or no processing and the hallmark a great white tea is the presence of a soft downy coating of trichomes. Here’s a picture of our Old Tree Silver Needle White tea as an example.

These usually fall off when you steep your tea. They are quite small and will slip through the infuser into your cup.

You’ll also get a glimpse of them when you first pour a cup of our white tea because at first they float on the surface and give the tea a sparkling appearance. Then they settle to the bottom of the cup where they look like, well, hairs. But rest assured they are a natural and healthy part of fine white teas.

These are also part of the reason white teas are especially healthy. Under an electron microscope you will see each tiny trichome has a bead of essential oil at its base. Studies show that this essential oil is particularly rich in healthy polyphenols. Those tiny beads break apart during drying and seep into the surface of the leaf itself where they are just waiting to be re-released into your cup of tea.

So that’s the story with trichomes. They have nothing to do with pot or aliens or any combination thereof. But they are part of the reason white teas are such a joy to all your senses.

Here’s the link to our Old Tree Silver Needle White tea if you’d like to give it a try. It and all of our Connoisseur Collection teas are half price all this month.

Old Tree Silver Needle White Tea



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