Tea is an aromatic beverage commonly prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over cured leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. ~ Wikipedia:Tea
There are many controversies about the origins of the original tea plant. But it is generally accepted that all tea, whether it be green, black, white, or oolong, comes from the evergreen shrub, Camellia sinensis. Which was indigenous to both the Yunnan province in Southwest China and in India. Both places credited with where the discovery of tea is said to have started.
Similar to wine, a tea’s character is determined by how and where it is grown. Slight differences in soil, climate, and elevation will create varying flavors in the tea.
For instance dry weather, cool nights and bright sunny days create the perfect environment for growing tea. These conditions allow the tea bush to put forth all its energy into the growth of new shoots of the plant. The finest teas come from high elevation gardens where cooler temperatures slow leaf growth, producing leaves with a more concentrated flavor and aroma.
India and Sri Lanka are known for their black teas. The world’s finest oolong teas come from Taiwan. Japan and China both provide fine green teas. But the growing conditions in Japan help it concentrate exclusively on green tree. Where as China is known as the Land of Ten Thousand Teas as they produce some of the finest white, green, oolong, and black teas. The very best of their tea production come from the high-elevation crops from the Sacred Gardens, which are shrouded in mist and secrecy.
Once leaves are picked from a tea bush, they are dealt with differently depending on the type of tea desired. Oxidation (also known as the fermentation process) is the underlying process that gives green, black, and oolong teas their individual characteristics.
Today tea is used liberally to define any kind of tea mix, or what should more properly be called tea blends. But “tea” should really only be applied to the leaves and the infusion of the leaves from the Camelia sinensis plant.
Black tea is grown in Africa, China, India and Sri Lanka. It is the most common type of tea consumed in the Western world. The leaves range in color from black to brown and often display gold or silver tips on the ends of the leaves. They produce a bright copper liquid with a full bodied aroma and are known for their flowery to malty flavors.
Black tea gets its flavor and color from the processing of the leaves. Once picked, the leaves are oxidized, resulting in higher levels of caffeine and tannins. Even though it is considered to be highly processed, Black tea still holds onto its antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and essential oils which aid in digestion. All of which still make it a healthy beverage.
Green tea is grown in China, Taiwan and exclusively in Japan.
– Japanese green tea is generally brilliant green in color. They produce a liquid that ranges from jade green to light yellow with a fragrant and slightly sweet taste.
– Chinese green tea is known for its mild and subtle taste, refreshing aroma, and pale hues. The leaves range in appearance from silver to deep emerald.
Green tea is un-oxidized. After the leaves are picked, they are typically steamed to prevent oxidation. They are then rolled, dried, and sorted. Green tea has a more subtle, delicate flavor than oxidized tea and has only one-fifth of the caffeine of coffee. They are often prized for their health benefits as they tend to hold more of their natural vitamins (carotene, A, D, B1, B2, and C) and minerals (iron, sodium, and potassium).
Oolong is a semi-oxidized tea. It undergoes the same treatment as black tea but for less time. During infusion, oolong leaves turn bright green in the center and red towards the edges. There are two main variations of oolong tea. Oolong is especially good for digestion, so the best time to serve it would be after a large meal. However, it’s the one tea that should never be served or consumed with milk, sugar, or lemon.
Chinese Oolong is oxidized only 12-20%, resulting in a pale yellow liquid with a distinct, fresh taste.
Taiwan (Formosa) Oolong is oxidized to 60% and is known for its golden liquid and flowery aroma.
Pu-erh is a post-fermented tea made from a large leaf varietal grown in Yunnan Province. This tea is often aged, which mellows and refines its flavor and character. It comes in two processed varieties. The first is green or raw and the second is black or cooked Pu-erh. When the tea has been properly aged, it is often compressed into cubes or shapes that expand when the tea is infused in water.
Is named for the silver downy hairs that cover the young, unopened bud of the tea plant. White teas are highly prized because they consist of only the top buds and leaves from the bush. They can only be harvested a few days each year before the spring rains, when the white down appears on the unopened bud.
White tea is steamed after picking and produces little caffeine and tannins when steeped. It is thought to contain the most antioxidants of any teas as it is closest to its natural form as well as a slightly higher level of catechin (a polyphenol antioxidant). White tea also contains high levels of the amino acid theanine, which is prized for its relaxation and mood enhancing properties.
Blends can consist of herbs, flowers, spices, fruits and berries and then infused in water. Hot or cold. Tisanes are blends of dried fruits and berries, often with a base of hibiscus flowers and rosehips. They are generally high in vitamin C.
Fruit tisanes have full, fruity aromas, complemented by tangy and sweet flavors. They also produce lovely red, full-bodied infusions. Originally drunk as children’s teas, fruit tisanes make the most refreshing iced teas and are naturally caffeine-free, making them enjoyable at any time of the day.
What ever types of tea you prefer, enjoy them with a little more satisfaction, now that you know where they come from and what they are.