TYPES OF TEA
There are several types of tea.
Each family of tea may vary in accordance with several factors, such as their level of oxydation for instance.
White tea is grown and harvested primarily in China, mostly in Fujian and Zhejiang. It comes from the buds and leaves of the camellia sinensis plant. Those are allowed to wither in natural sunlight before they are lightly processed to prevent any oxydation or further tea processing. The name “white tea” derives from the fine silvery-white hair found on the immature buds, which gives them a silverish appearance. The liquor itself is not white or colourless but rather a pale yellow. The exact proportion of buds to leaves may vary, depending on the variety of white tea. For example, Bai Mu Dan contains one bud for every two leaves, while Yin Zhen Bai Ho, as shown in the picture, is made entirely from downy buds picked within a short period in early Spring.
Green tea is made from the leaves and buds of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. Green teas have many different methods of being produced, but they all share in common the fact that shortly after the leaves are harvested, they are somehow heated. This process prevents any oxydation from occuring. Some green teas are steamed (in Japan for instance) and others are pan-fired. There are several hundred types of green tea. Some have flat leaves while others may have rolled or curled leaves. Some are sun grown, like sencha while others are shade grown, like japanese gyokuro.
Yellow tea takes its name neither from the colour of its liquor nor of its leaves, but rather because it was once precious and worthy of an emperor, whose emblematic colour is yellow. This chinese tea is processed similarly to green tea, yet its transformation is slightly more complex and involves a very light oxydation. The drying phase is much slower, where the damp tea leaves are allowed to sit and ”yellow”. This uncommon tea has a yellow-green appearance yet a slightly different aroma from both green and white tea. Similarities in taste may be drawn between yellow, green and white teas.
Oolong (also spelled Wulong), is a semi-oxidized tea which is known for its rich taste and pleasant lasting aftertaste. Oolongs may be further classified in three categories, according to their level of oxidation: low oxidation, medium oxidation and high oxidation. Greenish oolongs tend to have a stronger fragrance while darker more oxidized oolongs tend to have a stronger aftertaste. Oolongs may also be found aged and vintage, as some may be preserved for a very long time. Processed differently depending of the desired final result, it is the type of tea that offers the greatest range of possible aromas and flavors.
Black tea also comes from the tea plant, camellia sinensis. To manufacture black tea, the tea leaves and buds are plucked and withered to reduce moisture. Then, they may be left whole and rolled or undergo a cut-tear-curl process. Finally, the green leaves and tips are fully oxidized, becoming dark brown (tips becoming golden), and dried. This oxidation process is sometimes referred to as ”fermentation” but this is a misnomer. Black tea is primarily grown in India, Sri Lanka, China and Kenya.
Pu-erh & Aged Teas
Pu-Erh teas are aged and evolving teas. Originally from the mountains of Yunnan in China, where ancient tea trees still exist, they can be purchased in the form of loose leaves, pressed teacakes, bricks, nests and other shapes and forms. Their oxidation is more than only enzymatic. It is accomplished through the action of yeast and bacteria, causing the tea to slowly evolve over time.
Rooibos may sometimes be referred to as a ”tea” but it is rather a herbal infusion or a ”tisane.” It originates from the Cedarberg mountains of South Africa. To make red Rooibos tea, the harvested bush leaves are bruised and then left to oxydize for several hours before being spread in thin layers in the hot African sun and left to dry. It is growing in popularity, not only for its unique and mellow taste, but also because of its many health benefits. Rooibos is naturally caffeine free, low in tannins, brimming in antioxidants and high in vitamins and minerals. It is emerging as a natural remedy for anxiety, insomnia, and many other health concerns.
If you would like to learn more about tea, we offer several tea classes.
For further information, contact Pascale at 514-279-2999.