Sunday, April 11, 2010

Types of Tea

True tea originates from one type of evergreen bush, the Camellia Sinensis. Other teas are created from other sources like herbs but are not truly tea.  Where the tea bush is grown, time of year when the harvest takes place and the processing determines the types and flavour of the tea. The most common countries for growing tea is China, India, Japan and Sri Lanka.
The time of harvest and the processing methods determines the four major types of tea; white, green, oolong and black.

White Tea

White tea is picked before the leaf buds fully open and are still covered with fine silky hairs.  Only the top leaf and bud are picked from the tree. The buds are sun dried to produce some of the rarest and most expensive tea available. White tea is said to have three times more antioxidants than green or black tea.

I was given some white tea as a gift a few years ago. I very much enjoyed it, finding it to be a very mild tasting tea but refreshing. Another tea I'd be inclined to drink during the day rather than as a breakfast tea.

Green Tea

After the tea leaves are plucked and sorted, they are either steamed or pan fired. Green tea does not go through the oxidation (fermentation) process. Green tea does have less caffeine than black tea. The leaves are often rolled into different shapes before drying. Once the leaves are shaped, they are dried and packaged.

This process retains many of the polyphenols, catechins, and flavonoids that are associated with the health benefits of drinking green tea. Green tea also has HGCG; the most powerful antioxidant known. and can only be found in green tea.

I drink a lot of green tea, at any time of the day or night.

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea falls somewhere between green tea and black tea in the amount of time the tea leaves are allowed to oxidize for less time than black.   The leaves can range from being almost black to dark green depending on when oxidation is stopped.  The longer the leaves are oxidized the closer to black tea they will become. Formosa Oolong is an Amber Oolong with a rich amber cup that is a little toasty tasting.) Se Chung leaves are not allowed to oxidize as long, so the leaves have a dark green appearance and produce a light yellow cup with hints of sweetness.

Black Tea

This is the most commonly found tea. This tea goes through the most processing. Black tea is allowed to oxidize which "ripens" the tea and creates a deep, rich, robust flavor with uniqueness based on the tea grower’s knowledge and skill. Once the leaves are picked they are left out in the sun to become slightly wilted.  The leaves are then rolled to break open their tissue.  The inner chemicals react with the air and begin to ferment.  During the fermentation, the leaves darken and change from green to red and finally to black.  After the fermenting is complete, the leaves are dried and them packaged.

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