The Many Types of Tea
As someone who is relatively new to the awesome beverage known as tea, I grew up thinking there were only two types of tea. The Lipton tea bag and the other one that my mom brought home from the grocery store. I think it was the Tetley tea bag.
But did you know that there are many different types of tea?
Did you also know that even with the many different colors and textures, they all come from the same plant? The (Camellia sinensis). The Camellia sinensis is a species of evergreen shrub or small tree whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce tea. It is the way in which they are processed after the harvest that determines the type of tea. The process of oxidization, fermentation drying and withering is what makes each type of tea unique.
White tea goes through the least amount of processing compared to other teas. In order to create White Tea, the leaves undergo two types of treatment. The first stage is the withering stage. This stage lasts a lot longer than the treatment for all of other types of tea. The second stage is the drying process. Even though this seems like the most simple, the preparation for the white tea is the most complicated. This is because it is challenging for the tea farmer to know when the weather and the environment will be just right for the withering process to occur in the fresh air. White tea is a fragile tea that many tea connoisseurs around the world search for. Also because of the simplicity of the treatment process for white tea, white tea is rich in antioxidants, polyphenols, and vitamins.
Many teas undergo fermentation during processing but green tea is not one of them. So as to avoid fermentation, the tea leaves are heated to around 100°C. There are a couple of methods that are used to do this. One is the Chinese method where the tea is heated using a large wok over a fire. Another is the Japanese method where the leaves are heated using steam. Once heated, the leaves are rolled using methods that are specific to different countries, (sticks, twists or balls…). Finally, they are dried until they contain less than 5% water. Green tea is the most popular type of tea in Asia.
Oolong tea is a fermented tea. However, it has been referred to as the semi-fermented tea because during the long treatment period the fermentation process is interrupted. Once picked, the tea is dehydrated. The leaves are then parched in a room heated to 22°C. This is a room with a very high humidity level to help in the fermentation process. So, in order to achieve the preferred result, the fermentation time can be prolonged or shortened. Lastly, the leaves are roasted and rolled. Normally, using this technique the leaves will be very ripe, this means that they will have a smaller amount caffeine, making it a perfect drink for the afternoon or the evening.
Unlike the Oolong tea, the fermentation process must be fully complete and not interrupted.
Once harvested, the withering phase, which will let the tea leaves to lose 50% of their water, takes place. After this, the leaves are rolled. The rolling method breaks the cells inside the leaf the breaking of the cells release enzymes and initiates the fermentation process. The fermentation time depends on the desired color of tea. Finally, the tea is roasted. After roasting the tea is sorted and categorized according to the two grades (broken leaves and whole leaves).Black tea is usually consumed by itself or with sugar; Sometimes a bit of milk is added to complement its flavor. Black tea is often used to make flavored teas. The tea is scented with either flowers (jasmine, rose…) or plant leaves (mint…) this can be done by misting the dry tea leaves with the natural essential oils of flowers or plants.
The legend goes that during the 17th century, a cargo of green tea from China arrived after a very long journey. Because of this, the tea had fermented during the journey and the British, not being tea connoisseurs, enjoyed the taste of the tea and re-ordered it from China.
Smoked Tera (Black Tea)
Another type of tea is smoked tea. Smoked tea is really a black tea. Smoked tea first came on the scene in the 1820’s in the Fujian region. The story goes that in order to free up the drying room quickly, the cultivator was forced to dry a large number of leaves, which were still humid, over a fire containing the roots of coniferous evergreen trees. During the drying process, the tea took on a smoky flavor. It was then sold in Europe, where this ‘smoky’ tea became an instant success.
The same method is still used today to produce this type of tea. The most well-known smoked teas are Tarry Souchong and Lapsang Souchong. These teas are frequently drunk with a meal, or during the afternoon with a little sugar.
I hope this helps a little when you out there shopping and looking for the ideal tea for your tea drinking pleasure.