Tea originally came from the southern province of Yunnan in China, and was loved so much that it was called one of the ‘seven necessities of life’. The tea was at first seen as a therapeutic drink under the Western Han dynasty (206BC – 24AD). Under the Eastern Han period of the dynasty, tea became a daily part of the emperors and aristocratic people’s lives.
Today, tea is the world’s most popular drink, next to water and it’s steeped in health benefits. Despite the many different coloured teas, they all come from the same tea plant, the Camellia Sinensis plant. The differences between teas arise from processing, growing conditions, and geography. There are five basic of tea types :
Green tea is the most popular tea types in Asia. Green tea is not fermented. Green Tea is allowed to wither only slightly after being picked. In order to avoid fermentation, the tea leaves are heated to around 100°C. They are then dried until they contain less than 5% water. Therefore, when brewed at lower temperatures and for less time, green teas tend to have less caffeine (10-30% of coffee). Greens tea also tend to produce more subtle flavors with many undertones and accents that connoisseurs treasure.
White tea consisting only of the bud and two top leaves from the shoot of the plant (or sometimes, only the bud for top tier white teas). The leaves are picked, withered (when oxidation takes place), and dried. The finished tea leaves are a soft grey color. Despite seeming the most simple, the preparation for the white tea is the most delicate. This is because it is difficult for the grower to know when the climatic conditions will be right for the withering process to take place in the fresh air. White tea is a delicate tea that is often sought by tea connoisseurs. Due to the lack of treatment, white tea is rich in antioxidants, polyphenols and vitamins.
In fact, black tea is America’s favorite. These teas are heavily oxidized and brew up strong, bold, and often malty. Both the leaves and brewed tea tend to have a dark color, although some black teas are golden or greenish in color. The use of machines is becoming more common in balck tea process, but the best black teas are those entirely done by hand. Machine-processed teas tend to be of lower quality and are generally used in tea bags.
Oolong tea is produced when tea leaves are oxidized in direct sunlight until they give off a precise and pleasant fragrance. These teas have a caffeine content between that of green teas and black teas. Oolongs typically have much more complex flavor than Green or White teas, with very smooth, soft astringency and rich in floral or fruity flavors. Because of their smooth yet rich flavor profiles, Oolongs are ideal for those new to tea drinking.
Pu’erh Teas are one of the most unusual tea types because of the unique processing, storage and taste. Pu’Er tea are usually compressed into various shapes before being aged. During the aging process, Pu’er teas are exposed to microflora and bacteria that ferment the tea, in a way similar to wine or yogurt. The process takes longer though, and the tea’s flavor profile can change drastically and increase in depth over many years. Like fine wines, many connoisseurs become collectors of very old and well-aged Pu’ers. Some of the most highly regarded and expensive teas of this type are well over 30 years old.