Have you’ve ever walked into a tea house and were unable to make an order because you had no clue what type of tea you wanted. Then this is the post you need to jump right in.
Just like you, so many people are clueless when it comes to tea yet it is the most consumed beverage. Well, after water that is. We will not get into the origin of tea today, but what you must know is that the original true tea is produced from the leaves of Camellia sinensis plant. Anything else called tea but made from other plants is a variation of tea.
Original true tea is produced from the leaves of Camellia sinensis plant. Anything else called tea but made from other plants is a variation of tea.
The main difference in the type of teas is oxidation, also known as fermentation. Oxidation just means that the enzymes in the tea leaf interact with oxygen in the air hence the color changes. The more the oxidation process the intense the flavour of the tea. Once the leaves are picked, wilting begins and so does oxidation. To speed up the oxidation process the tea leaves can either be crushed, rolled or cut.
Now that we have the basics, let’s look at some of the most popular types of tea and how they taste.
1. Black Tea
Black tea is to Westerners what green tea is to Easterners. Although it is widely consumed in the Western world, black tea is largely grown and processed in India, Kenya and Sri-Lanka. India produces half of the black tea consumed in the world and the tea that is grown in this part of the world is what is called Assam tea or Indian tea. A name coined from the region where it is grown.
Black tea is the most oxidized tea of them all and has a rather strong flavor. Its dark rich color comes from the fact that it’s fully oxidized before being dried and taken through the heating process.
Not all black teas have a similar taste. Their flavor varies depending on where it was grown, the climatic condition they were grown in, how long they were left to oxidize and the heat treatment applied to stop oxidation. Their flavor can range from sweet to savory and their color from amber, red to black.
Black tea can either be served whole (loose leaf) or ground. If you get the loose leaf tea, you can steep it in hot water using a loose leaf infuser. This can be re-used a couple of times saving you some bucks. It is best brewed between the temperatures of 200 to 212 degrees for at most 5 minutes. When steeped for a longer time, it can taste bitter.
You can take your black tea just as is or you can add milk, sugar, and spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, lemon, lemongrass, rosemary herbs among others. You can even make ice tea. All this is just to spice up the taste. Although most people prefer to take it as is to savor the actual taste of black tea.
2. Green Tea
Green tea is a favorite of the Asian community because of its amazing health benefits. It varies from black tea because of how long the oxidation takes. After withering, Green tea is allowed to slightly oxidize after which they are quickly pan fried on high temperatures to stop the oxidation process. This is the reason why it is so delicate in taste and why it quickly loses its flavor compared to black tea.
There are 3 different variations of green tea.
- Matcha Tea – which is ground into powder and is the most popular of the variations.
- Sencha Tea- which is largely consumed by Japanese in loose-leaf form
- Geinmaicha Tea- which is a blend of roasted brown rice and green tea leaves. Quite an interesting combination.
The benefits of Green tea are numerous and many studies have claimed that it aids in weight loss, helps in lowering the risks of cancer and aiding in brain development.
3. White Tea
White tea undergoes a simple singular processing step. It is harvested then immediately left to dry in the sun. There are two varieties of white tea; Silver Needle and White Peony. The Silver Needle is made from drying the buds of the tea plant while the White peony is made from drying both the buds and the leaves.
White tea is made from picking baby tea leaves giving it the sweet soft flavor. This makes it a perfect choice for someone who is just starting out on a tea experience.
When prepared, a cup of white tea has a light yellow to light green color. White tea should be steeped for a shorter time under low temperatures to produce less caffeine but if you prefer it strong, cook under high temperature and for a longer period.
4. Pu erh / Fermented Tea
This is the most priced tea of all because of its medicinal properties. It is only produced and processed in China under lock and key.
Not only is its production process top secret, but it is also believed that after the oxidation and fixing, the tea is allowed to age just like wine. The fermentation can take as long as 15 to even 50 years. The longer it takes the more robust the flavor will be and of course the pricier it will get. It then produces a deep rich flavor and with no bitterness.
So if you’ve been wondering what gift to get your momma for mother’s day, Pu erh tea would be perfect. That’s if you don’t mind on a little bit of a splurge.
5. Herbal Tea/ Tisane
As we established earlier, true tea is tea made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Now, we have another popular category of tea which is referred to as Tisane or herbal tea. These are teas that are not made from Camellia sinensis plant but from flower buds, roots, and stems of different plants. They are caffeine-free and are flavored by infusing either herbs or chopped fruits.
Examples of these herbal teas include Hibiscus tea, Chamomile tea, Jasmine tea, Ginger tea among others. Tisanes vary in flavor depending on the type of plant used. Some will be sweet while others spicy or tangy like the lemon or bergamot.
Well, now you are a bit more knowledgeable on what tea types are available. Of course, there are more types and variations but these seem to be the most popular. So next time you are asked what tea you want, you should be confident to answer.
And If you have been wondering on what time is teatime, click here to learn more about when and how to serve your tea. If you want to start indulging in some amazing black tea, the three options below are a great place to start.
What is your favorite tea? Which other types of tea would you like us to highlight on next time? Share with us down below on the comments