What is Tea

WHAT IS TEA?

All tea begins as Camellia sinensis, a plant native to southeastern Asia but cultivated now across the world's tropical and subtropical areas, in a diversity of climates which promotes a diversity of flavors. The top two leaves and bud of this plant - the "flush" - are plucked as soon as they sprout, usually in early spring and early summer. The leaves are then dried, and the different methods and lengths of drying produce the different varieties of tea - Black, Oolong, Green, and White.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF TEA

BLACK TEA is withered and allowed to dry completely, to promote full oxidation (the breakdown of chlorophyll and release of tannins, often called fermentation). Black tea is more robust in flavor than its counterparts, and despite its English name, has a deep crimson color. It retains its flavor longer than other teas.

Long the favorite tea of the West, Black Tea is produced from flushes that have been allowed to oxidize completely, releasing tannins which bestow the strong flavor and dark crimson color that are its hallmarks. Like Oolong, Black is a relatively young tea, and its most famous Chinese variety, Keemun, was only devised in 1875. The well-known teas Earl Grey, English Breakfast, and Darjeeling are all varieties of Black Tea. Always more popular outside of China than in it, Black Tea is grown across a wide range of countries, including Vietnam, Nepal, Kenya, Turkey and Russia. This leads to an extreme diversity of flavors, but in general Black Teas can be said to be typified by strong floral and fruity flavors, with frequent notes of caramel, licorice, chocolate and toast.

Black tea is brewed in freshly boiled water for 4-5 minutes, with one teaspoon of tea per cup. 

OOLONG TEA is partially oxidized, and falls between Black and Green teas in flavor. Oolong leaves are allowed to wilt in direct sunlight, and then shaken in bamboo baskets to lightly bruise the edges. They are dried until their surfaces turn slightly yellow. 

Generally sun-dried and then bruised in bamboo baskets, Oolong Tea is allowed to oxidize from 10%-70% before being fired in hot woks, placing it between Black and Green teas in character. Before it is sold, it is usually hand-rolled or packed into tight balls. Though many fanciful legends cloud the origin of Oolong - some inspired by its name, which is Chinese for "Black Dragon" - most agree that it is among the youngest of teas, and that the fermentation process used to produce it is only about half a millennium old. In Taiwan, where tea cultivation only began in the 19th century, Oolong is enormously popular, and its delicate preparation has achieved the status of a fine art. Its light oxidation leaves Oolong with complex flavors, typified by floral, fruity, and often slightly bitter bouquets, with sweet, melony aftertastes.

Oolong tea is brewed in 180°F water for 3-4 minutes, with 2 teaspoons of tea per cup.

GREEN TEA is withered and dried, but is not allowed to oxidize. Green tea from Japan is steam-dried while green tea from China is pan-dried. Ranging in color from pale gold to light green, Green teas are typified by grassy, vegetal flavors. 

The flushes picked for Green Tea are withered, then pan-fired or steamed quickly to prevent oxidation. Originally brewed in China, where it still accounts for over half of all tea produced, Green Tea was introduced to Japan about 800 years ago by the Zen priest Eisai, where today it is ubiquitous. Green has recently begun to challenge Black tea's supremacy in the West, buoyed by high-profile reports of its beneficial antioxidants. And, of course, by its taste: Green Tea is semi-sweet and distinguished by crisp vegetal flavors, with nutty and buttery notes. Its most famous varieties include Longjing (Dragon Well), served to visting foreign dignitaries in China, and Matcha, the dark, sweet, powdered brew that forms the basis of the famous Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Green tea is brewed in 180°F water for 2-3 minutes, with 1 teaspoon of tea per cup.   

WHITE TEA is the least processed of teas, and is produced from very young leaves and buds. Unlike green tea, it is not wilted, but merely dried. Studies suggest that this lack of processing makes White the most nutritionally beneficial of teas. 

The buds and leaves steeped to prepare White Tea are picked earlier than those of any other variety, and are usually left unprocessed and unoxidized. Together, these characteristics make White the freshest of teas, and possibly also the healthiest: low in caffeine and, studies suggest, packed with nutrients. Characterized by light, sweet flavors, with frequent notes of apricot, toasted nut, honey and vanilla, White Tea was hailed by the Song Emperor Huizong in the twelfth century as the height of refinement. A specialty of Fujian Province in China, varieties include Bai Hao Yin Zhen (Silver Needle), brewed only from buds picked the day prior to their flush, and Shou Mei (Longevity Eyebrow), a dark, sun-dried blend of of leaves and tips with a bolder flavor than other Whites.

White tea is brewed in 180°F water for 2-3 minutes, with 1.5 teaspoons of tea per cup. 

PU-ERH TEA remains the least-known variety of tea in the West, largely because the details of its production are kept secret by its producers. Extremely unique and difficult to classify, it is crafted from the leaves of either Green or Black teas, which after finishing are packed into tight cakes, as which they undergo a process of secondary oxidation promoted by bacteria and free radicals. According to legend, this process originated in the tropical rainforests around the town of Pu-erh, through which merchants needed to transport their cakes of tea, which became moldy in the humid climate. It was found that this only enriched their flavor, and to this day the highest-prized Pu-erh is that which has been allowed to age the longest, with the oldest cakes commanding up to thousands of dollars. Adding to its scarcity, the finest Pu-erh is made only from the leaves of wild tea trees. Due to the aging process, Pu-erh’s taste is characterized by complex, earthy flavors like malt, cocoa and scotch.

Pu-erh is brewed at 200°F for about 30 seconds, longer in successive infusions, with one teaspoon of tea per cup.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT TEA

What are herbal teas?

Herbal "teas" or "tisanes" contain no true tea leaves. Instead, they are crafted from combinations of herbs and spices such as mint, chamomile, rosebuds, cinnamon, ginger, and more.

Is your tea loose-leaf or in tea bags?

To ensure that we deliver only the highest quality flavors, all of our tea is sold loose-leaf.

How much loose tea should I use to make a cup of tea?

The following instructions are based on an 8 ounce (250 ml) cup of tea, and may be adjusted to taste.

  • White tea: 2 tsp. Steep for 1-2 minutes @ 150°-170°
  • Green tea: 1 tsp. Steep for 1-3 minutes @ 170°-190°
  • Oolong tea: 2 tsp. Steep for 1-3 minutes @ 160°-180°
  • Black tea: 1 tsp. Steep for 3-5 minutes @ 190°- 209°
  • Herbal tea: Start with 1 tsp. and increase to desired taste. Steep for 3-5 minutes @ 190°-209°

Which teas have caffeine?

Caffeine occurs naturally in Black, Oolong, Pu-erh, Green, and White teas, in decreasing order of concentration. Herbal and Rooibos teas are caffeine-free.

What do the abbreviations after some teas mean; i.e., FTGFOP, OP?

These initials refer to the grade of tea leaf used - a measurement of leaf size and number of buds. Tea grading is not standardized worldwide, and a tea's grade does not necessarily indicate flavor or quality: these characteristics are determined, rather, by country of origin, estate of production, elevation, when the tea is picked, and processing after harvest. With that caveat, whole leaf tea grades are as follows, in order of increasing rarity.

·     OP - Orange Pekoe

·     OP sup - Orange Pekoe Superior

·     F OP - Flowery Orange Pekoe

·     F OP1 - Flowery Orange Pekoe First Grade Leaves

·     GF OP1 - Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe First Grade Leaves

·     TGF OP - Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

·     TGF OP1 - Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

·     FTGF OP - Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

What is the green tea harvest season?

Variable due to winter weather, the first green tea harvest - called "New Crop Tea" (Shin-cha) - is usually sometime in late April or early May. The second harvest occurs about a month after the first. There are usually 3-4 harvests per season, with the last occurring in the early fall.

Can tea be enjoyed even on a full stomach?

Yes - for instance, Ban-cha and Houji-cha are examples of light and refreshing teas that are easy on the stomach. Ban-cha will cleanse and refresh the inside of your mouth after the consumption of heavy, greasy food.

How can I remove the stains that are left by the tea leaves in my teacup or pot?

Tea stains are caused by the oxidation of antioxidants in spent tea leaves. Salt and vinegar, used either to scour or soak, work well to remove the stains. Bleach is not recommended for cleaning, as its chemical smell may linger. 

HEALTH BENEFITS OF TEA

Why does history say "Tea for a long life"? That is because tea has a lot of anti-oxidants which aid in the prevention of diseases. In the ancient times, tea was used for medicinal purposes. So even if a lot of research has been done with rats, one can be pretty sure that tea has a lot of health benefits. Enjoy the aroma of tea!

What is the healthiest tea?

A lot of people ask which is the healthiest tea to drink. Generally as a rule of thumb one can say that the least processed is the healthiest i.e. green tea which is steamed. Matcha green tea powder (the ceremonial tea from Japan) could be said to be the healthiest because one consumes the whole leaf and therefore one is drinking a higher amount of polyphenols.

Helps the Bodies pH Balance

A healthy body is slightly alkaline, whereas a bad diet (too fatty or too many calories) can lead to acid in the body. Tea due to its alkaline feature (rich in minerals) helps neutralise the acids in the body.

Helps the Digestion

It is said that the tannins in tea stimulates the stomach and increases the activity in the intestine.

Lowers the Cholesterol Levels

It is said that the tea catechins reduce the LDL in the blood.

Lowers the Blood Pressure

It is said that the tea catechins inhibit the enzyme that produces angiotensin II which is responsible for high blood pressure.

Removes Tobacco Stains

The green tea catechins as well as the black tea theaflavins bond with the tar and therefore can help to remove tobacco stains.