An ancient and revered brew…
…tea is the second most widely consumed drink worldwide, coming second only to water. It has been enjoyed by humans for millennia, traditionally prepared by pouring hot water over the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant.
Most of us have enjoyed a hot or iced cup of tea at least once in our lives, though many may not know just what goes into each brew! We’ve explored the world of coffee in our Coffee 101 blog, and are now excited to share the basics of this ancient beverage in this Tea 101 feature!
The majority of teas are derived from two main varieties of the Camellia sinensis plant: Chinese and Indian teas. In today’s health-conscious market, many herbal teas are also available, which are created not with this plant, but rather with beneficial herbs such as chamomile, rooibos, and rosehips.
When choosing which tea to enjoy, there is no shortage of options available. Believe it or not, these teas are all harvested from the same plant! The difference in these brews lies in the way in which the leaves are processed, obtaining different levels of oxidation and, therefore, flavor.
The five most commonly enjoyed teas include White, Yellow, Green, Oolong, and Black teas. So, what’s the difference between these brews?
White tea earns its name from the young tea leaves that are used to make it; these leaves have a significant amount of fine white hairs. These tea leaves are wilted, naturally dried in the sun, and are unoxidized. White teas typically have a light taste.
Like white tea, yellow tea leaves are unoxidized. However, these leaves are unwilted and are allowed to yellow in the sun while still damp. The taste of yellow tea is delightful—fresh, sweet, and mellow, it is typically considered the least bitter tea option.
Used in ceremonies for centuries, green tea has a rich history and is perhaps one of the most popular teas around the world. Its leaves are unwilted and unoxidized, and certain varieties (such as matcha) undergo special growing practices to achieve nutritional benefits. Chinese green tea, the leaves of which are pan-fired, has a more earthy taste, while Japanese green tea, the leaves of which are steamed, is more earthy and vegetative.
Oolong tea leaves are wilted, bruised, and partially oxidized. The taste of oolong tea varies depending on the processing and variety. Some oolongs are sweet, fruity, and honey-like, while others are woody and smoky, and some can even be fresh and green in flavor.
Also known as red tea (particularly in China), black tea leaves are wilted, lightly crushed, and fully oxidized. Black tea is famously stronger in flavor than other tea varieties. It is sometimes chosen over green tea due to its longer shelf-life; while green tea tends to lose its flavor after a year, black tea can hold its bracing taste and aroma for several years after picking and processing!
Of course, these are only the basics behind the world of tea. With an ancient and rich history, tea has a permanent part in cultures worldwide. Whether you enjoy it hot or cold, with a bit of honey or a splash of milk, let’s raise a cup to one of the finest and oldest brews known to man!
How do you enjoy your tea? Share with us in the comments!
Health & happiness,
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