Tea Types and Tea productions

All tea comes from the same plant. The Tea plant’s scientific name is Camellia Sinensis. It related to the Camellia japonica, a common garden tree or shrub. All tea comes from this plant. It is only the different plucking and processing methods that produce the different types - green, black, oolong, white, yellow, Pu-erh or scented. Many different varieties within each category result in hundreds of teas from all over the world.

 

Climate, the altitude and the soil, all play a role in determining the quality of tea. The plant flourishes at altitudes between 2000 and 6500 feet. The finest quality teas grow at higher altitudes where the cool climate slows growth, allowing more concentrated flavours to develop in the leaves.

The tea leaves are plucked as the new shoots or "flush" are beginning to grow. These tiny young shoots and their thin, unopened buds produce the most delicate and flavourful teas.
Picked and processed by hand only these delicate young leaves go into the making of a premium tea.

Black tea is the most common tea in Europe. The picked leaf undergoes a full fermentation process composed of six basic steps - withering, rolling, sorting, fermenting, firing (or drying) and grading.

  1. Withering - The leaves are exposed to hot air for several hours in order to reduce their water content by 50% to 60%. This step starts to free up the enzyme responsible for oxidizing the leaf (fermentation). The leaves are softened but not broken or bruised (except for oolong).
  2. Rolling - The leaves are rolled (by hand or mechanically) allowing the essential oils to spread and to impregnate the buds.
  3. Sorting - A calibrated screen is used to sort the tea. The smallest leaves go directly to the next stage, while the larger, tougher ones undergo a second rolling.
  4. Fermentation – a crucial step to determine the aroma, bite and colour of the tea.  It triggers Chemical reaction of the leaves and their components (polyphenols) with air, humidity and heat.
  5. Firing - Drying the leaves in the oven stops the fermentation process. The percentage of humidity which remains in the leaves is a critical factor for the quality of the tea.
  6. Grading - The leaves are separated by size or grade. 
    Soluble tea is a black tea that has undergone the usual production steps but that is dried even further and reduced to powder. This enabled the two tea innovations of the 20th century: iced tea and the tea bag.

Green tea is often referred to as "unfermented" tea.
The fresh leaves are immediately steamed or pan-fired to stop any oxidation occurring.

  1. Steaming or Pan-fired - In China, leaves are pan-fired in a wok or heated drum. With the active enzymes locked inside, the leaf is ready for rolling.
  2. Rolling - rolling determines the unique size and final shape of the green tea leaf we put into our cups. The region the tea is grown in will dictate the style of rolled tea.  The style and tradition of rolling decide the taste of a tea.They can be curled such as, Pi Lo Chun or twisted - called Mei or Eyebrow teas, such as Taishan Buddha’s Eyebrow or can be rolled into pellets - called Zhu or Pearl teas , such as Gunpowder.  The leaves can also be pressed flat such as the famous Dragon Well or tied into shapes such as Flower on The Brocade.
  3. Drying - Finally, a gentle heating or firing afterwards allow the leaves to dry, preserving their fresh green characteristics. At the end of the process, the leave’s moisture content should be about four percent. 
    Most people in Asia drink traditional green tea in many variations.

White tea is produced on a very limited scale in China and Sri Lanka. The new buds are plucked before they open and allowed to dry. The curled-up buds have a silvery appearance and produce a very pale, straw-coloured tea with a fine, aromatic and mild character (unfermented like green tea). This used to be the tea for the Chinese Emperor. It is said that only white dressed virgins were allowed the pluck the buds with their mouth in the early morning mist to keep the tea as pure as possible.

Yellow tea is only produced in China, often made from the leaves of wild growing tea bushes. In the past monkeys were trained to pluck the leaves because they often grow in inaccessible terrain. The making of yellow tea is similar to green tea (unfermented). After firing and rolling the leaves are stored in small piles for about two hours in a room with a constant humidity. During this procedure the leaves get their yellow colour. The range is very limited and there are only small quantities available. Yellow tea is categorised between green and Oolong. It has delicate aroma, with a hint of chocolate.

Oolong means black dragon in Chinese and is generally referred to as "semi-fermented" tea. It is produced mainly in Fujian Province – Southeast of China and Taiwan (Formosa) in a similar way as black tea (withering, rolling, fermentation, firing). The difference is that the leaves are bruised on the edges. Only the bruised edges going through the fermentation, the core of the leaf is still green hence half fermented. The degree of fermentation varies between 20% and up to 80%. 
Oolongs are always whole leaf teas, never broken by rolling. They have a distinctive peachy flavour and they are ideal for tea beginners.

Pu-erh tea is originally from South-China (Yunnan). The production is different to this of black or green tea.

  1. A basic tea is produced. The freshly plucked leaves are wilted, then slightly roasted, rolled, shaped (to bring it into leaf form again), dried, rolled, shaped and dried again.
  2. It is fermented with water (which includes certain necessary bacteria) over a period of 40-50 days. The little piles of tea have to be turned and watered regularly and the right mix of temperature (under 60°C) and humidity is crucial.
  3. The fermentation is stopped by treating the tea with hot air (150°C) which kills also the bacteria. 
    Pu-erh is often sold in forms (nests, squares, “biscuit”). Due to its unique manufacturing process Pu-erh tea posses a distinctive earthy flavour.

Scented tea is created when the additional flavourings are mixed with the leaf at a final stage before the tea is packed. For Jasmine tea (the oldest existing scented tea, invented in China), whole jasmine blossoms are added to green, black or oolong tea. Fruit-flavoured teas are generally made by blending essential oils from fruits with tea (for example Earl Grey is black tea mixed with oil of Bergamot).

Apart from the classical teas the brewing of parts of different plants emerged all over the world. Here are some of the better known teas:
 - Herbal ‘tea’, also called Tisane, is not real tea as it is not made from the leaves of the tea bush (Camellia Sinensis).  Instead Tisanes can be made with fresh or dried flowers, herbs, leaves, seeds or roots, generally by pouring boiling water over the plant parts and letting them steep for a few minutes.

 - Fruit tea is made from fruits of all kind. The range of those teas is virtually unlimited. The basis is usually hibiscus, hawthorn and apple enriched with different fruits and flavours. They can be drunk hot and cold and at any time of the day.