1 PLANT and MANY TEAS
Many types of tea are produced worldwide, all of which come from the same plant species. Each tea is produced differently and has unique features that affect flavor and strength.
Darjeeling in India is known for its Darjeeling tea.
Here, they are grouped under the six main types. From sweet and fragrant to chocolatey and nutty, there is a spectrum of flavors to enjoy.
Green tea is unoxidized and most closely resembles the original plucked leaf—a small springtime leaf bud that contains abundant nutrients and oils sent up from the roots after a period of winter dormancy. Green tea is admired for its freshness and fleeting nature (it has a short shelf life of 6-8 months).
What does pre-Qing Ming?
The most prized green teas in China are referred to as pre-Qing Ming, or “before the spring festival,” which falls in early April. Green tea comes in different shapes—flat, needlelike, curled like a snail, rolled into balls, or in fine twists.
Produced mostly in China’s Fujian province, white tea is the least processed of all teas. However, it takes a long time to produce (2-3 days), and has a slight natural oxidation from its long withering process (about 2 days), after which it is baked at a low heat, sorted, and baked again. There are several types of white tea.
Some are made from leaves and buds so tender they still have a fine white fuzz, or “pekoe,” on them; others use larger leaves and are a little more oxidized. White tea is considered one of the healthiest teas, as it contains antioxidants, such as catechins and polyphenols, concentrated in the bud that help strengthen the immune system.
Oolong is also produced in China’s Fujian province, especially in the Wuyi Mountains, and on Taiwan’s mountainsides. This semi oxidized tea uses mature leaves that undergo a rigorous production process. They are withered for a few hours, then “rattled” or shaken to bruise the leaves and destroy the cell walls to aid flavor release during oxidation.
The oxidation process can go on for hours, until the tea master decides that the tea has reached the correct level of oxidation. The leaves are then fired to prevent further oxidation, rolled, and then fired again, or roasted. Lightly oxidized oolongs are shaped into small, shiny, dark-green pellets, while the more heavily oxidized oolongs become ‘s long, dark, twisted leaves.
Black tea, a fully oxidized tea, black tea is produced in Kenya and many Asian countries, including Sri Lanka, China, and India. Much of the world’s black tea is grown for the tea bag industry, and it is often mixed with other types of tea to make blends, such as breakfast and afternoon, which are enhanced by the addition of milk and/or sugar. The Chinese refer to black teas as “red teas” because of the color of the liquid. Black teas are brisk, malty, full-bodied, and bracing because of the rich flavors that develop during the oxidation process.
Often referred to as a post-fermented tea, Pu’er is named after town in which it is produced in China’s Yunnan province.
The tea contains microorganisms with probiotic properties, which aid digestion and promote a healthy immune system, so is commonly consumed to aid weight loss. After the leaves are processed, they are steamed and pressed into cakes and aged for several years before they are sold; the tea is also available as loose leaves.
There are two kinds of Pu’er: Sheng (raw), which is allowed to develop and age naturally, and Shou (ripe), which undergoes an accelerated fermentation process. Similar teas are produced in other provinces of China and are referred to as “dark tea” or “hei cha.” Post-fermented aged tea, particularly Pu’er, is highly sought-after by connoisseurs who store and age it for decades, as the flavours (which vary from earthy, musty, and leathery, to chocolatey or woody) become more complex over time.
Yellow tea is produced in only a few areas of China, such as the Hunan and Sichuan provinces. As a result, very little is produced or exported, making it fairly rare. As in the case of green tea, the best grades of yellow tea are produced from tea leaves harvested early in spring. Yellow tea is characterized by its fresh and delicate flavor, and gets its name from the leaf’s slightly yellow cast, which is caused by the yellowing process it undergoes.
MATCHA Tea. THE WONDER DRINK
Brilliantly colored and packed with antioxidants, Matcha is growing in popularity worldwide. This green tea, which has been around for over 1,000 years, is being touted as the “espresso of the tea world” for its strong, bold flavors and ability to perk you up.
Matcha powder is a throwback to the Tang dynasty of China, when powdered tea was the norm. It was introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks who visited China and brought it back with them.
Match Tea eventually became an integral part of the Japanese tea culture, being used in the Chanoyu tea ceremony. The best quality tea plants, destined to become Matcha are grown in the Uji region of Japan.
Matcha’s distinctive electric green color is a result of artificial shading for several weeks just before harvest, which stimulates the production of chlorophyll. The leaves are then plucked, steamed, and dried, and the stems and veins are removed. These leaves, known as “tencha,” are then placed in a Matcha grinder and milled to a fine powder between the grinder’s two granite plates. It can take up to one hour to grind 1oz (30g) of Matcha.
Matcha has high caffeine levels and is packed with greater health-giving properties than regular green teas, as the whole leaf is consumed. It contains a number of antioxidants, including EGCg, which is known for its cancer-fighting properties, and L-theanine, which helps to calm the mind and improve memory and concentration.
There are two ceremonial grades of Matcha available: Usucha (thin) and Koicha (thick), as well as a lower grade, known as confectioner’s grade. Usucha is the most widely available grade and is best used for everyday consumption. Koicha is mostly reserved for use in the formal Chanoyu ceremony. Confectioner’s grade Matcha is the lowest quality grade and is much cheaper to buy, making it ideal for culinary use in macarons, cake, and ice cream.
MATCHA’S GREEN GOODNESS
As the whole leaf is consumed, the nutritional benefits of Matcha are far higher than that of other teas. Matcha helps to detox the body, improves the immune system, and boosts energy and metabolism.