There is the size of the leaf,
Its unique shape,
Its unique color,
Its unique fragrance,
A taste all its own,
And it changes - sip by sip.
~ The Minister of the Leaves
TRUE TEA ... 'the real deal' ... It all comes from one plant!
Now ... this may be common knowledge to many ... but to me it came as a big surprise
I had no idea, and it seemed extraordinary ... How could it be?
I am by no stretch of the imagination a tea connoisseur, but I have drunk my fair share
It definitely does not all taste the same ...
As a matter of fact, green tea and black tea seem to be eons apart where flavor is concerned.
SO ... Exactly how is it that it all comes from one plant?
It's really rather SIMPLE ...
The plant which 'does it all' is known as Camellia sinensis. It is cultivated in over 30 countries and between them they produce about 2.5 million tons of dried tea. Around 78% of this is black, 20% percent is green, and a bit less than 2% is oolong.
It is the method used to cure the leaves of this magnificent plant which create these three basic styles of tea.
In all three varieties of tea, the leaves are picked and dried. The drying eliminates moisture and catapults oxidation, producing a chemical change in the leaves. This process is often referred to as fermentation.
Black tea is a hearty variety and a favorite in America, it is fermented much longer than both green and oolong varieties.
Green tea is more delicate and is the preferred tea of China. The fermentation process for this variety is short and quick; firing or heat are used to slow it down.
Oolong tea falls between the others, both in the way it is processed and in its flavor.
Around 2,000 sub-species of tea have been identified and cultivated; each bearing their own appearance and characteristics, as well as several grades of excellence.
There are several special-grade teas, which are so rare, they never leave China.
Teas which are of higher quality do not become bitter, even after they are infused for 4 minutes or longer. These special-grade teas are often priced at up to 50 times that of 4th-grade teas; the most common grade in America.
It is important to note that even the highest grades of tea can vary in taste. Tea is, after all, a natural product, and is effected by soil conditions, weather, and elevation.
LET'S TALK ABOUT BLACK TEA
Just after fresh, green tea leaves are plucked from the plant, they are spread out to wither. Then they are twisted, which
causes the natural enzymes they contain to be released and oxidized. The leaves are then completely dried; producing black
The brewing of this tea, results in a rich, full-bodied beverage. It is dark in color and has a stronger flavor than most
The extensive processing involved in creating black tea destroys most of the polyphenols in the leaves. Still, it is the
most popular tea. Nearly 80% of all tea drunk worldwide is black tea. More than 90% of tea consumed in the United
States is black as well.
Types of Black Tea
1) ASSAM (India) ah-SAHM
This variety of black tea is often a part of 'breakfast blends'. It is grown in the low-lying Assam region of
northeastern India and possesses a rich orange/red color.
It is a malty, robust variety, that tastes just fabulous with a bit of milk and sugar; very satisfying on a
cold winter day.
Assam tea is one of the most popular teas. It is very often among the best of the world's teas.
2) CEYLON (Ceylon) say-LAWN (now Sri Lanka)
Harvested on the island of Sri Lanka (once Ceylon), the name Ceylon can refer to a wide variety of teas. It can
range from a low-, medium-, or high-grown leaf. Both the low- and medium-grown leaves are generally cultivated
with quantity in mind.
While, the high-grown variety is tea of spectacular quality. It is a very black leaf and yields a mellow, rich
The Ceylon variety of tea is lighter and more mellow than Assam, but it is not nearly as 'flowery' as Darjeeling.
They are often found in Orange pekoe blends, and are known for their 'liveliness'. This variety of tea is
fabulous served hot, both with or without milk. It also makes a great iced beverage on a hot summer day.
3) DARJEELING (India) dar-JEE-ling
This variety of tea is found in the Darjeeling region of the Himalayan foothills of Northern India. It is a very
fine, small-leafed tea, and is quite rare. These characteristics make pure Darjeeling tea difficult to find,
it is usually included in a blend.
Darjeeling gardens are closely planted and cover mountainsides starting at 3,000 feet and going as high as 6,000
feet. The leaves harvested from higher elevations produce a lighter, more flowery tea. This teas aroma is often
said to be similar to that of a muscat grape.
Darjeeling tea, much like wine, is sometimes identified and retailed by plantation.
4) DOOARS or Duars (India) DOO-arz
This variety of tea is harvested from a small district between Assam and Darjeeling.
It's flavor is not as potent as Assam tea. It is primarily used in blends.
5) KEEMUN or Qimen (China) KEY-min
Unlike other teas, the leaves of Keemun tea gain character as they age. It is fragrant and is often compared to
orchids or roses. The taste, however, is reminiscent of apples and plums. It also has a slight hint of chocolate flavor.
This tea makes a great breakfast tea; it brews sweet and just a bit smokey. It is a well-bodied tea.
The Keemun leaf is the only tea leaf which contains myrcenal, an essential oil which lends a sweetness to the
This is the most celebrated black tea in China. It's finest grade, known as Hao Ya, is not produced every year
due to seasonal variations.
6) NILGIRI (southern India) nil-GEAR-ee
Nilgiri is a Tamil word which stands for "Blue Mountains". It refers to a hilly region at the southernmost tip of
The flavor of this tea perfectly combines the mellow flavor of Ceylon with the full-body of the India teas. It is
has a mild lemon flavor, and is clean and well-balanced.
This variety of black tea is often used for the base of chai blends in India. It is most often sold blended, yet
is considered worthy of drinking 'straight up'.
7) SIKKIM (India) SIK-im
This tea has a delicate flavor, with just a hint of malt.
It is grown near Darjeeling but is not as well-known, and therefore it is not nearly as expensive.
8) YUNNAN (China) YOU-nahn
Grown since ancient times in a mountainous Chinese province, this variety of tea was not used in the production
of black tea until 1939. It has a deep, dark aroma with a floral overtone.
It makes an excellent breakfast brew, as well as an iced tea base. It is used in Russian Caravan and scent
LET'S TALK ABOUT GREEN TEA
Green tea is an unfermented form of brew. It is produced by steaming, rolling, and drying the leaf of the camilla sinensis
It is also the original tea ... the brew in it's oldest form.
Japenese green teas tend to be a bit grassy in flavor, while Chinese varieties are a more subdued.
It is the palest form of tea ... it's color is light green or yellow.
Because of the way it is processed tea in this form contains the highest antioxidant content.
Heat is used to prevent natural oxidation processes from occuring in the leaves, which would turn them into oolong or black
tea, if left unchecked.
Green tea is graded differently than other teas. In its highest-quality form it is made up of one bud and one leaf. The quality
levels then descend consecutively; two buds and two leaves, three buds and three leaves, etc...
Types Of Green Tea
1) BANCHA (Japan) BAHN-cha
The word bancha means "last tea". It is made from leaves which come from the late-harvest. In Japan it is consumed as an
It is not often exported.
2) BOAZHONG or Bao Jong or Pouchong (China)
Boazhong is often an ingredient of Jasmine tea. Its flavor is a bit stronger than green tea, and slightly weaker than oolong.
To produce this brew, leaves are withered before firing.
3) DRAGONWELL (Long Jing, Lung Ching) (China)
The best of Dragonwell tea is picked before early April, or "before the rains". It is completely hand processed and can be
identified by its bright hand-flattened leaf.
This tea has four characteristics which cause it to be unique; it is very light green in color, has a mellow taste which
lingers, an earthy scent, and a long, flat shaped leaf.
Dragonwell tea must be brewed in cooler water (some say lukewarm), and it is drunk in hot weather because it is known to
have a cooling effect on the body.
4) GEN MAI CHA (Japan) ghen my CHA
Gen Mai Cha tea is made by blending fire-roasted rice with green sencha leaves. It is a specialty in Japan.
It will fill you up and quench your thrist. Some of the higher-end grades have a natural sweetness to their flavor.
It is hearty, salty, and grainy in taste.
Originally, this brew was drunk by peasants, who were unable to afford pure tea.
You may hear this tea referred to as 'popcorn tea', because the rice often pops open when shipping.
5) GUNPOWDER (China, Taiwan)
It is said that this tea was named by a British East India Company agent who thought it resembled buckshot.
In China is is called "Pearl Tea".
The leaves of the tea plant are rolled into a pellet to produce this brew. The pellet bursts open ("explodes") when it is
infused with boiling water.
This variation produces a yellow-green beverage, which possesses a refreshing flavor.
It is used to make mint tea in Morocco.
6) GU ZHANG MAO JIAN (China) goo shong mao chi-ON
This brews flavor is slighty sweet, and has a chestnut-like character. It is a lot smoother than most Chinese
The harvest season for this variety is only ten days long.
Unlike other green teas, Gu Zhang Mai Jian is just slightly fermented. This gives the leaves, as well as the brew, a slight dark cast. It is
the perfect choice for those who are accustomed to black tea but would like to transition to green tea, in order to reap the
plethora of health benefits it has to offer.
7) GYOKURO (Japan) ghee-OH-koo-roo
This is the very finest grade of tea exported by Japan.
When brewed, its color is very distinctly green, and its flavor is sweet and smooth.
It is made from the first-flush tips of camilla sinensis bushes which have been cultivated in deep shade. Shielding these plants
from the sun causes their leaves to produce an abundance of chlorophyll and lower levels of polyphenols. This produces a sweet,
This variety of tea is harvested only one time each year. It has sharp leaves; much like pine needles.
8) HOJICHA (Japan) HO-ji-cha
The bancha leaf is used to make this variety of tea. The leaves are large, flat, and unrolled. It is oven-roasted after
processing; giving it a nutty flavor and a deep, earthy aroma.
Hojicha has a very low caffeine content.
The brew is light brown in color. It aromatic greeting is robust. In contrast, its actual flavor is quite subtle.
9) HYSON (China) HIGH-sun
This is the tea used in China as an everyday brew.
It is harvested from wild tea trees, which grow in west central Zhejiang Province.
These trees have thick leaves, with a yellow-green color. They are twisted during manufacturing; making them long and thin.
The brew from this tea type has more body and pungency than most other green teas.
10) MATCHA (Japan) MA-cha
Matcha tea leaves are powdered and therefore they are dissolved in water, rather than infused. The literal translation of the
word matcha is "liquid green".
This is the variety which is traditionally drunk during Japanese tea ceremonies. It is whisked into boiling water; creating
a frothy beverage.
This brew is nourishing and high in vitamin C.
In its finest form this tea is sweet and smooth; possessing none of the bitterness often found in green teas.
11) PI LO CHUN (China) pee low CHUN
Pi Lo Chun means "Green Snail Spring". Its hand-rolled leaves often bear resemblance to little snails. It takes a master
skill-level to roll the leaves into this shape.
This tea is processed entirely by hand.
This variety is highly aromatic. Fruit trees (apricot, peach, and plum) are planted among the camilla sinensis plants.
When the tender leaves of the tea trees first open they absorb the aroma emitted from the fruit trees and pass it on in their
Only a single leaf and one bud are harvested for this variety.
This brews leaves are so incredibly delicate that it can only be steeped in 175 degree water. Leaves are always added to the
water, as opposed to the other way around.
12) SENCHA (Japan) sen chu
A favorite in Japan, this tea has a refreshing flavor. It is slightly bittersweet.
LET'S TALK ABOUT OOLONG TEA
Oolong tea is processed using the newest manufacturing methods, developed in the mid-nineteenth century. Tea leaves are withered, rolled,
semi-fermented, and then fired.
Its name is Chinese for "black dragon". It is an unfermented variety, whose flavor is stronger than green tea and weaker than black.
This brew is partially auto-oxidized which leaves it with lower levels of polyphenols.
Less than 2 percent of tea consumed each year is of the oolong variety; making it the least popular tea type.
Types of Oolong Tea
1) FORMOSA OOLONG (Formosa [now Taiwan]) for MOH suh
This is usually the most expensive oolong variety. It can cost as much as ten times more than other fine-grade teas.
This brews leaves are very large. They are infused, rusty colored leaf & bud pairs. Their silver tips make them easily
Formosa Oolong is highly fragrant. It has no astringency. The flavor is often described as similar to honey, peaches, and
This tea is distinguished by grade; with Fanciest being the highest, followed in descending order by Fancy, Choicest, Choice,
and Standard. Lesser grades of this variety can be dark and rather heavy in character.
Oolong is preferred by connoisseurs worldwide.
2) POUCHONG (Taiwan) POO-chong
This is a partially rolled and only lightly oxidized variety of oolong. It is used as a base for the very finest jasmine tea.
3) TI KUAN YIN (China) tee quawn YIN
The leaves of this type of oolong are tightly twisted and rather mild in taste. It is the most revered variety of oolong in
It is unique among teas in the respect that it can successfully be infused more than one time; lore has it that it can be
brewed up to seven times.
This tea is named for the Buddhist Iron Goddess of Mercy and has a very strong peach-like flavor. It is a bit more astringent
than other oolongs which come from Taiwan.
Ti Kuan Yin is rather well-known for its digestive properties.
4) WUYI (China) woo-YEE
Wuyi is a broad category of oolong tea that has been exported since the eighteenth century. Its origin is in the Wuyi Mountains
along the western border of Fujian province.
When the crinkled leaves of this variety are immersed in hot water they turn a bright green at their center and red around their
edges. This is caused by the fact that they are only partially fermented.
LET'S TALK ABOUT WHITE TEA
White tea must be infused in water which a much cooler than boiling; keep it between 170 and 185 degrees.
It is produced only in China and is very rare.
Types of White Tea
1) PAI MU TAN (China) pie moo THAN
This tea is smooth, and has a yellow-orange tint to it. The flavor is sweet, flowery, and mellow.
The leaves stand straight up in the cup during infusion.
It is a very rare tea, which is only produced in China.
Pai Mu Tan is not rolled or fermented. It is simply steamed. It comes from the buds of the "Big White" bush, and is often blended with buds of the Shui Hsein, known as the White Tea plant.
It is the most delicate cup of tea produced worldwide. It is sometimes referred to as 'White Peony'.
LET'S TALK ABOUT PU-ERH TEA
PU-ERH (China) POO-air
Pu-erh is a class of more than one hundred teas. They are large-leafed and come from the Yunnan Province in southwestern China.
Black, green, oolong, and brick varieties are all found within the pu-erh class. These teas are reputed for their medicinal value, not their flavor.
They have a rather strong 'earthy' taste, and are often blended with other teas, flowers, and herbs to make them palatable.
They are most often used as cures for indigestion and diarrhea. Research has shown them to be effective in assisting with weight control and removing plaque from arteries.
To produce pu-erh tea, camellia sinensis leaves are harvested and undergo an initial firing. At this point, the leaves remain moist. They are piled into large heaps where the natural bacterium they contain creates a chemical reaction. They are carefully tended, turning the piles, to maintain proper temperature and moisture.
LET'S TALK ABOUT BLENDED, FLAVORED, AND SCENTED TEA
Often spices, fruit, flowers, and herbs are mixed with teas to produce blends.
This is done to ensure the production of quality products while working within the uncertainty of variable growing conditions.
Types of Blended, Flavored, and Scented Tea
Chai is the Indian word for tea.
This brew is highly variable in flavor. It is most often drunk with milk; usually evaporated or condensed.
Cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and pepper are all spices used in Chai tea.
The combination of these spices varies greatly
from region to region.
The very best of Darjeeling tea is grown high in the foothills of the Himalayas.
It has a subtle spicy aroma, and makes a fabulous iced beverage.
It is equally delicious when drunk hot with milk or lemon.
Darjeeling is sometimes referred to as the 'champagne of tea'.
3) EARL GREY
This wonderful blend is scented with oil of bergamot.
It was originally created for Earl Grey II in the 1830s, and is thought to be the very first scented tea drunk in the West.
Fabulous with milk, or just a juicy slice of lemon.
4) ENGLISH BREAKFAST
This blend has changed many times since its birth.
The name English Breakfast tea was originally indicative of a mix of Keemun black tea. In time it was associated with any Chinese
black tea, and finally a blend of small-leaf Ceylon and India teas.
Modern day, it can be used to refer to any of the above combinations.
It is, however, applied only to blends which are brisk in character and possess a medium body.
These brews are almost always drunk with milk.
5) IRISH BREAKFAST
Usually made with a heavy base of Assam leaves blended with other India teas.
This brew has a heavier body and a more pungent flavor than English Breakfast tea.
Terrific served with milk.
Scented white jasmine flowers are
picked in the morning and kept in a cool environment until nightfall.
They are then piled
next to green tea leaves which have been heat-dried.
The tea leaves absorb to fragrance emitted from the highly aromatic
Be aware that there is a significant difference between teas which have been produced in this manner and those scented with extracts and oils.
Traditionally, jasmine tea is served after a meal as a digestive aid.
7) LAPSANG SOUCHONG
Large tea leaves are smoked in baskets over oak chips to give this distinctive variety its renowned flavor.
Best drunk with little or no milk.
Most often grown in China, but rarely consumed there.
8) ROSE POUCHONG
Natural rose oil used to scent black tea produces a Rose Pouchong blend.
A truly amazing summer brew.
9) RUSSIAN CARAVAN
The main characteristic of Russian Caravan teas are their smoky aroma and flavor.
This originated as a by-product of their import from China.
As they were transported, by caravan, into Russia they absorbed
smoke from the evening campfires giving them their 'smoky' qualities.
Today, tea blends of many different varieties are cured with smoke to produce this wonderful brew.