We all know tea when we see it, but what is tea?
How are some teas white, some green, some black and what the heck is oolong?
And what about peppermint or chamomile? Is that tea?
Today, we're doing a tea 101 to really introduce you to our favourite little plants.
SO... WHAT IS TEA?
All tea comes from one plant with two varieties:
- Camellia Sinensis
- Camellia Assamica
That's right, from the richest black tea in your cupboard, to the most delicate white tea... they all derive from the same plant!
HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?
The location, which leaves are plucked from the bush (or tree), and how they are processed after harvest, determines the type of tea - from white, green, oolong to pu-erh and black.
HOW TO PROCESS TEA
There can be a few or several steps to processing the tea leaf :
Shade drying: a very minimalistic approach to setting the tea leaves;
Withering: this reduces the moisture and wilts the tea leaves;
Firing: This halts oxidation & dries the tea;
Rolling: this ruptures tea cells and releases enzymes;
Oxidizing: this causes enzymes to react with the air (like how your banana gets brown sitting out for some time)
VARIETIES OF TEA
White Tea: Rare and delicate, hardly touched or processed in any way
Green Tea: little to no oxidation (yes, matcha is included as a green tea!)
Oolong Tea: Partially oxidized and therefore can range between green to black
Black Tea: Fully oxidized
Pu-erh: Fermented tea *2 categories of Sheng and Shou*
TISANES & HERBALS
The beverage we know and love as tea technically must derive from the Camellia Sinensis plant... so what about all the other things we steep?
Those are known as tisanes or herbal infusions!
The most popular being:
Rooibos: South African Plant
Yerba Mate: South American Plant
Herbals: All the wonderful plants such as peppermint, chamomile, lemongrass, and on and on, that we concoct into healing beverages
So, there you have it. A little "Tea 101" on the ins and outs of camellia sinensis!
TL;DR: All tea comes from the same plant, with different processing techniques and oxidization rates in order to yield different categories of tea!