There is no right or wrong way to consume this age-old beverage. Whether you enjoy your tea hot or cold or perhaps you have a ritual you like to follow. Tea is an art not a science in my opinion and this is where the beauty begins. I have my morning ritual. Each morning I wake up and enjoy a cup of whatever tea I’m feeling like that morning. Today it happened to be Zencha Sencha. I prefer to turn off all electronic devices and only appreciate what’s in the cup and that very moment of time. I don’t focus on what I need to do that day or what I did the day prior. This sets the tone for my day. So what is tea exactly?
Tea is the number two most consumed beverage in the world next to water. Many people don’t realize that all tea comes from the same plant. The name of this tea plant is called Camellia Sinensis. The best way to describe the process of how tea is made is to think of an apple. When you take a bite out of an apple and leave it out for a while what happens? It begins to change color due to oxidation taking effect. The same goes for tea. Once the leaf has been plucked from the bush, oxidation begins to set in. If the leaf is allowed to fully oxidize, voila! You have black tea. The darker the tea is the more oxidation and vice versa.
Ok so what about, White tea, Green tea, Oolong tea, Black tea and herbal tea? First let me start by saying that Herbal Tea is not actually “tea”. In order for something to be classified as a tea it has to come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. However because they resemble teas we have been accustomed to calling them teas. That’s ok, call it what you want to but at least now you know a little more about what’s in the cup.
White tea is the least processed of all teas. In most cases the leaf is plucked and then sun dried. White tea is a very delicately processed tea so they have to be very careful when handling the tea not to break the cell wall causing further oxidation during processing.
Green Tea is made by first plucking the leaves then firing (heating) them. In china they do this by hand in most cases gently rolling the tea in a heated wok allows the artisan to break the cell wall of the leaf releasing the tea liquor while the heat halts oxidation. In Japan the leaf is steamed to halt oxidation.
Oolong Tea is a tea that is considered to fall between a green and a black tea on the oxidation scale. Oolong is popular in China and Taiwan. In Taiwan this tea is pronounced as Oolong while in China they say Wulong. Some say tomato some say toemaato. Some regions prefer to process by hand while others prefer to use machine while crafting this tea.
Black tea is a fully oxidized tea making it the most robust in flavor. Black tea has two processing methods. One is known as CTC or (crush, tear, curl) this is mostly used in bagged tea as this method produces what are known as dust grades of tea. The other method is known as the Orthodox method of black tea processing. This is done by hand or machine and produces full leaf teas. At the end of processing the leaves are sorted into grades according to leaf size and whether or not the leaf is broken. China and India are the two largest producers of black tea.