If you love drinking tea, then you probably know about all the different varieties and techniques for preparation that are common around the world. You also consider yourself a connoisseur, even if friends and family tease you for being a snob about the tea you drink. Did you know that when you enter a Chinese restaurant, one of the first offerings to reach the table is a pot of tea and some cups? Unfortunately, that service is starting to disappear. Here is a profile on the deliciousness of tea.
What is Tea?
Tea is one of the most popular beverages in the entire world. It comes from the leaves of a plant known as Camellia sinensis, which means closely related cousins. Six types of tea all derive from this one magical plant: green, yellow, white, oolong, black, and pu-erh. How each flavor of tea develop depends on the oxidation process and how long the leaves are allowed to turn brown. Tea plants are evergreen, and will eventually turn into trees if they are left alone long enough. So now that you know a little bit more about what makes tea so great let’s learn about oxidation.
What Does Oxidation Mean?
You might have heard about oxidation in other contexts before. From a scientific perspective, it’s what happens to tea when it is converted from the raw plant to the leaves that you can drink after adding hot water. The leaves being rolled around and bruised activate hidden enzymes which in turn release special juices that react to the air around them and turn the leaves brown. Without oxidation happening, we wouldn’t have all the different varieties of tea that we’re all so fond of today. Now let’s turn our attention to the categories of tea that we can all take the time to enjoy.
What Are the Different Categories of Tea?
- Green: Green tea isn’t oxidized at all. It’s very fresh and tends to carry vegetable notes. Green tea is fired as soon as it is picked to prevent oxidation from happening.
- Yellow: Yellow is only just oxidized a little bit, and given a small amount of fermentation. Unfortunately, this type is also tough to find. The flavor is also delightfully delicate.
- White: White is very lightly oxidized. It is soft and sweet and often tastes of flowers. They’re left to air dry on racks made of bamboo.
- Oolong: Oolong can run the gamut when it comes to oxidation. It can be light or dark. Many different flavors are present in oolong. However, preparation can take much longer than other types of tea.
- Black: Black leaves are fully oxidized. Their flavors are much more complex and complicated.
- Dark: Also known as Pu-erh tea, the brunette leaves are fully oxidized and fermented. This produces the most robust flavors. They are also smooth and mellow
- Herbal teas are their own species of tea – they’re made with spices, herbs, and fruit. The don’t have caffeine, except for yerba mate which is another caffeinated herb commonly called tea, but isn’t.
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