- Tea Basics
Not many know that tea is the second most popular drink after water. That's right. Also, for many nations it is not just a drink but a complex part of the culture and traditons.
WHERE DOES TEA COME FROM
Although, known in different forms, shades, flavours, tea is a very simple evergreen plant. Also known as Camelia Sinensis, tea grows two leaves and a bud that gardeners pluck to produce many teas, among which the most common are white, green, oolong and black.
Nowadays, you may find tea sourced from different regions, but its native land is Eastern and Southern Asia, primarily China, Japan and Sri Lanka.
If you wonder how is it possible for this simple plant to produce such wide variety of flavours, colour and even look of the leaves, here is the answer.
A main process that tea leaves need to undergo is called oxidation. This is the time when leaves are left in a room that has controlled climate to oxidize and turn darker. This is also the moment, when tea producers make decisions on the darkness of the leaves, the tea liquor and even the strength and nuances of the taste of the drink when it is steeped. A good rule of thumb is that the more the leaves are processed, the stronger the flavour is.
Then, the oxidation process is being stopped by steaming and drying and tea leaves are being shaped following different methods to form a variety of looks and allowing some of the essential oils to come through and enhance the flavours.
TYPES OF TEA
The level of oxidation or exposure to the elements, is what determines whether a tea is white, green, oolong or black.
As it already probably makes sense to you, white teas are the least processed teas and among the rearest teas in the world. Harney & Sons white tea is hand plucked, unopened silver or white buds that are air-dried and often loaded with downy hairs. White teas brew a subtle blend of sweetnessand vegetal flowers and have the least caffeine.
Green tea production methods vary but include oxidation and drying time with a focus to preserve the vivid green colour. Green teas normally have low caffeine content but a bit higher than in white teas.
Oolong tea was developed later than green and black teas. A repeated rolling process brings the tea leaves to the desired level of oxidation allowing darker colour and fuller but still light body. This tea is very fragrant and it has more caffeine than in green tea.
Black teas range from mellow Chinese tea to full bodied Assams from India. Often they are served with milk and sugar. Black teas are withered, rolled, fully oxidized and fired in an oven. The process created the characteristic warm, toasty flavour. In the finest black teas, complex flavours similar to honey malt and cocoa develop.
FUN FACT about HEBAL TEAS - Herbal Teas are not actual teas although we call them this way. The proper term for them is tisanes.
HOW TO BREW THE PERFECT CUPPA
Before you steep, always preheat your teapot/tea mug by filling it with boiling water to raise the temperature. Discard that water or use it for something else. Heat water to the correct temperature for the particular tea (see tea packiging for instructions) and fill the teapot/tea mug by pouring it over tea. If you're using loose tea, add 1 teaspoon (5g) of loose tea for every 8 oz cup of tea you're brewing. If you're using tea sachets or tea bags, use one tea sachet or teabag per teacup. Steep for the recommened on your tea package steeping time and discard tea.
TEMPERATURE AND STEEPING TIME
Following the brewing timeline and water temperature, you will be able to bring out the best flavours of the tea. Always ensure that you remove the tea after the steeping time has ended to prevent from becoming too strong. Happy steeping!
Note: First Flush Darjeeling needs to be steeped at 175° F for 3 minutes.
HOW TO STORE TEA TO MAINTAIN ITS FRESHNESS
Tea should be stored in sealed containers such Harney & Sons tea tins and resealable bags, away from light and in a cool place. Because tea picks up flavors and odors around it, keep coffee and spices away from your tea. Even though it is dry, tea can become stale after an extended period of time, so please ensure you consume it in a timely manner. Don't let it get old!