Thursday, September 15, 2016

Tea - White, Green, Oolong, and Black

Tea, Teabags, Black Background, MacroQuite a few people I know think tea is Lipton's, Nestea, or possibly Red Rose.  If they serve tea, they heat water, pop a tea bag in and its done but some of us prefer a better cut of tea. 

Did you know that White, Green, Oolong, and Black tea all come form the same plant?  It comes from the Camellia sinensis plant and the final product depends on how it is processed.

White tea is the least processed version of tea.  Only a few baby leaves are picked at a time and the leaves are dried.  This is considered the healthiest type of tea because it still has most of the antioxidants.  The leaves are silvery white and the taste is very mild and almost sweet.  Silver Needles and White Peony are easily found varieties of white tea. 

Green tea is next on the list.  Green tea is actually made of withered tea leaves that are picked and then steamed or fired to halt the leaf enzyme that initiates oxidation.  This is why the leaves stay green.  Furthermore, green tea is reputed to be  high in antioxidants and healthy for you.  The flavor of green tea ranges from grassy to sweet or might be fruity or nutty depending on the variety and the way it was steamed or fired.  This tea is very hard to properly brew. 

Oolong tea is the usual variety served in Chinese restaurants.  Oolong is usually brownish in color and is semi-oxidized.  After leaves are picked they are bruised to release the enzyme for oxidation.  The outer part of the leaf is allowed to oxidize but the center part remains green which is why there is such a variation in flavors and colors of the finished product.  The amount of oxidation determines whether the finished product is closer to a green tea or a black tea.

Black tea is what Americans and the British are used to drinking.  The leaves have been fully oxidized and once the oxidation has reached a certain point, the leaves are fired to seal the leaf and allow it to fully dry.  The oxidation process is what creates the dark, malty taste we are used to.  I adore Black Dragon Pearl tea but its harder to find than its green cousin.

Right now, I'm drinking an Oolong whose final product is more greenish and whose flavor is light and sweet.  I do not put anything in my tea, unless I'm drinking Chai.  I don't even like sugar in my tea because it interferes with the unique flavor of each type of tea. 

Please note that each tea brews best at a different temperature.  Rule of thumb is you use the lower temps for the white and green teas, while you can use the higher temps for Oolong and boiling water for black.  I'm off to enjoy a fresh cup of hot tea.  Have a good day.

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