Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world (after water). It's on every menu basically everywhere, you can drink it hot or cold, but have you ever really thought about what it actually is? We'll give you the 411 on everything you need to know here!
But what exactly is tea?
“Tea” as we know it can really be broken up into two categories — actual tea (black, green & white), which is derived from the Camellia Sinensis plant, and everything else commonly known as tea is an herb or botanical (eg, chamomile, peppermint, lemon verbena).
In the wild, a tea plant may grow to be tree-sized, but cultivated tea plants are pruned to shrub size. Botanists identify two primary varieties of the tea plant: Camellia sinensis sinensis and Camellia sinensis assamica.
Tea is veritable treasure trove in health benefits. It includes vitamins B2, B1and B6; minerals such as potassium, manganese, folic acid, calcium; and a wealth of antioxidants — in particular, tea contains catechins, which protect against free radicals. Green tea has been very well-studied and its antioxidant levels have been reported to be 100 times more effective than vitamin c in protecting our immune systems.
So what’s the different between the four main types of tea?
Black tea is the most processed of all teas, as it is fully oxidized (oxidation is the chemical process that results in the browning of tea leaves). The fresh leaves are withered for a number of hours, and then rolled. After they have oxidized sufficiently, the leaves are heated and then dried in wood fires. Typical preparation: brew at 195-205 degrees for two minutes.
Green tea is minimally oxidized — the leaves are usually withered but not rolled. Following the brief oxidation period, the leaves are steamed or pan-fried to halt oxidation, and then rolled again. Typical preparation: brew at 170-180 degrees for 2-3 minutes.
White tea is the least processed of all teas, and the leaves are not oxidized. White tea gets its color because only the top leaves and immature buds are picked. Typical preparation: brew at 170-180 degrees for 3-5 minutes.
Oolong teas are processed similarly to black teas — they are withered and then rolled or shaken; however oolongs are only oxidized for about half the time of typical black teas. Typical preparation: brew at 195-205 degrees for 3-6 minutes.
Now you have may seen other names as well. Here is a breakdown:
- Lapsang Souchong (this is smokey because of the pine wood fire used in final drying process)
- Hyson & Young Hyson
- Silver Needle
- White Peony or Pai Mu Tan
- Darjeeling White
- Wuyi Rock Oolongs from the Fujian Province
- Ti Kuan Yin
- Formosa Oolong
Ready for a cuppa tea now? Brew up something delicious (and maybe add a spike or two!).
The Owl's Brew Crew