Tea (pt1)

By 6-years old I’d had my first cup of tea and have been drinking it ever since. Years later I discovered that the world’s most consumed beverage has a long, complicated and sometimes dark past, particularly when it comes to large scale production. Over the next few weeks I’m going try to break down about 4,000 years of history into bite-size pieces.

First, to distinguish the six main types of tea. Yes, there are other caffeinated and caffeine-free beverages that are brewed in hot water (e.g. rooibos, mate, tisane and herbal) that are called tea but I’m talking about beverages that brewed from the Camellia Sinensis plant or tea bush.Other varieties of tea are made by different method of mixing or adding other ingredients.

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(White tea with hibiscus, apple, elderberries, rosehip, pineapple, red & blue cornflowers, stevia, strawberries, flavour)

 

White

The leaves and buds of the tea bush are picked. They are then left to wither naturally in sunlight before they being lightly rolled and dried. It is meant to be brewed at 80C for no longer than three minutes.

Green

The tea leaves are picked and then withered, steamed and panned, rolled and then heated again.  Sometimes this step is done multiple times, to extend shelf life. Finally, the leaves are rolled and dried. Like white tea, it’s meant to be brewed at 80C for no longer than three minutes.

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(Green tea pearls. The leaves are rolled into balls)

Oolong

After picking, the leaves are withered, shaken or tossed in a basket then partially oxidated. This is followed by baking or panning and rolling the leaves. Finally they’re fired or heated again. The oolong process is half way between green and black tea, so it’s brewed at 80-90C for at least 3 minutes.

Black

This tea possibly has the most steps to process. After the leaves are picked and air-blow withered, they’re rolled or lightly crushed then full oxidation under controlled temperature and humidity. The leaves are then either rolled or chopped and then heated to stop the oxidation. It’s brewed at 100C for approximately 4 minutes, give or take a minute.

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(Rolled black tea)

Pu-erh

The tea leaves are dried and rolled, and then they’re exposed to humidity and oxygen. The leaves are put into a pile then sprayed until the moisture level is 20-30%. About a week later the pile is turned. The pile is turned two more times, about a week apart. They’re dried in the sun for a day. It can either be stored loose or pressed into shaped, including, bricks, discs, bowls or mushrooms. It is brewed at 100C for up to 5 minutes.

Yellow

Is similarly to green tea but the first step is slower and the leaves are left to yellow. They’re then rolled and dried. Brewed at 80C for long longer than 2 minutes.

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Come back next week to read about tea culture.

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