“I know of at least 100 types of tea” said the Englishman with a triumphant tone. “They are all grown in secret farms in China and can only be found there” he continued…
Now, if you were new to the tea world then you might just go on to believe the Englishman and who could blame you for that. Just pop down to your local store and you can see a whole shelf full of different teas from Sencha Green to Darjeeling Black and even one called Oolong! The truth about tea is though, “from just one plant we (the world) are able to produce all five types of tea.” That’s right, there are only five types of tea in this world and they all come from one special little plant known as Camellia Sinensis or as most know it… The tea plant.
The very first piece of knowledge every tea drinker should know is just how one plant can make five different teas. For today, let’s just begin with their names and a little history lesson on each.
Picked at the youngest possible time from the tea plant, White tea gets its name from the fine white hairs that grow on the buds of the plant. Grown almost exclusively in the Fujian province of China with Jianyang, Fuding and Songxi being the three major counties.
Way back in 1857 it was discovered that the white tea in the Fujian province had a superior taste compared to other white teas. What better reason to make Fujian province the home of white tea! It would take another 100 years for white tea to find its way to the West. This time gap is due to the fact that white tea is the least processed and hardest to store. This also makes white tea the healthiest of teas (don’t worry, I thought it was green as well). White tea is the least processed tea you can buy.
Green tea is part human cultivation and part natural state of the tea tree. Three weeks before harvest, the tea plant will be shaded from direct sunlight. The lack of sunlight forces the tea plant to produce more chlorophyll which gives the tea it’s green colour. This extra chlorophyll is also responsible for the higher caffeine content in green tea.
Lu Yu, a name synonymous with tea, wrote the book on tea, ‘tea classic’ (a pretty fitting name if you ask us!) He is the main man behind the popularity of green tea throughout the world.
Japan is the home of green tea, especially Matcha or powder form. Brought to Japan by Zen monks, it is the basis for Japans tea culture.
Oolong (best name award :D)
Originally named Wulong tea, which translates to black dragon in Chinese. Oolong tea finds its place a half step between Green tea and Black tea. I say this because you can get a Green Oolong and you can get a Black Oolong… It can get a little confusing.
I hold oxidization responsible for the confusion! Oolong tea is semi-oxidized which in essence means that it is somewhere between 10% (Green Oolong) and 90% (Black Oolong) oxidized. The oxidization process is initiated by the bruising of the leaves and buds by tumbling, rolling or shaking. It’s a pretty tough life for Oolong tea.
China and Taiwan are the major Oolong players but production methods are less similar than English and Chinese teas!
The most popular tea around the world, this is due to how easily Black tea can be transported and stored. Black tea owes its origins to China but like I mentioned above, it was so easy to transport that it didn’t take long for it to be exported throughout Asia, in to Europe (1610) and over to North America (1700).
Black tea is a product of full oxidization, which is often mistaken as fermentation. Black tea is dried until we are left with a leaf containing 0% water and a black colour.
This guy is the silver fox of teas. Like a fine wine, Pu-reh teas are the product of aged Black teas and can only be so called if they have been grown in Yunnan province of China. The tea plants that produce Pu-reh teas are said to be not only wild but also over one thousand years old, that’s pretty bad ass in the tea world.
Like Oolong tea, there are two types of Pu-reh tea; black and green. The difference been that after the process of bruising the leaves, a Black Oolong will be cooked under heat and the Green Oolong will not.
We all begin our tea journey somewhere and with this little and I mean little (I can’t wait to share more about the origins of each type of tea with you) back story, you can go out and choose which tea path you would like to follow. You could even follow them all! With so much history and such a bright future, now is the perfect time to get on board with tea 😀
All the best and all the tea