Almost everyone these days is aware that tea is a very healthy drink, but apart from green and black teas, not many seem to know anything much about tea at all. So what teas are available and what's the best ways to prepare them?
All tea comes from a plant called Camellia sinensis, and the differences between each type of tea is down to where it's grown and how it's processed. Tea is primarily grown in Asia, with China, Japan, Sri Lanka and India being well-known tea producing nations. The teas produced generally fall into four broad categories.
White tea is usually the one that most people have never heard of. It's very lightly processed, with the leaves being steamed and dried. Only young leaves and buds are used, and this gives it a very light colour and a delicate taste. Despite the media hype over green tea, this is thought to be the tea that's most beneficial for health.
Green tea is the one that media is always telling us to drink, as is probably one of the most popular teas around the world. Because of its popularity, more research has been done on it, and hence that is why we hear so much about it. Green teas are picked, dried and heat treated to stop the fermentation process. After the heat treatment, the leaves are then dried again. The tea is usually a yellow or green colour and can have a variety of different tastes.
Oolong tea is mostly drunk in China, and it's what you are usually served in a Chinese restaurant. This tea is processed by shaking the tea as it's drying, causing damage to the leaves. This induces fermentation and oxidization. After varying amounts of fermentation, the leaves are pan fried to stop the process. The longer the leaves are left to ferment, the stronger the tea will be.
Black tea will be very familiar to British people, as this is usually the type of tea that they drink. This tea is fully fermented, which is why the tea leaves become black. This results in the strong taste that British people tend to like. While this tea is sold loose in most Asian countries, it's most often sold as tea bags in the UK and other Western countries.
How To Make the Perfect Pot of Tea
Everyone has a slightly different idea of what makes a perfect pot of tea, but there are some general rules that you should follow.
If you're making tea for yourself you can use a cup. However, tea drinking is a social occasion, in Britain, going out for afternoon tea with friends is incredibly popular. If you’re serving several people in your home, you may want to buy one of these teapots for your tea party. The general rule for serving tea to two or more people is to use a large teapot and add one teaspoon of tea leaves for each person and one extra for the pot. The reason you need a large teapot is because the tea leaves need enough space to allow their true flavour to come out. This is why many tea lovers tend not to use teabags.
While it's ok to add water close to boiling point to black or oolong teas, the water for green and white teas needs to be a little cooler. One trick that many tea drinkers use is to add a couple of ice cubes to boiling water, as this lowers the temperature enough. Adding boiling water to white or green teas will damage the leaves, and impair the taste.