Blog #730 Tea 101

We are looking at caffeinated drinks – and starting looking at tea

So – time to learn about about tea – with Tea-101!!!

The following are pretty much all from the linked article!!!  (And, I learned a lot from reading this)

There are three main categories of tea: true tea, herbal tea, and flavored tea. 

Many new tea drinkers are surprised to find out that herbal teas and flavored teas aren’t really teas. That’s because these types of tea don’t contain any plant parts of the tea plant known by the scientific name Camellia sinensis. Herbal teas and flavored teas infuse spices, herbs, and flowers in water to make what’s called a tisane. Read on to find out more about these different categories of tea.

There are five true teas: white tea, green tea, oolong tea, black tea, and pu-erh tea. These are the teas most scientists refer to when doing research on the health benefits of tea.

Even though these teas come from the leaves of the same tea plant, they differ wildly in flavor, aroma, and appearance.

White tea is the least processed true tea. It undergoes the simplest production process, which is designed to maintain its natural look and flavor. Tea leaves are plucked by hand and then immediately dried outdoors in natural sunlight. Only the youngest leaves of the tea plant are used to make white tea.

Green tea is made from leaves that are only minimally processed. Green tea leaves are not oxidized, but they do undergo a slightly longer production process than white teas. 

Green tea leaves are hand harvested and immediately transported to an onsite production facility. Here, the tea leaves are spread out on large bamboo or cloth mats where they are withered. This step of the production process helps to reduce moisture content of the tea leaves.

Once the leaves are limp, they are blasted with heat to prevent oxidation. In general, green tea leaves are either pan-fried or steamed during the drying process. As the tea leaves are being dried, tea masters begin to shape the tea leaves.

Oolong tea is a semi-oxidized tea. The tea leaves are allowed to oxidize, but only for a short period of time. The flavor and color of oolong tea are stronger than green tea, but more mellow than black tea.

Oolong tea leaves undergo a moderate production process consisting of: hand harvesting, withering, rolling, short-term oxidation, and drying.

The plucked tea leaves are withered and bruised in bamboo baskets or on bamboo mats. The bruising exposes enzymes in the tea leaves to oxygen. These enzymes begin a controlled fermentation process that alters the flavor and color of the leaves.

Black tea is the most processed of the true tea varieties. It undergoes a process of withering, rolling, oxidation, and drying. The lengthy production process produces a tea that is bold and reminiscent of the flavor of coffee.

Black teas are most commonly produced in China, India, Sri Lanka, and Africa. The largest black tea growing regions are the Assam and Darjeeling areas of India. This is followed by Nilgiri, Sri Lanka—the third largest growing region in the country formerly known as Ceylon.

Black teas like oolong teas, are typically named after the regions in which they are produced. Black teas cultivated in Assam are made using the tea variety called Camellia sinensis var. assamica. These teas are fully oxidized and appear deep black in color.

Herbal teas do not contain any leaves from the tea plant. Instead, these beverages are made by infusing spices, herbs, flowers, and twigs in hot water. There are thousands of flavors when it comes to herbal teas due to the wide variety of plants used to make infusions.

Popular spice teas include turmeric tea, ginger tea, and peppermint tea. There are also hundreds of floral teas such as hibiscus tea, lavender tea, and jasmine tea. 

Flavored teas are made by combining true teas with herbal tisanes. A true tea such as green tea or black tea is used as a base while herbs, spices, and flowers are added to create stunning flavor profiles. 

Some of the most popular flavored teas include Earl Grey and masala chai. Earl Grey is a popular British tea that infuses black tea with bergamot orange. It is a citrusy delight that blends fruity and malty flavors. 

Masala chai is a popular Indian beverage that combines spices and a black tea base. 


Okay, tea-101 overview is largely done.  (I did skip pu-erh tea!!)

Moving forward we’ll eventually get into caffeinated teas, (and non-caffeinated teas), benefits of teas and more!!!  I’m not sure it will move me off my coffee base, but … who knows!! I might even learn to hold up my pinkie when I sip tea!!

Most of my tea drinking is pure black tea from Sri Lanka that I brew to make iced tea!!  In the summer I probably drink four times as much (or more) unsweet iced tea as I do coffee.  And, of course, it is summer about 9 months of the year in Central Texas. I have three large containers in the refrigerator now!!!


Posted by Bruce White

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