Basic Tea Knowledge
All teas come from the plant Camellia Sinensis
There are many cultivars within the Camellia Sinensis family, however, only two main species are used in the production of tea: Camellia sinensis var. sinensis and Camellia sinensis var. assamica.
The Camellia sinensis var. sinensis sub-species are native to Southeast China. They are smaller, darker leaves, and are resistant to cold and drought than other varieties. It is often grown at high altitudes and in regions with difficult climatic conditions. It's suitable for making green and oolong teas.
The Camellia sinensis var. assamica is native to India. Its leaves are larger, thicker, less aromatic, and quite robust and very dark when oxidized. Its commonly used to making more processed tea such as black teas and puer.
There are four essential elements that greatly influence the quality of the tea:
- The terroir including soil, climate, and altitude
- Time of the year for harvesting
- Harvesting method - by hand or machine. Picking only buds or bud and three leaves.
- Processing methods including withering, oxidation, panning, rolling, drying and firing
What is oolong tea?
- Freshly harvested tea leaves undergo different oxidation levels to transform into any type of tea.
- Green tea is made with minimal oxidation while black tea is 100% oxidized.
- Oolong tea is partially oxidized to create a wide range of aromas and tastes.
- Oolong tea that undergoes 10-45% oxidation has slightly sweet floral aromas while those that undergo 45-70% oxidation, produces a woody, fruity, and sometimes caramelized notes.
What is pu'er tea?
- One of the oldest families of tea which originated in southern Yunnan.
- Its unique method of processing results in rich, smooth, aromatic, and earthy flavor with complex overtones which improves over time.
- Pu'er comes in loose leaves or compressed in cake form.
- There are two types of pu'er tea: Sheng (raw) and Shou (cooked).
- Sheng pu'er teas are fermented naturally over a long aging period. The best Sheng teas come from the older tea trees. The leaves are dark green, with a tea broth that is bright yellow or orange.
- Shou pu'er teas are processed in the same way as the Sheng variety, but they are exposed to a rapid fermentation over 45 to 60 days to speed up the aging process.
- Pu'er tea can be stored and aged for many years in a cool, dry environment which will further mellowing effect and adds smoothness and complexity.