Do you like tea? Well, of course, you do if you are reading this. Even if it isn’t your absolute favourite, there has to be a tea out there that you prefer over others. Tea can be a great thing to drink at pretty much anytime for any occasion. It contains only a third or so of caffeine that coffee does, it gives you a gentler wake up in the morning, which allows you to drink more and more often. This is great because tea leaves can be steeped many times before they are depleted of their flavour.
Different types of tea can also be rich in l-theanine, which is an amino acid that studies have linked to feelings of calmness and well-being.
Compare picking tea leaves to slicing an apple. Plucking a lead will start the process of a complex set of oxidative and enzymatic reactions, which ends in brown plant tissues and a distinctly different flavour and aroma form when the lead was first picked.
The goal of making green tea is to stop these reactions as soon as possible, allowing a preservation of flavour. Green teas can taste like spring peas, fresh cut grass, toasted hazelnut and more. Quality greens are very aromatic and sweet on the tongue.
There is much buzz around green tea’s health benefits, thanks to the amount of antioxidants that are preserved within the leaf due to halting the oxidation quickly.
If you let freshly grown tea leaves oxidize, then dry them, you end up with the opposite of green tea: black tea. This oxidation, along with careful rolling and kneading of the leaves, will give the tea malty and tannic compounds fruity and chocolate flavours. Because of the oxidation level, most tea drinkers will be able to sip on black tea more easily on an empty stomach than green tea. Black tea will also lead to stronger flavours and a fuller body, which is why it pairs so well with milk, sugar, honey, spices or even jam.
Oolong lies in between green tea and black tea in terms of oxidation. Oolong teas vastly differ in flavour and aroma, which all depend on how they are processed. The way that an oolong tea is withered, kneaded, fired, rolled, dried and roasted can take a lifetime to master. Oolong tea grown in the high mountains can look almost as green as green tea.
While oolong tea is intensive in its processing, white tea puts an emphasis on letting nature do the work. Plucked tea leaves are air dried using minimal processing, either by harnessing the sun or using air vents. As the leaves dry they undergo slight oxidation, and develop a rich, creamy body with subtle floral flavours. White teas can be pretty delicate.
Fermented and Aged Tea
There are a large number of teas, which are aged for months, years or even decades! Before they are drunk. While green teas and light oolongs are best consumed fresh, a number of black, white and oolong teas can develop new flavours and depths with age.