Types of Tea
These are the most delicate of teas and subtle in flavour. White Tea is made entirely from the top two leaves and bud that are covered with whitish hairs. The buds are plucked before they open, the leaves are then either dried or steamed and dried. As the leaves are neither pan fired or oxidized, they remain almost unaltered.
Yerba Mate Tea
Prepared from the leaves and stems of a South American evergreen shrub related to the holly. Rich in caffeine and antioxidants.
Rooibos is a naturally caffeine free herbal from South Africa. The tiny leaves from the bush are green when harvested and allowed to oxidize, turning red. Rich in antioxidants.
Herbal and Fruit Teas
Herbal teas are not a true tea as they do not come from the camellia sinensis plant, but are blended using herbs, flowers, fruits and spices. As they do not contain tea leaves, herbal blends are caffeine free and can be enjoyed any time of day.
Produced in the Yunnan Province of China, this tea is often placed in a category of its own. Pu-erh tea is separated from white, green, oolong and black teas due to the aging of the tea as well as the double fermentation. Pu-erh is the only tea that is intentionally aged, becoming more expensive and desirable the older it gets. Pu-erh tea is a living tea that becomes alive during an amazing artisan process that facilitates the development of active yeast cultures that thrive in true pu-erh tea.
The two beneficial yeasts - which create the unique character of Pu-erh tea, are known as the yellow and white yeast types. During the hotter months of the year, yellow yeast is in its most active state and thrives. This is the reason why Pu-erh tea is called "after oxidized tea." It is during these hotter seasons that Pu-erh tea continues to oxidize. In order to manipulate the humidity critical for the processing of this tea, Pu-erh is stored in caves high up in the mountains of Yunnan for several months.
Golden Pur-erh has been aged for five years in a dark cave in Yunnan Province. This aging process in a relatively high humidity environment has mellowed the elemental character of the tea when compared to young Pu-erh (aged about 1 year). As with wine, young pu-erh is considered the least valuable whereas pu-erh 5 years or older is more highly prized. The taste of pu-erh becomes mellower with age.
Black Tea is a fully fermented (oxidized) tea. It is the most common form of tea in southern Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc.). Black tea is generally stronger in flavour and contains more caffeine than the more lightly oxidized teas. The characteristic flavours of black tea range from flowery to fruity, nutty and spicy.
Oolong tea is semi-fermented, which is one of the reasons it has such a unique character. The semi-fermentation gives the tea a little bit more body than a green tea but less body than a black tea, and gives the flavour a very unique twist. The edges of the leaves are slightly bruised (brownish), to start the oxidation process. Because they are more full-bodied than green teas, oolong teas must not be picked too early or at too tender a stage.
They must be produced immediately. Unlike leaves for green tea, those destined to be oolong are wilted in the direct sun and then shaken in tubular bamboo baskets to bruise the leaf edges. The bruising is what make the edges oxidize faster than the center. After 15-25 minutes (depending upon ambient temperature and humidity levels) the tea is fired, locking in the special flavour profile.
Green Tea is a lightly oxidized (5-15%) tea. The oxidation process is stopped after a minimal amount of oxidation by application of heat; either with steam, a traditional Japanese method; or by dry cooking in hot pans, the traditional Chinese method. Green tea is processed within one to two days of harvesting.