Chinese Tea Information and Types of Tea
Tea is the second most consumed beverage behind water. There must be something special about this brewed beverage. If we are to discuss tea and the different types of teas, we must first cover what it actually is. What is Tea? Chinese Tea is basically the dried and processed leaves of only one species of plant called camellia sinensis. Interestingly enough, herbal teas or herbal infusions are not really teas, but simply dried flowers and/or herbs.
Even though all teas come from only one species, there are three major varietals:
The China – Small leaves and generally thrives at higher altitudes.
The India (or Assam) – Larger leaves and generally thrives at lower altitudes.
The Hybrid – Kind of in-between the Chinese and Indian.
Earlier, I talked about the processing of the camellia’s leaves. There are four main methods of processing and each produces a different type of Chinese tea. These four main types are:
* White Tea
* Green Tea
* Black Tea
* Oolong Tea
A Tea for Everyone:
Some teas are flavored with oils or scented with flower petals during the processing stage. Some teas are blends of the four main types listed above. One of my favorites is chai tea which is black tea brewed with various spices. Finally, let’s not forget refreshing iced tea!
What is Oolong Tea?
Oolong tea is nothing more than the leaves of the camellia sinensis that have been processed a certain way. It is one of the four types of teas (white, green, oolong, and black).
Oolong teas are the most difficult of the four types of teas to process. The best way to describe oolong tea is that they are somewhere in between green and black tea. This is because they are only partially oxidized during the processing.
What is Tea Processing?
Processing tea is generally considered the art of tea. It is where many of the subtleties in taste, body, and overall character are created.
In its most basic form, it is taking the raw green leaves and deciding whether or not, and how much oxidation (or fermentation) should take place before drying them out.
Tea leaves have enzymes in their veins. When the leaf is broken, bruised, or crushed, the enzymes are exposed to oxygen resulting in oxidation. The amount of oxidation depends upon how much of the enzymes are exposed and for how long.
The Processing of Oolong Tea:
The processing of oolong tea requires only a partial oxidation of the leaves. After the leaves are plucked, they are laid out to wither for about 8 to 24 hours. This lets most of the water evaporate.
Then the leaves are tossed in baskets in order to bruise the edges of the leaves. This bruising only causes the leaves to partially oxidize because only a portion of the enzymes are exposed to air.
Next, the leaves steamed in order to neutralize the enzymes and stop any oxidation. Oolong tea can have varying degrees of oxidation. Some are closer to black teas, and some are closer to green.
After that, a final drying takes place. From there, it goes off to be sorted, graded, and packaged.
Filed Under: Drink