Next to water, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world. More popular than coffee! A recent study shows that more than 80% of U.S. households consume tea on a daily basis. This market is only getting larger with the variety of flavors and styles. Powdered teas, loose leaf teas, custom blended teas and more.
Teas have been used for thousands of years because of their health and therapeutic benefits, sleep aids, detoxification abilities and more.
The most crucial part, what defines the categories of tea, is Oxidizing. Oxidation occurs when the enzymes in the tea leaf interact with oxygen. This can happen through rolling, cutting or crushing, or more slowly through the natural decomposition of the leaf.
The five basic styles of tea are White, Green, Oolong, Black and Pu Erh.
White Tea is essentially unprocessed tea. White tea is simply plucked and allowed to wither dry. If the withering isn't cooperating, the leaves may be put into a gentle tumble dryer on very, very low heat to assist. The leaves are not rolled or shaped. White teas produce very pale green or yellow liquor and are the most delicate in flavor and aroma.
Green Tea is plucked, withered and rolled. It is not oxidized because during the rolling process, oxidation is prevented by applying heat. For green tea, the fresh leaves are either steamed or pan-fired to a temperature hot enough to stop the enzymes from browning the leaf. The leaves are shaped by curling with the fingers, pressing into the sides of the wok, rolling and swirling. The liquor of a green tea is typically a green or yellow color, and flavors range from toasty, grassy (pan fired teas) to fresh steamed greens (steamed teas) with mild, vegetable-like astringency.
Oolong Tea is one of the most time-consuming teas to create. It utilizes all of the five basic steps, with rolling and oxidizing done repeatedly. The leaves are gently rolled, then allowed to rest and oxidize for a while. Then they'll be rolled again, then oxidized, over and over. Over the course of many hours or days, a beautiful layering of aroma and flavor is created. Oolongs typically have much more complex flavor than Green or White teas, with very smooth, soft astringency and rich in floral or fruity flavors. Because of their smooth yet rich flavor profiles, Oolongs are ideal for those new to tea drinking.
Black Tea also utilizes all five basic steps, but is allowed to oxidize more completely. The tea is completely made within a day. The brewed liquor of a Black tea ranges between dark brown and deep red. Black teas offer the strongest flavors and, in some cases, greatest astringency. Black teas, particularly those from India and Sri Lanka, are regularly drunk with milk and sugar and are the most popular bases for iced tea.
Pu Erh Tea
Pu Erh Tea undergoes a process similar to Green tea, but before the leaf is dried, it's aged either as loose-leaf tea or pressed into dense cakes and decorative shapes. Pu Erh is a fermented tea. The aging process can last anywhere from a few months to several years. Very old, well-stored Pu Erhs are considered "living teas", just like wine. They are prized for their earthy, woodsy or musty aroma and rich, smooth taste.