QUICK GUIDE TO TEA
Whatever the kind, white, green, yellow, oolong or black, all tea comes from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis. It is simply the way the plucked leaves are processed, that changes its character, chemical composition and appearance.
White tea is thought by many to be one of the highest prized teas you can drink. Always handpicked, a high quality white tea, such as Silver Needles, is given such care ensuring the natural withering process and gentle drying are the only process the leaves are exposed to. White tea is the name given to the new growth buds and young leaves that are plucked before they are fully opened. It is the silver hairs on the new buds that give the young leaves a white appearance. The removal of any real processing is believed to yield the high antioxidant health benefits associated with white tea identified in recent studies. Pale in colour with a wonderful, light refreshing taste white tea is enjoyed best without milk.
Green tea is one of the least processed teas and involves plucking the leaves once they have fully opened. As a result, green tea retains high levels of antioxidants (polyphenols), often referred to as ECGC or catechins and it is their abundance that provides us with specific green tea health benefits reported in many of the leading health journals – one of the more topical ones is of course green tea’s reported potential to boost the metabolism and burn fat to aid weight loss.
Various regions throughout the world produce green tea, each with their own unique taste. One such green tea, originating from Japan, is known as Matcha, a form of green tea where the leaves are pulverised into a fine powder. When Matcha is infused, the whole leaf is consumed thus causing higher levels of antioxidants to be absorbed and as such is considered to be very healthy.
Pouchong is classed as between Oolong tea and Green tea. It has a more mellow taste than Oolong tea yet stronger than Green tea. Pouchong tea is considered to be a special taste by tea experts all over the world. Pouchong tea is only slightly oxidised, between 8 and 10 % and the process involves solar withering, indoor withering, panning, rolling and then drying for the finished tea which produces a light delicate taste with a smooth finish.
Oolong teas as a group, are classed as ‘semi-oxidised’ which means the tea leaves have been left to wither, a process which produces a chemical change in the leaf known as oxidation. A physical change is visible as the tea leaves begin to curl and the edges begin to turn a coppery colour. To produce Oolong tea, the oxidation process is stopped before it is fully completed and thus the leaves are ‘semi -oxidised’. The varieties available of oolong tea are largely due to where the tea is grown and also the point when the oxidisation is stopped. This is where the skill of the tea master comes into play to ensure the quality and consistency required for that specific oolong tea is met. Colour and taste of oolongs obviously vary but are often referred to as light or dark oolongs. Oolong tea’, ‘wulong tea’, ‘wuyi tea’, ‘wu yi’ tea – what’s the difference? These are simply names for the same thing: oolong tea. The different names originate from the different areas they are produced. As with white and green tea, oolong teas are also known for their positive effect on health, in particular their potential to boost the metabolism and burn fat as an aid to weight loss.
Black tea, in its various forms, is probably the most well known in Western culture. The reason black tea is different from green tea , oolong or white tea is because the plucked leaves are fully oxidised. There are many variations of methods and processes used by tea producing regions throughout the world, hence the wonderful variety of colour and flavour. Breakfast teas are usually blends of one or more black teas from different countries. Darjeeling teas are most often from single tea estates from the Darjeeling region in India and are often referred to as the ‘Champagne of Teas’.