If you're new to tea, or just don't know that much about it, it can be a bit overwhelming. After all, it's the second most popular drink in the world (after water) and has thousands of varities. There are thousands of books and articles on the subject, probably a hundred for every year that tea has been in existence, and that's over 5,000 years. For the sake of simplicity (meaning, this blog, ;), here are five main groups of tea:
Green Tea - Arguably the most popular in the US because of its highly touted health benefits, and the most difficult to difficult to brew correctly because it can go bitter. Japanese Green Teas include Sencha, Genmaicha, Gyukuro and Matcha, and Chinese Green teas include Gunpowder and Longjing. Steaming or pan-firing are the two main methods of yielding Green Tea.
Black Tea - Probably the most well known Tea in the west, with flavors like Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Assam and Darjeeling. Black Teas are fully oxidized, as seen by their color (the opposite of Green Tea) and can be separated into a grading system based upon whether or not their leaves are full or broken. Black teas tend to have the most robust flavor, and the highest level of caffeine.
White Tea - The least processed of the teas, and also the rarest. If you thought that Green Tea's have the most antioxidants, you'd be wrong. White tea does because it isn't oxidized or rolled, it is dried by withering and steaming. Silver Needle and Bai Mudan are two of the most popular flavors, known for their delicate and complex tastes. Depending upon how the tea leaves are cultivated, most White Teas have less caffeine that Black or Green Tea.
Oolong Tea - Oolong is in between Green and Black with its level of oxidization, and are the most complex to produce (up to seven processes). Typically, a great Oolong can be steeped multiple times and can produce the widest arrays of flavor and aroma. Popular flavors include Baozhong, Da Hong Pao, and Jin Xuan. China and Taiwan are the originators of Oolong, but they are now grown throughout India, Japan, New Zealand, Sir Lanka and India.
Pu'erh - This is a fermented style, typically sold in cakes. It is separated into two groups: raw (green) and ripened (black). After the leaves are oxidized, a small mount of moisture is left, and the leaves are then aged for months or years. Like Champagne, this geographically indicated, and true Pu'erh can only come from one region (in the southern Yunnan Province). This type of tea has it's own legion of followers. A cake can last for months (or longer), and display a vast array of tastes over time.
Herbal Tea? Well, that's an infusion. If you see ingredients like lemongrass, barks, cinnamon, orange peel, chamomile or hibiscus, remember that they obviously did not come from the tea bush (Camellia sinensis).
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