After water, tea is the most popular drink in the world. We all know and appreciate the many aromas of the coveted hot beverage. But what do black, green, white and oolong tea have in common? You guessed right, they all come from the same plant, called Camellia Sinensis!
This evergreen plant grows in (sub-) tropical climates at a specific altitude.
Around 5000 years ago tea was mentioned in old scriptures and was processed for the first time in the hills of today’s northern Myanmar and south China. From here the medical plant spread and was bred further with ever more knowledge. Up until today it is cultivated in the region and far beyond.
Yet, how is it possible that the very same plant can be so versatile in aroma, smell and colour? That is due to the processing of the leaves!
To produce black tea the harvested leaves are grated so that the cell walls are destroyed and a fermentation process is set in motion. The leaves turn copper. During this process everything gets presorted, rearranged, shaken, sieved and restacked so that after the drying period the desired black tea is ready.
However, to produce green tea you want to prevent this fermentation process. The leaves are heated up only briefly and gently, by roasting or steaming. Through this the leaves stay green in colour and retain their fresh taste.
Oolong tea belongs to the so called half fermented teas. The attentive reader might already know what that means. The oxidation process after the breaking of the leaves is started but stopped before the heart of the leaf is fermented. Through that the oolong tea combines the freshness of a green tea with the rather strong character of a black tea.
The white tea is processed the least in comparison with the other types of teas. Only special leaf buds are being used. They are not being heated up, hardly oxidized and very gently dried.
…AND HERBAL TEAS?
By the way, herbal teas and fruit teas are strictly speaking not a tea because they do not stem from the tea plant. They are ‘infusions’ or bear the uncharming name ‘tea-like product’.