Tea 101: Everything There is to Know About Tea

From ancient times to modern medicine, tea has been celebrated for its health and wellness benefits for centuries now. It’s hydrating and packed with antioxidants. It may help boost brain function and detoxify or increase mindfulness and immunity. It can speed up your metabolism or, on the other hand, help you slow down at the end of a long day. What’s there not to love? Comes as no surprise that tea is the second most-consumed drink in the world, surpassed only by water.

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Technically “tea” refers to Camellia sinensis — the evergreen shrub native to China and India that gives us rich black teas, tightly rolled oolongs and delicate white teas — but we usually like to think of tea as pretty much anything that can be infused in water. The possibilities are endless (and delicious).

The tea plant is cultivated in a variety of settings from small family gardens to giant estates covering thousands of acres. The best tea is usually grown at higher elevations, and often, on steep slopes. 

Being one of the most enjoyed beverages worldwide, tea culture can be very "local." For example, most tea drinkers in Darjeeling, India have never heard of a Taiwanese Pouchong. In China, most people do not drink black tea. The centuries-old Japanese tea ceremony uses powdered, rare Matcha tea, which most folks in black tea-loving Sri Lanka have never even tasted.

Drinking tea is so much more than simply drinking leaves in the water! The history of this drink, its importance in cultural ceremonies all over the world, and its myriad varieties all deepen the tea-drinking experience.

There are five true teas: white tea, green tea, oolong tea, black tea, and Pu-Erh tea. These are the teas most scientists refer to when researching the health benefits of tea. Let’s talk about every one of them.

White Tea

White tea is the least processed true tea. It undergoes the simplest production process, which is designed to maintain its natural look and flavor. Tea leaves are plucked by hand and then immediately dried outdoors in natural sunlight. Only the youngest leaves of the tea plant are used to make white tea. White tea overall has a subtle flavor profile that is delicate and naturally sweet. 

Green Tea

Like white tea, green tea is made from leaves that are only minimally processed. For green tea, the tea leaves are harvested from the Camellia sinensis plant and are then quickly heated — by pan firing or steaming — and dried to prevent too much oxidation from occurring that would turn the green leaves brown and alter their fresh-picked flavor.

Matcha tea is a stone-ground tea that is sold in a fine powder form. It is popularly brewed in lattes and as a culinary food additive.

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea, known in China as “Wulong tea,” is a semi-oxidized tea. The tea leaves are allowed to oxidize, but only for a short time. The flavor and color of oolong tea are stronger than green tea but more mellow than black tea. Oolong tea leaves undergo a moderate production process consisting of hand harvesting, withering, rolling, short-term oxidation and then drying. The plucked tea leaves are withered and bruised in bamboo baskets or on bamboo mats. The bruising exposes enzymes in the tea leaves to oxygen. These enzymes begin a controlled fermentation process that alters the flavor and color of the leaves. In general, oolong teas feature a floral flavor with a smooth finish. These teas typically have a medium body.

Black Tea

Being the most processed tea variety, black tea undergoes a process of withering, rolling, oxidation, and drying. The lengthy production process produces a tea that is bold and reminiscent of the flavor of the coffee. Black teas can feature floral or fruity flavors, even with the hint of chocolate sometimes, and have a bold, full-bodied flavor.

Pu-Erh Tea

Pu-Erh tea is post-fermented, which means that the tea leaves go through a microbial fermentation process after they have been dried and rolled, causing the leaves to darken and change in flavor. This process allows the teas to not only improve with age like a fine wine, but many Pu-Erhs can retain their freshness for up to fifty years!

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The tea-drinking experience involves immersing yourself in the culture of tea and the more you know about it, the more complete your experience will be! Join us on this journey and shop the variety of Modestine organic tea blends here!

Laura C