There is an amazing amount of choice available these days when it comes to selecting which tea to try. From Assam to Oolong, not to mention the array of flavoured teas that are rising in popularity. It can be confusing, the choice is overwhelming, leading to many tea drinkers sticking with one tea type and potentially missing out on some amazing taste experiences.
So, if all tea comes from the same plant why are there so many teas?
There are 3 factors that determine tea flavour and type.
Firstly, where the tea is grown. Soil type, climate, even the altitude of the tea plantation all influence the flavour of the tea leaf. You might see reference to 'high grown' as part of a tea description meaning that the plantation where the tea bush is grown is at a high altitude.
Secondly, when the tea leaf is picked. How young the tea leaf is when harvested impacts the flavour of the tea. You may have heard the term 'first flush' referring to the very first young tea leaf of the growing season.
Finally, what happens to the tea leaf once it is picked. This processing stage determines the tea type - whether a tea is classed as Green Tea, Black Tea, White Tea, Oolong tea, or Fermented tea, these are the major categories of tea.
It's a common misconception that different types of tea come from different types of tea bush - remember that all tea comes from one plant - Camellia Sinensis
Black tea is the most processed type of tea. The picked tea leaf is first spread out to wither or withered using warm air. The leaf is then rolled by hand or machine, oils released during rolling aid the process of oxidation which is triggered when the leaf membrane is broken during rolling. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that results in the browning of the tea leaf and the production of flavour and aroma. Finally the leaf is dried and fired at a high temperature to stop the oxidation process.
Once tea is processed it may be sold as it is, often taking its name from the region or even the specific tea plantation in which it is grown. For example Assam tea is produced from tea leaf grown in the Assam region of northeast India.
Tea may undergo additional processing such as smoking, being blended with other teas, dried flowers or herbs or having flavour added to create a unique tea, such as Earl Grey which is a blend of black tea infused with bergamot oil to give it its distinctive citrus flavour which perfectly complements the malty black tea.
There really is a world of choice! The trick is to try different teas.
To celebrate National Tea Day on 21st April we are launching a taster pack containing a mix of teas and tisanes to encourage everyone to sample something different.
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