All About Tea
Many people are interested in the healthful benefits of tea, but - with so much on the market and so much information floating around about tea these days - it can be extremely overwhelming to know where to start.
A couple years ago, I plunged right into the world of tea, and am here to share my experiences and knowledge with you. It was one of the best decisions I could have made for my well-being, and even peace of mind. Whether I'm in a hurry and downing a cup, or taking time to sip a warm mug with a friend, my life has absolutely been enhanced by becoming a tea drinker.
Initially, I was flabbergasted. What tea was what? What was good? Should I buy bags or loose tea? Where does tea come from?
No worries! The words you find here will help guide you through the tea muck, and give you a clear understanding of what-is-what and what you'll need to do to be enjoying your own steaming cups of tea in no time.
What Tea is What?
There are so many wonderful teas to choose from, that once you know your way around the leaves, you'll be grabbing up teas like crazy.
The most well-known type of hot tea these days is green tea. There are also black teas, oolong teas, and white teas, just to name a few. What's the difference you ask? The teas are all, actually, from the same leaf. The difference comes in how the teas are processed. Black tea is the most processed, with white teas being the least processed (therefore retaining the most healthful benefits).
Here is a list of the types of tea and their length in fermenting:
- Black tea - Fully fermented.
- Oolong tea - Semi-fermented.
- Green tea - Unfermented tea.
- White tea - Least processed tea.
Remember, all tea leaves start out exactly the same - the level of fermenting and processing after they are plucked from the tree is what determines what type of tea they will become.
So, what goes into fermenting and processing tea? The full fermentation process is composed of four steps: withering, rolling, fermenting and drying (also known as firing). Black tea undergoes all four of these steps and creates a tea that is deep red or dark brown to black. Oolong tea goes through the same process as black tea, except that its leaves are not rolled (they remain whole). Oolong tea comes in shades of yellowish green. Green teas are heat-treated to halt the fermentation process and produce, of course, green-colored teas. White tea, which was, in ancient China, only drank by royalty, is the more pure tea; its leaves virtually the same from pluck to steep. Its buds are picked before even being allowed to open and bloom. These are dried in the sun, and white tea is born. White teas have a pale coloring and often a light, sweet taste.
Now that you know which teas are what, it will be much easier for you to decide which you'd like to try. I highly suggest trying each tea at least once - this way you learn, first-hand, which teas you prefer and which are just not to your taste.
Where Does Tea Come From?
Tea leaves are produced the world over; in fact, over thirty countries produce tea. Yet, there are five countries that have been in the business and art of tea-making for centuries. These are China, Sri Lanka, India, Taiwan, and Japan.
Though China is the original birthplace of tea, today, India is the forerunner in tea production; it accounts for a third of the world's tea.
Bag or Leaf?
The choice between bagged tea and leaf tea is a personal one.
Generally, higher qualitiy tea is going to come steeping directly from the leaf, and I suggest - if you truly want to enjoy your tea - that you purchase loose, tea leaves and steep them yourself.
Bagged tea is often made from the left-over leaves, the bottom of the barrell, if you will, of processed tea leaves. This is not always true, though, and I have found very many satisfying and delicious bagged teas over the years.
In the end, however, It truly is a personal choice whether you want to go with bagged or loose tea leaves. Personally, I use both - I usually use bagged tea when I'm in a hurry or need to drink on the go. When I have time to relax and enjoy my tea, I opt for steeping loose leaves myself. Either way, you will be enjoying a cup of tea regardless of which type you choose.