WHAT THE HECK IS TEA, REALLY?
I was sipping on my Slim Mint tea at a tea bar in Minneapolis called Sencha, when I thought, what does “notes of chocolate, vanilla, and peppermint resting within an organic Chinese black tea and South African rooibos” even mean? What is black tea? Does it come from a plant different than what green and white tea comes from? Oh, and how do they add the other flavors like chocolate to the mix? And of course, is this shit really that healthy?
I don’t know why I was so interested in tea at that moment, but I bet some of you would like to know what’s in your cup. A little history and facts never hurt anyone, right?
HOW DID TEA BEGIN?
China. 2737 B.C. Shen Nung, the Chinese emperor was hangin out under a tree one day while a servant was boiling some water for him. Some leaves blew into the boiling water from the Camellia sinensis tree, which ended up creating the whole concept of tea.
Some other teas that aren’t from the Camellia sinensis are mint (made of peppermint or spearmint leaves), chamomile (chamomile flowers), Roobois or other types of herbal tea.
WHAT IS THE BASIC PROCESS?
Withering, fixing, oxidation, rolling, drying.
The tea leaves are pulled and put in a controlled environment where the temperature, air, and humidity are managed. This can be indoors or outdoors. Then, fixing is the act of applying heat to the leaves, including pan frying (more toasty) and steaming (more grassy). Then, the tea is oxidized, which is chemical reactions to brown the leaves. Then, the leaves are rolled and dried by being fired or roasted. TA-DA!
Okay, so the teas that are from the Camellia sinensis tree are: black, white, green, oolong, roobois, and Pu’erh tea. YES, they are all from the same tree! The difference is the process.
BLACK TEA- THE STRESS RELIEVER
Black tea typically tastes stronger and sweeter than green tea and differs due to the oxidation process. The tea leaves are fully oxidized before they are heated and dried.
WHITE TEA- THE BACTERIA KILLER
White tea is lighter and less sweet than black or green tea. White tea isn’t oxidized or heated. It is withered and then dried in the sunlight and inside to keep the white color.
GREEN TEA- THE ANTIOXIDANT TEA
Green tea tends to taste somewhat toasty and grassy. Green tea isn’t oxidized, and is dried in the shadows and then steamed (Japan) or pan-fried (China).
OOLONG- THE WEIGHT LOSS
Oolong tea (or semi-green tea) is oxidized until the leaves turn slightly brown, and then goes through the heat and drying process. Oolong tea can range in levels of oxidation. Therefore, it can range in between a lighter to a richer taste.
PU’ERH TEA- THE DIGESTION
Pu’erh is made from black or green tea and then fermented and oxidized before the heating process. Pu’erh tastes very earthy.
BUT... Why does my tea taste like cherry or chocolate? Well, teas can include pieces of dried fruit, spices, or herbs or essential oils that will improve the flavor or the health benefits of the tea.
Speaking of health benefits...tea is actually SO good for you, by the way. Go fill your body with its amazing antioxidants! Tea reduces cholesterol, reduces the likelihood of cancer or cardiovascular disease, helps with digestion, oral health, stress levels, and more. Go feed your body some lovely nutrients!
Hope you all learned something about tea today and are prepared to share your knowledge to all tea-lovers alike!