Tea is the world's oldest beverage. It’s a generations old tradition that has never gone out of fashion.
It is said that there are approximately 24,000 different distinctions of tea. Each tea has its own
distinctive and complex flavour. No two teas are the same. Yet, all teas are made from the fresh leaf of the Camellia sinensis bush. There are 3 major varieties of the bush :
Camellia sinensis var. sinensis (small-leaf China bush)
Camellia sinensis var. assamica (large-leaf Assam bush)
Camellia sinensis var. Cambodi (medium-leaf Java bush)
It is that same freshly plucked leaf ; when manufactured in a precise, controlled and predictable process can be turned into any of the 6 classes of tea: black, green, yellow, white, oolong and Pu-erh.
Terroir refers to the place where the roots of the plant are nestled into the ground. The distinctive environment including the weather and geography contribute to the unique character and taste of the tea. For example, green teas from China will be very different from green teas of Japan. The cultivation process, the season of the plucking, and the method of leaf manufacture all contribute to the overall effect of the terrior.
1. Dry leaf evaluated by its shape and colour
2. Tea liquor (infusion) evaluated for its aroma and taste
3. Wet leaf after steeping evaluated for shape, colour and aroma
A very popular myth states that a Chinese inventor of farming and medicine, Shennong, was sitting in the shade of the Camellia sinensis tree. A leaf allegdly fell into his cup of boiled water and began to steep. He noted that the leaf not only created a beautiful green colour but it made him feel refreshed and stimulated. Thus, tea was born.
1. Processing : The most influential variables of how a tea tastes, smells and appears depends on the kind of process that is used to create it. Be it steaming, pan-frying or baking, it dramatically changes how the tea tastes.
2. Plucking : This is the process used to extract leaves from the tea plant. The way a person plucks plays an important role in the taste and aromas of the resulting tea. The plants are plucked continuously for most of the year to prohibit the plants from flowering.
3. Withering : It is done to create the myriad of tea's shapes, and important chemical changes take place. There are two distinct processes namely physical (used to reduce the moisture) and chemical (facilitates breaking down of complex chemicals in a leaf's cells).
4. Rupturing : In this process, by rupturing the cell walls, the tea master introduces oxygen and initiates the oxidation process. Traditionally this was done by rubbing leaves together between someone's hand.
5. Shaqing : The leaves are heated to deactivate the enzyme responsible for oxidation. This is normally done by exposing the leaves to temperatures above 185°F.
6. Drying : All leaves go through the drying process to decrease the moisture content by 4-5%. This is done to stop the oxidation process and make the leaf " shelf stable. "