Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tea types

How many Tea Types do exist?

I am always being asked about the types of teas that exist, and the meaning of tea flushes.

From the Camellia Sinensis bush, leaves and buds are picked and follow a lengthy production process to produce a variety of tea types called White tea, Green tea, Oolong tea, and Black tea.

White tea

White tea is produced from buds that are well hydrated. During the production process, white tea is not fermented, which results in a very delicate flavour and pale appearance. This variety of tea is common in China.

Green tea

Young leaves are picked for Green tea, and the fermentation process is minimal. This results in a fresh and slightly "grassy" flavour when the tea has been steeped, and a light to dark green appearance. You will find China and Japan to be the main producers of Green tea.

Oolong tea

Oolong tea is common in Taiwan and southern China. Leaves and buds from the Camellia Sinensis plant are picked and fermented partially, resulting in a dark brown appearance after steeping.

Black tea

Finally, the most common type of tea in the West is Black tea. The name comes from the appearance of the steeped tea. Because the leaves undergo a lengthy fermentation process, the steeped tea looks black, hence the name. India is the main producer of Black tea, but you will also find it in other countries such as Kenya and Turkey.

Tea Flushes

First Flush Teas

In some regions such as Darjeeling, often the first flush of growth after winter is more subtle and delicate in its flavour. Since the first flush is the first tea of the year and produced in very small quantities, the tea tends to be quite expensive and rare.

Second Flush and Autumnal Teas

While first flush teas are undoubtedly great teas, the later flushes are not necessarily inferior teas. In fact, the later flushes often tend to carry more body and colour and are often as exceptional if not better, as the first flush teas. And, in the plains where it gets exceedingly hot in May, June, the bushes produce the best and most fragrant growth after the July/August rains have cooled the temperatures down a bit. As a result, Autumnal teas tend to be outstanding in the lower altitude regions such as Assam.

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