Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tea Classifications

Until three years ago, I never paid much attention to tea. I always enjoyed drinking tea - especially "herbal" tea; however my tastes were not discriminating. I had no qualms about grabbing the first box of tea on the grocery store shelf that sounded good.

The term loose tea was not in my vocabulary - neither were the words white tea, Ceylon or oolong nor did I have a need for tea accessories. My "life-changing" event occurred the day I went to a facial happy hour at Origins in my local mall with a group of friends. It was there that I sipped on white tea while "enduring" a facial with beauty products infused with white tea. My curiosity was peaked and thus began my slow, yet fateful journey into tea.

Today, I drink white tea regularly and have since learned:

Tea is traditionally classified into four main groups, based on the degree of fermentation undergone:

  1. White tea - young leaves that have undergone no oxidation

  2. Green tea - minimal oxidation. Kukicha or Winter Tea - Twigs and old leaves, pruned from the tea plant during its dormant season and dry-roasted over a fire। Popular as a health food in Japan and in the macrobiotic diet

  3. Oolong - whose oxidation is stopped somewhere in-between

  4. Black tea - substantial oxidation. Pu-erh - A subclass of Black tea, Pu-erh is a very unusual product. While most teas are consumed within a year of production, Pu-erh can be over 50 years old. Over this time they acquire an earthy flavour due to the layer of mold that develops on the leaves (or tea brick if they are compressed). The tea is often steeped for long periods of time (Tibetans are known to boil it overnight). Pu-erh is considered a medicinal tea in China.

I now realize that my journey has just begun. Come join me!

Reference: http://encyclozine.com/Recreation/Indoor/Cuisine/Tea/

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