In the realm of tea, I am certainly no expert. People spend their lives and careers completely devoted to the propagation, and consumption of tea. My experience with tea, similar to most other Americans, was not cultural and came much later in my life. I always viewed tea as the unfortunate alternative to coffee and was generally consumed as a conduit for honey. Only lately, as I have delved deeper into the world of natural and alternative remedies, have I truly grown to appreciate the incredible properties this timeless beverage can bring, and I am contantly learning more and more.
Welcome to TeaScape Ins-Tea-tution or... Universi-Tea of TeaScape :)
What is tea?
The tea plant is native to China and was first recorded to be culitvated about 2,000 bc. It was then discovered by the Japanese aroud 8th century AD, then the Europeans and the British followed during the 17th century. It wasn't until the 20th century that the American finally caught up - the first record of tea was at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904 and it was served with ice.
What is generally thought of as the best teas are cultivated at high altitudes, picked by hand, and consist of the tiniest early growth and buds. Green, white, black and oolong teas all come from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis; depending on where the plants are grown and how they are processed gives the ending result of the different teas as well as quality.
Black Tea is the only "true tea" and is fully oxidized meaning it is tossed in a machine allowing the juices to oxidize, or ferment with the air. They are then dried fully.
3-6 minute steep
Oolong Tea is partially fermented or oxidized and its taste falls between smoky black and the bitter green.
6-8 minute steep
Green Tea is not oxidized at all, but actually steamed and dried giving it the typical light bitter taste and yellowish steep - it also has the lowest amount of caffeine of the four "true teas."
1-3 minute steep
White Tea is the most rare of the four. Its handling is simply to cultivate and dry - no steaming or oxidizing. 3-5 minute steep
Rooibos Tea is more commonly known as Red Tea, is considered an herbal tea because it is not from the tea plant, but from a bush native to South Africa and is naturally caffeine free. Its taste is considered to be similar to green, but less bitter; it also steeps a beautiful reddish orange color and depeding on the bush can have hints of vanilla in flavor.
Herbal tea, unlike its counterpart from the caffeinated tea plant, comes from infused herbs, roots, barks, flowers, fruits, and spices. The combinations are considered carefully for wellness purposes such as anxiety, digestion and immune support.
8-12 minute steep
So, there you have it. The ultimate basics.
Next time I will be talking about the importance of choosing Organic Teas as well as what exactly "Fair Trade" really means.
In the mean time, stop in at TeaScape to taste a few of these ancient blends and choose your favorite --- are you a green, black or even a rooibos lover???
And yes, we have honey... :)