Updated: Jun 1
Amazing fact: all traditional tea varieties come from one plant - Camellia Sinensis, the tea plant. Here we explore the different varieties and how they're made differently, yet come from the same leaf.
Amazingly all of the teas we consider to be true “teas” come from the same plant. So that cup of super-deep Assam you had for breakfast has exactly the same DNA as that refreshing green tea you drank at teatime!
What’s different is the soil and climate (“terroir”) that they’re grown in, the way they are picked from the plant, and the way they’re processed after picking. Here’s a quick rundown on the difference in tea types.
Black teas are made by letting the leaves wither after picking, then oxidized, allowing oxygen from the air to turn the green leaf brown and black. Many call this oxidizing process “fermentation” but no actual fermentation takes place. Black teas tend to have the strongest flavor and Indian black teas are prime examples of a superior, strong tea.
The super-deep Assam you had for breakfast has exactly the same DNA as the refreshing green tea you drank at teatime.
Dark tea, known as “hei cha” or 黑茶 in China (which means, not surprisingly, dark tea) is a relative newcomer to the American teacup. It comes to us from Sichuan and other border provinces in some of the least traveled areas of China, and the Chinese also call it “border tea” to reflect its journey to the edges of the country. While black teas are oxidized once, dark tea goes through two oxidation periods, and during the second one, a microorganism develops in the tea naturally. The tea is then aged and the probiotic microbe works on the tea leaf over the aging period, changing the nature of the tea to a dark, unusual and bold flavor.
Oolong teas are the ambassador between black and green teas, undergoing only partial oxidation. Meeting somewhere in the middle, oolongs bridge the gap between the bold flavors of black teas and the gentle subtleties of green teas, and are reminiscent of fresh flowers and fruit and a delectable fragrance.
Growers of green tea pick very young leaves and allow the leaves to wither and oxidize slightly after picking. After this very brief oxidation period, the leaves are heated quickly (also known as firing), a process that develops a lovely tea with a delicate sensibility. One of the most well-known tea types, green tea comes in countless varieties and is produced all over the world - including our Sencha Green Tea that is expertly blended with Island Madrona Bark. Settle into a refreshing and earthy cup of our Madrona Sencha.
Also picked from the youngest leaves and minimally oxidized, white tea is the tenderest and most delicate of all - and the least processed of all the teas. That gentle tenderness is reflected in their taste - a subtle yet refreshing cup to drink at all times of day. Try steeping with a higher water temperature in the morning to make a bolder brew, and a lower temperature in the afternoon to make a quieter, gentler cup.
Pu-erh tea is one of the most intriguing teas available and has an interesting history. Originally produced in Yunnan Province in China, Pu-erh was an early export on the ancient trade route of Tea and Horse. Pu-erh is aged like a fine wine, undergoing a post-oxidation process where microorganisms transform the tea into something extraordinarily flavorful. Some Pu-erh teas are lightly flavored, some are more earthy - it all depends on how long they are allowed to age.
It is likely that golden (also known as yellow) tea started to be produced in the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), which is quite late in the history of teas. Golden tea uses some of the same processes as green tea, but takes them to a higher and more exacting standard. Because of the fussiness of processing golden tea and consumer preference for green-colored teas, only three varieties of it exist today, while thousands of types of green tea vie for our attention. The time taken to search out golden teas, however, is well worth it: they have a mellow, sweet, ripe flavor and a lovely freshening feel.
Lots of lovely teas include no camellia sinensis at all, but are composed of herbs, flowers, fruits, vegetables and other delicious farm foods. Snuggle up to a cup of our Dandy Mint herbal blend of fresh-tasting island grown spearmint, peppermint, chamomile and dandelion greens - it's an amazing way to perk up your day.