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Different Types of Tea
All teas come from the same plant. The differences stem from how they are processed.
How the leaves are processed will determine their final classification as black, green, and oolong teas. The main difference between the many tea varieties is how much oxygen the leaves are allowed to absorb during processing. Much oxygen produces dark-colored black teas. Little oxygen results in green tea. Unprocessed leaves are called white tea.
Black tea undergoes a full fermentation process composed of four basic steps - withering, rolling, fermenting, and firing (or drying). First, the plucked leaves are spread out to wither. The withered leaves are then rolled, in order to release the chemicals within the leaf that are essential to its final color and flavor. The rolled leaves are spread out once more to absorb oxygen (oxidize), causing the leaves to turn from green to coppery red. Finally, the oxidized leaves are fired in order to arrest fermentation, turning the leaf black and giving it the recognizable tea scent. We invite you to view photos and descriptions of individual black teas.
Green Tea is often referred to as "unfermented" tea. The freshly picked leaves are allowed to dry, then are heat-treated to stop any fermentation (also referred to as oxidation). In China, traditional hand-making methods are still employed in many places, particularly in the manufacture of the finest green teas you'll find offered here. We invite you to view photos and descriptions of individual green teas.
Oolong Tea is generally referred to as "semi-fermented" tea and is principally manufactured in China and Taiwan (often called Formosa, its old Dutch name). For the manufacture of oolongs, the leaves are wilted in direct sunlight, then shaken in bamboo baskets to lightly bruise the edges. Next, the leaves are spread out to dry until the surface of the leaf turns slightly yellow. Oolongs are always whole leaf teas, never broken by rolling. The least fermented of oolong teas, almost green in appearance, is called Pouchong. We invite you to view photos and descriptions of individual oolong teas.
White Tea is produced on a very limited scale in China and India. It is the least processed of its many varieties. The new tea buds are plucked before they open and simply allowed to dry. The curled-up buds have a silvery appearance and produce a pale and very delicate cup of tea. We invite you to view photos and descriptions of individual white teas.
Scented Tea is created when the additional flavorings are mixed with the leaf as a final stage before the tea is packed. For Jasmine tea, whole jasmine blossoms are added to green or oolong tea. Fruit-flavored teas are generally made by combining a fruit's essential oils with black tea from China or Sri Lanka. We invite you to view photos and descriptions of individual flavored teas.
Grades of Tea
How is tea graded?
Tea grading has not been standardized between major growing countries. Tea grades commonly refer to leaf size and location on the tea bush. Tea grading is primarily used by the estates for segregating various teas during the manufacturing process.
This process is not defined or standardized and therefore is not a good indicator of quality teas. Grading terminology also differs when describing green tea, black tea, and oolong tea. Therefore, these terms are briefly discussed in their general uses.
Keep in mind that a teas grade does not necessarily indicate flavor or quality. Other factors such as origin, soil, rainfall, elevation, the particular flush or picking season combined with the harvesting and manufacturing process all lend a hand in providing tea its unique flavor.
The smallest of particles left after sifting. Often used in tea bags to infuse rapidly and make a strong and robust brew.
Very small, broken leaf, slightly larger than dust.
The largest leaves located closest to the bottom of the branch. These course leaves are twisted lengthwise and often used for various Chinese smoked teas.
P or PEK Pekoe
Pekoe grade tea leaves are slightly less coarse and smaller than souchong
OP Orange Pekoe
Orange Pekoe grades are leaves plucked from near the end of a branch. Besides the buds and flowers, they are youngest and smallest of tea leaves on a branch.
BOP Broken Orange Pekoe
The leaves in broken grades of orange pekoe tea are reduced in size usually by machine. This allows for more surface area, causing the tea to infuse faster than whole leaf varieties.
FOP Flowery Orange Pekoe
This orange pekoe grade also includes some tips or leaf buds.
FBOP Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
This grade of tea would refer to broken orange pekoe with the addition of a small portion of tips.
GFOP Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
Often referred to flowery orange pekoe with tips and flowers that are golden in color.
TGFOP Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
A larger ratio of golden tips would be included in this classification of flowery orange pekoe.
FTGFOP Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
Tea falling into this classification are usually a premier estates finest teas. Mostly comprised of golden flowers, leaf buds, and the youngest tea leaves.
Tea from Different Regions
Best Teas Come from Asia
Tea is produced in over thirty countries around the world, though the finest comes from just five: India, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan and Japan. Home to most of the world's tea drinkers, these countries continue to pay much attention to how tea is grown and processed. In many, tea continues to be produced by hand in accordance with age-old traditions.
China is the birthplace of tea and continues to produce more intricate varieties than any other country. Prior to WWII, nearly half the world's output originated here, but now it accounts for less than ten percent, and has fallen into second place, behind India. Green teas account for almost two-third of Chinese crop. The relatively short tea season is divided into three pickings: 'first spring' in April when the delicate leaf buds appear, 'second spring' in early June when the bushes are full, and the less interesting 'third spring' in July. The most famous Chinese teas are Keemun, (black), Dragonwell (green) and Ti Kuan Yin (oolong).
India is the world's largest tea producer, accounting for about a third of the world's total. However, the size of its population, and the latter's large appetite for tea, means that only about half of it is available for export. Famous growing regions include Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri, and they produce nearly all black tea. Tea continues to be cultivated on small family plots, which number close to forty thousand.
Sri Lanka, often called Ceylon - its old colonial name, is the third largest producer of tea in the world. It is a relative newcomer, growing tea for little over one hundred years. The three famous growing regions are Dimbula, Uva and Nuwara Eliya. Most of the Ceylon tea gardens are situated at elevations between 3,000 and 8,000 feet, where the hot and steamy weather makes the tea bushes flush every seven to eight days. The teas are generally classified by altitude; higher-grown generally regarded as superior.
Japan is a sizeable producer of almost exclusively green tea. However, because it is a nation of many (and voracious) tea drinkers, only about 2 percent of Japan's crop is available for export. The most famous of teas to escape are Sencha, Genmai Cha and Gyokuro. Japan's role in the world of tea, however, is disproportionate to the size of its crop. Tea plays a very import role in this country's art, philosophy, history and daily life. World famous is its spiritual dedication to the esthetics of tea, known as the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
Taiwan is often called Formosa, a name given it by Portuguese traders, meaning "beautiful island." The bulk of the tea produced here is oolong, a cross between black and green. In the early years of its economic growth, much of Taiwan's tea was exported. However, recent economic prosperity had produced a local population with a taste for what many consider to be the world's finest oolongs. Presently, only about two percent of the island's famous teas are exported. These fall into three categories: dark oolongs, jade oolongs, and the almost-green pouchong tea.
Brewing the Perfect Cup of Tea
How to Brew Tea
Methods of preparing tea are a matter of personal choice and preference. There is no "right" way to prepare and serve tea, however, there are many customs and rituals that are associated with drinking tea that have stemmed from many cultures primarily China, Japan and the UK. Those who wish to follow these customs and rituals, can often discover new experiences associated with the long history of drinking tea. The Japanese tea ceremony is one of strict practices that takes years to master. Whether you're planning a tea party, or simply love a good cup of tea yourself, here are some helpful tips on brewing the perfect cup of tea.
Choose the Best Water
Use fresh water each time you prepare tea. Artesian spring water is preferred over tap water. Tap water should be avoided due to municipal water treatments which add chlorine and fluoride and can greatly affect the true flavor of your tea. Not all bottled waters are created equal. Purified and spring waters differ in mineral content, and therefore must be chosen based on personal taste. Never use hot tap water to speed up the boiling process. This adds additional impurities from your homes water heater. Choosing your water is the best place to start if you want to improve the flavor of your teas. Prepare cups of tea side by side using different sources of water and taste the difference.
Choose the Best Tea
Choosing the best tea is not always easy. Grocery stores generally only carry tea bags filled with low quality tea leaves. Although they might seem like a bargain, these "name brands" are not worthy of being consider tea. Health food stores are more likely to carry teas marketed as gourmet but typically have a limited selection of average tea. These teas are an improvement to that of your local grocery store, however they are lacking true quality. When it comes to buying quality tea, visiting a tea house is a great place to start sampling different teas. This try before you buy method of discovery is always fun. However, until recently, tea houses were only found in major cities. But with the ever growing demand for quality teas, new ones are spreading throughout the west. Choosing a reputable supplier is important. Imperial Tea Garden carries a wide selection of teas in all price ranges. Buying rare and exotic teas from around the globe has never been so easy. Choose Imperial Tea Garden and tast the difference.
How much tea should I use?
As a rule of thumb - - use 1-2 teaspoons per 8 ounce cup and gradually add more tea to achieve the briskness and body of your choosing. For best results, be sure to allow room for the water to circulate between the leaves for best results regardless of which brewing apparatus you choose.
Aside from choosing the best water and tea leaves possible, Water temperature is the most critical element in preparing the perfect cup of tea. Regardless of which apparatus you choose to boil your water, remember to follow these guidelines when starting out. Heat the water in a glass, ceramic or clay teapot until it reaches a boil (212 degrees Fahrenheit) then allow the water to cool before brewing your tea. Guideline: 180 degrees for green tea, 190 degrees for Oolong tea, 200 degrees for black tea. This is especially important when preparing delicate green teas. These temperatures can be increased following successive brews. Quality teas can often be steeped 2-3 times.
Loose leaf in a teapot
This method of brewing tea allows for maximum freedom for the leaves to unfurl. This makes for a stronger, more flavorful cup. The disadvantages are removing the leaves, and cleaning the teapot after brewing. If the tea is not served and allowed to infuse longer than necessary, the tea can become bitter.
The tea ball
Most tea balls are made from aluminum or stainless steel mesh to hold the tea in place. This allows for easier cleanup of the leaves. However, there is usually insufficient space for the tea leaves to expand and prevents water from circulating freely around the tea leaves. Tea balls vary in sizes from one to three inches.
Stainless-steel mesh infuser
This method is similar to the tea ball, however, handles were added for easier handling and cleaning. The same disadvantages hold true for the mesh infuser as do for tea balls.
Basket filters that fit most teacups and mugs can be used to make individual cups of tea. They are made from plastic, stainless steel, or decorative ceramics. Basket filters are also available to fit inside teapots. This method of brewing tea allows the leaves to circulate freely. It also makes cleanup and disposal easy. The downfall is that not all baskets fit all teapots.
Tea socks are a fabric enclosure and perform similar to the basket filters. The disadvantages are that they stain and can retain the flavor and odor of previous batches. If you switch between green tea and black tea this would not be favorable.
The tea press is a glass enclosure with a mesh plunger that allows the leaves to circulate freely while brewing and allows for compacting them to the bottom before pouring. Tea presses are available in 2, 4, and 6-cup sizes. Be sure to size correctly for your needs.
Most coffee-brewing machines heat the water temperature near boiling. Although this works well for coffee beans its not suited for brewing fine tasting green tea or oolong tea. Specifically designed tea brewing machines are now coming onto the market but at a premium cost.
After gauging the proper water temperature, the tea leaves are steeped in the water using one of the methods listed above. Steeping tea leaves should be allowed to set still during this process because excess motion can cause the release of more tannins which can lead to bitter tasting tea. Do not steep tea for to long before serving when brewing in a teapot. Many newer teapots have basket filters that can be removed after the tea has steeped for the recommended time. Start with 1-3 minutes and gradually increase the time to your preferred likeness. This is especially important when preparing delicate green teas.
Host a Tea Party with assorted tea sandwiches and other snacks prepared ahead of time. Use a tea warmer to keep freshly prepared tea warm for refills and be sure you have mastered your preparation techniques. This is no time for guessing.
Refers to a British meal taken mid afternoon, comprising of sandwiches, scones,and pastries accompanied by tea. The 7th Duchess of Bed ford is believed to have started the tradional afternoon tea in the early in the 19th century.
Teas harvested in autumn. The term is typically associated with teas from India and Formosa.
A region in northeastern India. Currently the single largest tea growing estate in the world.
Japanese tea that has been cured in baskets by firing or drying.
Tea made by Australian bushmen in billy cans.
Tea that has been fired or dried after the fermentation or Oxidation period of manufacture.
Tea taster who decides on the proportions of each different tea required to produce the flavor of a given blend.
Common grades of Chinese and Japananes tea mixed with stalk and dust and molded into bricks under high pressure. Originally these bricks were used by Asian travelers as convenient way to transport the tea. Tea bricks were also used to barter for trade goods
The name given to a tin or jar of tea, which takes its name from the Chinese or Malayan word 'catty'- a term used to describe the weigh of one pound of tea. In the past, tea caddies were equipped with a lock and key.
Botanical name given to the tea bush.
Tea taken by camel from China to Russia before modern transportation.
Former name of Sri Lanka.
The word for tea derived from the Chinese language.
Japanese tea ceremony or ritual.
Original tea packaging from plantation. Normally made of wood and lined with metal foil.
Chinese green tea, said to resemble the shape of human eyebrows.
Cuttings taken from old tea bushes which are allowed to root and then are planted to produce new tea bushes. Many tea bushes are grown from clones or cuttings taken from older bushes.
A general term used to describe all Chinese black teas regardless of the area in which they are grown and made.
A province in Northern India that produces world renound black teas.
A district in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) that produces full bodied black teas.
A black tea treated with the oil of bergamot which gives the tea a scented aroma and taste.
A tea growing property that may include more than one garden under the same manger ship or ownership. In past tea estates where known as plantations.
English Breakfast Tea
A name for the tea blend which originally applied to China Congou tea in the United States. In Britain, it was associated with a blend of teas from India and Sri Lanka; today it is used to include blends of black teas producing a full-bodied strong flavored colorful tea regardless of origin.
Refers to the timing of the tea harvest. "first flush" is the early spring plucking of new shoots. "second flush" is harvested late spring through early summer, yielding more body and full flavor. Autumnal flush is the late season harvest.
Term used to describe a tea leaf or particle size of leaf.
Tea that is withered immediately, and often steamed and/or fired before oxidation can begin.
Normally a Chinese tea, but today could be any young tea which is rolled into smaller pellet size balled and then dried. the finished tea has a greyish appearance not unlike gunpowder in color which is how tea gets its name.
A high grade Japanese tea a produced by a special process in the Uji district of japan. It is made from tea grown on shaded bushes which increase chlorophyll content.
Often referred to as "herbal tea" or "herbal tisane". These teas are mixtures of herbs and do not contain any "tea" leaves.
The name given to a meal served late afternoon to early evening which is a mixture of afternoon tea and dinner. The meal comprises of a main entree dish sometimes a pudding or desert served with bread and butter, cakes and teas. High tea was the main meal of farming and working class of Britain in the past.
A type of Chinese green tea meaning "flourishing spring". Young Hyson is this type of tea which is plucked early.
The process of extracting elements from tea, herbs, fruits or berries by submersing in boiling water. This process is often used for obtaining medicinal properties from herbs.
Type of tea brush normally applied to its origin. For example a tea comes from the China or Indian Jat. This means that the tea bushes originated either from seeds or cuttings from China tea plants or from the indigenous tea found in Assam.
A city in Sri Lanka (formally Ceylon). Medium grown at altitudes between 2000 ft and 4000 ft above sea level. Teas from Kandy are often used for blending purposes.
A fine grade of black leaf China Congou tea produced in the Anhui province.
A country in Africa that produces fine black teas.
A Chinese tea that is dried over smoking pine needles.
African tea producer whose teas are mainly used for blending purposes as they are colory with good flavor.
Powdered green tea from Japan used in the Japanese tea ceremony.
Another term for High tea.
A district in the hills of southern India that produces excellent black teas.
A Ceylon tea, high mountain grown at altitudes above 4000 ft sea level. The tea is light with full flavour.
Partially oxidized tea leaves produced in China and most oftenTaiwan (formally called Formosa).
A kind of Japanese tea that is steamed then rolled in iron cauldons over charcoal fires.
The third leaf from the tip. Larger and more course than the newer shoots.
A kind of scented Chinese or Formosan tea derived from the Cantonese method of packing tea in smaller paper packets each of which was supposed to be the product of one tea plant.
Selectively cutting back of the tea brush, so that it maintains its shape and help increase yield.
Harvested in the wilds of South Africa. This herb boast many healing properties.
The name given to a hot tea poured into a glass over a slice of lemon. Sometimes sugar or honey are added.
An African tea producer, whose tea are used for blending purposes. Rwanda tea has a bright coppery color and brisk taste.
Green semi fermented or black teas that have been flavored by adding flower petals, fruits spices and/or natural oils. Examples of these are Jasmine tea, Rose Puchong, Orange tea, Cinnamon tea or Earl Grey.
Tea that has been partially oxidized before being fired and dried. Most often referred to as Oolong tea, it has the qualities and appearance somewhere in between a green tea and a black tea. Often yielding a citrus or fruity flavor depending on the masters craft and skill.
The most popular variety of green tea in Japan. A beverage to be consumed daily.
Single Estate Tea
A blend of teas from one particular estate, plantation, or garden.
Black tea from China and Formosa that has been smoked over a wood fire such as Lapsang Souchong.
A blend of teas that takes its name from the area in which it is grown; a blend of teas blended for a particular person or event or a blend of teas for a particular time of the day.
A large leaf black tea. Originated in China, Souchong tea was made from a small bush whose leaves were allowed to develop to a large size.
The name the tea industry uses for polyphenols contained in tea and are largely responsible for the pungency of some types of teas.
The smoky aroma and taste associated with a smoked black tea such as Lapsang Souchong.
A term used to describe a container used for storing tea. Often decorated with gold and fine jewels and kept under lock and key.
A tea bush or plant which has been allowed to return to its wild state and grow back into a tree.
An expert judge of leaf and cup quality tea at all stages of production, brokerage blending and final packaging.
Used to describes the ends of leaves on a tea bush.
Teas which contain a large portion of tips and denoted as TFOP or TGFOP for teas originating from India.
Dried herbs or fruits are infused in water and often called "Herbal Tea". Because Tea leaves from the Camellia Sinensis plant are not used, these beverages often do not contain caffeine.
A high mountain district in Sri Lanka that produces quality teas.
Used to describe teas from the same harvest at market.
Rare teas of fine quality. White teas are known for their high antioxidant content and subtle flavor.
Yunnan Province is the most southwest region of China bordering the countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Burma
Located near Shanghai, this city in Eastern China is world renowned for their clay teapots.