Black tea, the popular one
This is the world’s most consumed tea, particularly in the West. Its dark color is the result of oxidization, which is longer than for green and white teas. This process also lends black tea its singular, bold flavor. However, all teas come from the same plant, the tea bush, or camellia sinensis.
There are a vast number of black tea varieties. Here are just a few examples:
• Assam black tea comes from the region of the same name in north-east India near Bhutan, and is renowned for its strong flavor.
• Ceylon black tea is from Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, and offers a full-bodied taste.
• Darjeeling is from the eponymous town and surrounding region of West Bengal in India. Grown in the Himalayan foothills it features fresh, vegetal aromatic notes.
• Yunnan black tea is found in south-west China. Grown at 8,200 feet of altitude, it has a subtle bitterness and discreet notes of damp earth.
Green tea, the Asian one
Green tea is less processed than black tea and is only partially oxidized. The tea is briefly baked at 212 °F (100 °C), which destroys the enzymes responsible for oxidation. The leaves are then rolled into sticks, balls, or braids, and finally dried to preserve them.
Green tea can be found in numerous forms and comes from different regions.
• Genmaicha is a Japanese green tea combined with grains of grilled and puffed rice with hazelnut notes. Nicknamed “popcorn tea,” this green variety is iconic in Japan.
The history of Genmaicha green tea
According to legend, a furious samurai decapitated his servant, Genmai, for having spilled rice in his tea. But after tasting the beverage and realizing its unique, delicious flavor, he named its “Genmai-cha” in honor of his late servant (cha meaning “tea” in Japanese).
• Gunpowder is a green tea from China grown in the Zhejiang province. It can be recognized by its leaves rolled into balls that look a lot like gunpowder. It was soon exported to the Maghreb and is used in preparing Moroccan green tea.
• Sencha is the most consumed tea in Japan, where it is seen as the drink of hospitality! Its leaves are long and flat, while its liquor is clear and refreshing.
• Matcha is a powdered green tea consumed whole. This is the only tea whose entire leaves are absorbed by the water. It is increasingly used in cooking, particularly for flavoring pastries and desserts.
White tea, the rare and delicate one
White tea is the closest to freshly picked tea leaves as it only undergoes two processing steps, wilted in the open air and dried. Unlike green tea, these leaves are not rolled. White tea is also recognizable by its long shoots, which are often covered with a light fuzz.
In order to extract its full delicate character, this precious tea must be prepared according to strict methods. Each white tea has its own specific features, but should generally be brewed for 5-10 minutes. The mineral water used should be heated to between 85 and 165 °F (30-75 °C), no higher. Thanks to these steps, white tea will keep its healthy vitamins and unique taste.
Did you know? Real connoisseurs drink white tea in a gaiwan or a zhōng, a Chinese porcelain mug with a lid.
Yellow tea, the “imperial” one
Yellow tea is found on the Junshan Island on Dongting Lake. It also grows on Meng Mountain in the Sichuan province. Produced in small quantities, it is a rare product on the tea market. As a result, the Chinese associated it with the yellow color of the Emperor.
So-called imperial tea is prepared by first picking the shoots and the first leaves. These are then steamed in a wok under a heap of hay, before being fermented for around 20 hours. The leaves and shoots are then rolled and dried in the oven.
Yellow tea should be brewed for 4-5 minutes in water at 160-175 °F (70-80 °C). The liquor is then poured into a cup or a gaiwan (just like white tea!). You can then enjoy the tea, which is high in antioxidants and low in tannins. A gentle treat for the palate and the stomach!
Maté, for that extra boost
Maté (or yerba maté) is a plant in the holly family from South America.
Also called the “Jesuits’ Tea,” this stimulating drink containing a substance similar to caffeine is traditionally enjoyed in a calebasse (a cup) using a bombilla (a type of straw). Yerba maté is renowned for its slightly bitter, vegetal flavor.
The green leaves undergo several processing stages before being consumed. They are first heated over a hot flame to deactivate their enzymes. Next, they are dried and lightly roasted. Finally, they are left to age (for at least a year in Paraguay and Argentina) and ground into a powder.
Rooibos, or “red tea”
This tea is made from a bush with needle-like leaves in the acacia family originally from South Africa.
Nicknamed “red tea,” its sweet, full-bodied flavor is actually quite unlike any other tea. Rooibos contains no caffeine, which means it can be enjoyed throughout the day.
After being picked, rooibos leaves are chopped, dampened, compressed, oxidized, dried, and put into tea bags for you to brew at home. Quite a journey!
Rose tea with hibiscus flowers
Hibiscus flowers can also be brewed after they have been dried.
Hibiscus sabdariffa, otherwise known as the “Abyssinian rose,” is a bush native to West Africa. Enjoyed across the world, it is also found in Egypt and Mexico, where it is called “Jamaica flower.”
With its pretty pink color and lack of caffeine, this is the perfect herbal tea for the whole family, to be enjoyed at any time of day.
Black, green, white, yellow, red, pink, or maté… The choice is yours! And whatever you decide, you’re sure to be delighted!