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These are the most delicate of teas and subtle in flavour. The best and youngest part of the tea plant is ever used for white tea – preferable with the soft short hair or down still attached. The leaves are then either dried or steamed and dried. As the leaves are neither pan fired or oxidized, they remain almost unaltered. The flavour is subtle and should be carefully appreciated.
Green teas are the teas that are primarily consumed in Asia. Japan for example only produces green tea. The leaves are placed for 20 to 30 seconds in large iron basins heated to about 100 Celsius. This operation destroys the enzyme that causes fermentation. The leaves, then, remain green. In Japan, this process is accomplished by exposing the leaves to steam. The leaves are then rolled. As for black tea, the smaller and more tightly rolled the leaf, the more robust the tea, as more components are released. The drying process allows some evaporation of the water contained in the leaves to prevent mould. Finally, sorting is the step where the grades are separated out. Just as for black tea, the process uses sieves or screens of different calibers.
Oolongs are treated the same way that black teas are, except that the withering and oxidation times are shortened. While black teas are fully oxidized, oolongs are oxidized anywhere between 20 – 80%. The result is a delicious fruity, nutty tea that balances the flavours of black and green beautifully.
Black tea represents approximately 90% of the tea consumed in the Western world. It sets itself apart from green teas through a different processing method. The leaves are first exposed to hot air for several hours in order to reduce their water content by 50% to 60%. This step starts to free up the enzyme responsible for oxidizing the leaf. It also softens the leaves, preparing them to undergo subsequent operations without breaking. Next the leaves are rolled (by hand or mechanically), allowing the essential oils to spread and to impregnate the buds. The aroma of the tea depends on these essential oils. A screen is used to sort the tea. The smallest leaves go directly to the next stage, while the larger, tougher ones undergo a second rolling. Oxidation – Entails the chemical reaction of the leaves and their components (polyphenols) with air, humidity, and heat. Finally, comes Firing. Drying the leaves in the oven stops the oxidation process. n beautifully.
Produced in the region of Yunnan in a small town by the name of ‘Pu-Erh’. This tea is often placed in a category of its own separated from white, green, oolong and black teas due to the aging of the tea as well as the double fermentation. Pu-erh is the only tea that is intentionally aged, becoming more expensive and desirable the older it gets. There has been a lot of speculation about the exact processing of this tea, as it has remained a long kept secret in China. Pu-erh tea is a living tea that becomes alive during an amazing artisan process that facilitates the development of active yeast cultures that thrive in true pu-erh tea. The two beneficial yeasts – which create the unique character of Pu-erh tea are known as the yellow and white yeast types. During the hotter months of the year, yellow yeast is in its most active state and thrives. This is the reason why Pu-erh tea is called “after oxidized tea.” It is during these hotter seasons that Pu-erh tea continues to oxidize. In order to manipulate the humidity critical for the processing of this tea, Pu-erh is stored in caves high up in the mountains of Yunnan for several months.