Posted in Kafevend Blog
Welcome back to the blog and the second in our series as we delve into the mysteries of tea. As you may remember from earlier this week, we had a brief scan over a few of the many aspects of making tea, and today we'll be examining in depth the way the leaves are processed into the wide varieties of tea on offer.
First up on the list is green tea. This method of processing tea is the oldest around, dating back thousands of years and it's also one of the simplest. It results in teas that possess as much of the original flavours as possible without just stuffing a handful of leaves into your mouth! The leaves are simply steamed in order to prevent oxidation and then dried.
Yellow tea is a slight modification of the green tea process. After steaming, instead of being dried quickly the leaves are left for a while, subtly altering the flavour compared to green tea and of course resulting in yellow leaves.
Fermented tea follows the basic method of green tea but adds another step. Essentially the green tea leaves are left to compost- though this might raise alarm bells in your head, it is a tightly controlled process. They can be left for several months, and sometimes even years. Much like wine, the ageing process helps to develop the flavour. The most famous fermented tea is Pu-erh, made in China's Yunnan Province.
Although all tea leaves will begin to wilt as soon as they are picked, the next three teas differ from the first three as they are not immediately fixed to prevent further wilting. This more natural part of the process is used to reduce the moisture content in the leaves and starts oxidation where the chemicals in the leaf start to break down and change, altering the flavour. As we already covered black tea in last week's article, we'll move straight on to white tea.
White tea is the most simply processed form of tea. After wilting, the leaves are dried- that's pretty much it. The complexity comes from the stringent rules on the type of tea leaf that is used in the production, as only the youngest top shoots are used which are covered with tiny white hairs.
Last on our list, but by no means the least is the wonderfully named oolong tea. It is made similarly to black tea, though less harshly. After wilting, the leaves are bruised in order to promote oxidation. Unlike black tea however where the leaves are left to oxidize fully, oolong tea is only partially oxidized. There is no specific amount- oxidation can vary wildly amongst varieties of oolong. The unique part of making oolong tea comes from the way it is rolled- either into long, curled leaves or tight beads with a small tail.
If you've always been a traditional British black tea drinker, why not experiment with other types now and again and explore the impact that the processing of tea leaves has on the end result? And who knows, you might even discover a new favourite!