White tea is the youngest harvested buds of the Camellia sinensis plant almost exclusively in the Fujian province of China. It gets its name from the down white hairs that are found on the leaves. The liquor itself is the most pale of teas and it is known for its mild taste and fresh scent.
White tea is very delicate. Because of this fact, you should use filtered water that is brought to a high temperature, but not boiling. A good rule of thumb (if you don’t have a thermometer to test for 140 to 165ºF) is to bring it to a boil and then let it cool for at least a minute.
White tea was discovered between 960 and 1279 AD during the Song dynasty. The Chinese discovered that the youngest buds of the tea leaves produced a mild and refreshing taste. In the beginning, it was tea reserved for the Emperor. In fact according to legend, the Emperor Hui Zong became so obsessed with this tea that he lost his Empire while in obsessive pursuit of the perfect cup.
White tea went relatively unknown outside of China for years. The popularity of white tea in the west is only a recent occurrence. The tea’s popularity grew when health conscious people were finding the health benefits of white teas. White tea is rare because of the strict rules on harvesting and processing.
There are quite a few varieties of white tea based on several factors. The Silver Needle is the most sought after. This tea can only be harvested during a brief window in the early spring right before the tea buds turn into leaves. Long Life Eyebrow is considered in the lesser member of the white tea variety. It is harvested after the time period of Silver Needle and White Peony. Tribute Eyebrow is similar to Long Life but is considered to have a darker appearance. White Peony is the second highest of quality and is harvested when there is only a bud and two leaves. Lastly, there is Snowbud which is only harvested when there are only buds and leaves in the early spring.
In the end, you’re going to have to experience them for yourselves in terms of flavor. If you are interested in potential health benefits here’s a link:
It would not be a proper lesson on tea without sitting down and discussing the origin of tea. Where is it grown? More importantly where can it grow?
Let’s start with tea’s origin. Where did it originally come from?
Originally its natural form was believed to have originated in China. The most celebrated of teas come from the area of China known as “The Golden Triangle.” This area is found between the mountains of Huang Shan, Mogan Shan, Qi Shan and Tianmu Shan.
India has grown in popularity due its Assam teas (which are grown in the Brahmaputra valley) and Darjeeling teas (which is grown in the ex-British hills of the Himalayas). Darjeeling teas are known as the “Champagne of teas.”
This also spreads into Nepal. In their side of the Himalayas, they have their own tea that resembles Darjeeling.
But that’s just the Asian countries.
Tea growing has also made its way to East Africa to the countries of Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and Tanzania. These countries have made a dent in the mark by way of making large quantities of black teas. However, they have not been able to deliver the same quality of Chinese Yunnan or Indian Darjeeling.
But it does not stop there. Tea growing has also spread to the Americas to the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and the good old USA.
Tea has spread all over the world and it will continue to do so as it continues to also grow in popularity.
Pretty cool, no?
Black tea, known in China as red tea, is the most common product produced by our favorite Camellia sinensis plant. It’s the most consume type of tea in the world; however, it is the least popular style in China. The quality range is also greater than any other tea grown. It is the Chinese black tea that is known for its highest quality compared to the other mechanically harvested and grown in places like India, Sri Lanka and Kenya.
There is a lot of debate among tea scholars as to when black tea was actually invented. But everyone definitely agrees that tea appeared in the Chinese market by the 16th century. Obviously for that to happen, the origin of tea production had to have gone back farther.
There are those who argue that black tea was created during the beginning of the Ming Dynasty around 1391. Tea drinking in general had become accepted in Chinese society but was traded in the form of tightly compressed tea cakes. These teas were considered worth their weight in gold. At its peak, the tea trade was very well known for its wealth and corruption.
At the beginning of the Ming dynasty, under the rule of Ming Hong Wu Lian decided to put a halt to the corruption by ordering the end of the production of the tea cakes. With the production halted, the monasteries that produced tea were stuck with tea and nothing to do with it. The Wu Yi Shan’s monasteries began attempting to try pan-friend loose leaf green tea. They were never successful because they could not get the teas to stop oxidizing. This is typical of black tea. Thus green tea was created by the time the 16th century rolled around.
Fun history, no? Are you a fan of black tea, dear readers?
Don’t panic! The tea is not really blue! But it is a type of oolong. It is actually partly oxidized mix of green and black tea collectively grouped as qīngchá (Chinese: 青茶; literally "blue-green tea").
But that’s only a part of the category that is oolong. What is oolong? Why is it so special? According to some the oolong is considered to be the most complicated tea produced. One tea master, Lin Zhi, likened tea to painting. He compared oolongs to oils paintings, green tea to Chinese ink paintings and black teas to water colors.
The word Oolong (or Wulong) comes from the Chinese word 烏龍 meaning ‘black dragon tea.’
There is a legend that during the Ming Dynasty, there was a ban on tea production for about 150 years. The tea makers essentially had to find different techniques. There were some (likely Buddhist monks) who had invented charcoal roasting techniques in drying their teas. This slow charcoal roasting along with the oxidization became the defining flavor of Oolong is today.
If you have to look at oolongs more literally, green tea is one extreme while black tea is the other. Oolongs are the ‘middle ground’ of teas, so to speak. Greens are not oxidized; black is completely oxidized while the oolongs are everything in between. The complexity of the tea is due to the fact that oolong is not completely oxidized like black teas. There’s not even an exact science as to how much the tea can be oxidized to be considered oolong. The range is anywhere between 15%-75% oxidation. Because of this fact, the flavor of oolongs is never officially consistent. The flavors have been known to wood and thick with roasted aromas, green and fresh with a bouquet or sweet and fruity with honey aromas.
The combinations are mind boggling. But I love the idea of a tea flavor being a form of roulette, you never know what kind of flavor you’ll get.