Technically speaking, all "true" tea comes from the leaf of a plant species called Camellia sinensis. Yes, one plant! White, Green, Oolong, Puer (pronounced "pu-erh"), and Black teas all come from Camellia sinensis (which actually has 3 major varieties and thousands of subvarieties and cultivars). The finest whole leaf teas (including Paromi) come from the youngest growth of the tea plant - the top two leaves and unopened leaf bud at the end of the shoot – and are picked by hand.
Any beverage not linked to Camellia sinensis that calls itself a tea is actually considered an "herbal tea" (or an "herbal infusion," or "tisane.")
If all true tea comes from one leaf, what accounts for the differences in taste and aroma across the spectrum of true teas? And how does one leaf become either white tea, green tea, oolong tea, black tea, or puer?
The main factor that determines flavor and what type of tea the leaves of Camellia sinensis will become by the time they get to your cup is the degree of processing that the leaves undergo -- specifically, how much the leaves are allowed to oxidize (to be exposed to air). White and Green tea are the least processed (least oxidized) while black teas undergo the most oxidization. Oolong tea is oxidized more than green tea but less than black tea.
For centuries health benefits have been attributed to tea and the evidence keeps pouring in. The most fascinating thing is that there is no other natural product known that has such diversified effects.
A cup of tea is chock full of nutrients that support good health. Tea contains flavanoids, natural compounds believed to have antioxidant powers. Antioxidants naturally help to protect the body against the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals can cause damage to the cell wall and genetic material within cells. They are known to play a significant role in the development of heart disease, strokes and cancer.
Depending on the type of tea, there are other steps in the production process that influence the end product. Tea makers all over the world have practiced and perfected an array of techniques, many of which are closely help secrets. Whatever the method used, keep in mind that tea making, like wine making, is a completely natural process - Whether done by hand or with the aid of equipment, it's a combination of art and science.
The leaves of camellia sinensis go through a few steps to become tea. Each type of tea has a slight variation of the following steps, and some teas omit certain steps.
|Plucking: the leaves are plucked from camellia sinensis bushes|
|Withering: the leaves are allowed to wilt, which starts to happen as soon as they are plucked. A plucked leaf is made up of 80% liquid while the dried leaf you get at home is less than 10% liquid.|
|Rolling: rolling further reduces the liquids found in the leaves. Rolling is done by tumbling the leaves in baskets or rolling over them similar to how you might roll flower in making bread.|
|Oxidation: the leaves oxidize by being left on their own in a climate controlled environment.|
|Drying: the leaves are dried, stopping the oxidation process. Drying is done in a variety of ways x including sun drying, air drying, and baking - depending on the type of tea.|