Know Your Tea

From the multiplicity of charming legends going back about 5,000 years tea has the distinction of being the most ancient beverage and the most consumed also (after water of course) in the world. But its exact origins are lost in antiquity.

According to the Chinese legend, emperor Chen-Nung, the Divine Cultivator, discovered tea accidently as he was boiling water under the shade of a wild tea tree. The leaves were gently rustling in the breeze when a few leaves dropped into his pot. The emperor drank the resulting infusion and felt himself overwhelmed with a sense of well being. Tea was thus born.

The Indians attribute the discovery to Prince Bodhi Dharma, son of king Kosjuwo. He had left India to go north, preaching Buddhism along the way. He vowed never to sleep during his seven year meditation. At the end of five years, he was overwhelmed with lassitude and drowsiness, but a providential chance made him pick and chew some leaves of an unidentified tree. The tree was a large tea bush, and it's astonishing properties allowed him to keep his vow.

The legends may differ about the discovery of tea, but they all agree that tea has some astonishing properties. To the lone drinker, the tea's subtle flavor and aroma serves to focus and calm the mind. Shared by two it acts as an unconstructive third entity bridging the two poles of conversation. A simple cup of tea could contain the elements of the social, sensual and even the spiritual.

Tea has been rediscovered a number of times since its original discovery, when first discovered it was only manufactured as a green tea by the Chinese by steam firing the tea leaves, once the Chinese discovered Pan firing, it paved the way to Oolongs and Black Teas. Once the British discovered tea growing wild in Assam-India in the year 1823. The “Rotorvan" continuous process machine was developed to manufacture CTC teas (crush, tear, curl). But well before the discovery of Indian Teas one other important development took place and that was Earl Grey Tea. which in turn would propagate the marvelous range of flavored teas throughout the world.

Then came the world of Tea Bags, Iced Teas and Instant and ready to drink teas. And let us not forget decaffeinated teas. The latest rediscovery of tea has been in the form of Chai or rather should we say 'Masala Chai'. Masala Chai is tea prepared with a blend of spices. So one can see that tea is a continually evolving beverage.

Until the next new trend starts, we invite you to try one of our over 150 different types of teas which include - Black, White, Greens, Oolongs, Jasmines, Earl Grey, Flavored and Decaffeinated.

There are numerous reasons, and the difference is more than what meets the eye, it is beyond the surface and more than broad generalizations that people make. Below we have tried to sum up why and how in the War of Whole Loose Leaf Tea v/s Tea Bag, Whole Loose leaf is winning!

Tea bags contain small cut leaf which is either Dust, Fanning's Or Brokens and Whole Loose Leaf Teas are primarily made up of Whole, large and Unbroken Leaves.

Tea grades such as dust, fanning's & brokens have higher surface areas which means higher exposure to the essential oils and more of a chance for them to evaporate.

The large grades have a relatively lesser surface area and hence the essential oils remain intact. Hence better Aroma, Better flavor and more Anti oxidants!

The flavor of tea bags is more standardized than Loose Leaf Tea. Tea bags contain 1 dimensional flavor where as in a Loose Leaf Whole tea you can enjoy subtle nuances, flavors and tasting notes!

Tea bags have limited space for the tea leaves to let water flow and absorb very little water and hence the infusion and the yield is not very flavorful, Loose Leaf tea have space to expand and hence allow the water to be absorbed and flow thru the leaves and extract good amount of vitamins, minerals, flavors all along with great aroma.

Most Tea bags irrespective of the added flavor or fruits are made up or have a standardized blend unlike loose leaf tea where the leaf the size, style and the taste are determined in accordance with the fruit or additive being added to it.

Loose leaf teas can be reinfused several times unlike a tea bag.

Tea bags may release tannins more quickly when compared to loose leaf tea resulting in bitter and astringent brews.

Most tea bags teas are machine picked and machine make unlike most whole loose leaf tea which are carefully handpicked and carefully selectively processed.

Tea bags gained momentum in an era when there were no alternative to the convenience that they offered. People had foregone quality for convenience.

Now days there are enough tea accessories available in the market so making loose leaf tea is as much a convenience as much a tea bags!

Tea comes from the evergreen bush Camellia sinensis. Like Vitis vinifera, the vine grapes, tea is a single species of plants, but one with many varieties. With its stiff and shining pointed leaves, the tea plant is an ideal plantation crop requiring the warm, wet climate of the tropics, with a considerable amount of rainfall. It can be grown from altitudes of a few feet to over 8,000 feet above sea level. Though the highest yield is obtained from tea bushes grown in the lower altitudes, it is high-grown teas that have the finest quality. Tea was formerly propagated from seeds, but modern methods use clones; that is, cuttings from specially selected bushes with ideal characteristics. Though the tea plant is easy to grow, it is surprisingly difficult to get good quality tea from it. The reason is that tea, like wine, depends on complex factors such as soil quality, garden management, precipitation, elevation, and manufacture. All types of tea come from the same plant; differences among types come from different methods of manufacture. Tea classifications are: Black which is fully oxidized, Oolong, partly oxidized, Green, not oxidized at all. White, sun dried and unoxidized, Yellow tea, and Pu-erh, a tea with secondary oxidation.

India produces most of the world's finest black teas. Darjeeling, with the reputation of being “Champagne of teas," is the world's most sought-after. Assam, another region of India, is the world's single largest tea-growing region and produces tea with great strength. The Nilgiri region of South India is known worldwide for its high-grown fragrant teas that steep a bright and brisk cup. Black teas are also produced in Nuwara Eliya, Dimbulla, Uva and Ratnapura; regions of Sri Lanka. Black teas from China are produced in Anhui and Yunnan provinces. Anhui is the home of the world-famous Keemun teas, known as the 'King of Red Teas' (black teas are called 'red teas' in China).

Yunnan produces teas similar to the Assams of India—strong and robust. Black teas are also produced in many other countries, including Indonesia, Java, Argentina, Turkey, Iran, Russia, Vietnam, Nepal, Kenya, and several other African countries.

Black Tea

Fully Oxidized

Black tea is made from leaves that have been fully oxidized, producing a rich and hearty flavor in amber-colored liquor. It is the oxidation process—oxygen coming into contact with the enzymes in the tealeaf—that creates black tea. Black teas have a fuller and richer flavor than unprocessed green teas. The traditional “orthodox" method of processing black tea involves four basic steps: Withering, Rolling, Oxidation and Drying or Firing. Once plucked, the tea leaves are first withered until they are limp enough to be rolled without cracking. They are then rolled by machines, which gives them shape.

Rolling also bruises the leaves enough to oxidize. The rolled leaves are then spread out in a cool place to absorb the oxygen, which activates the enzymes. This is called oxidation.

The leaves are then fired or dried in large ovens with temperatures up to 194 degrees. They are then sorted and packed into chests or paper sacks.

Oolong Tea

Partly Oxidized

Originating in Wuyishan (Fujian), Oolong or Wulong (“dark dragon") is one of China's six types of tea, like, Lucha (green tea), Hongcha (' red tea' i.e. - black tea), Heicha ('black tea', i.e. - Pu-erh tea), etc. Oolong tea fallsbetween the green and black tea categories, with degrees of oxidation ranging from 7 percent to 70 percent. Oolong tea has been produced since the end of the Ming Dynasty. China's principal production areas include Minbei (North Fujian), Minnan (South Fujian), Guangdong, and Taiwan. The green tea leaves undergo a short and carefully controlled oxidizing process that places oolong halfway between black and green teas. Oolongs are mainly made in South China and Taiwan. Oolongs are considered by the Chinese to be the most health-giving teas. Some of the world's finest Oolongs come from Formosa or Taiwan. The quality of an Oolong depends upon the ability of the tea maker to manage the oxidation process, which can be manipulated to create extraordinary teas. The higher the degree or percentage of oxidation, the darker the tea will be when steeped. Recently, Oolongs also have been manufactured in the Darjeeling and Nilgiri regions of India.

Green Tea

Unoxidized

Green tea is dried and rolled, but not oxidized. The leaves are rolled or twisted in a variety of ways. Pan-fired greens undergo three treatments at the same time: roasting, rolling and firing. Roasting kills off the enzymes responsible for oxidization and involves heating the green tea leaves to approximately 212°F, at which point the leaves become soft and flexible, 5 ready for rolling. The leaves may be rolled into various shapes. Japanese greens are manufactured differently, by steaming rather than pan-firing. Green tea is an excellent thirst quencher and can be drunk throughout the day. Nearly all green teas come from China or Japan. Although India, Sri Lanka, Argentina and Vietnam have started producing green teas, China still remains the leader in manufacturing green teas.

White Tea

Least Processed

Baicha, literally meaning “white tea" in Chinese, is one of China's six types of teas. This white downy tea is processed in two steps only, withering and drying. Although Baicha has a long recorded history and many legends, its commercial production is a little more than 200 years old, beginning with Yinzhen production in 1796 in the last year of the Emperor Qianlong. The Chinese have mastered the art of manufacturing buds with white hairy down intact. Very little processing is done in the manufacture of white tea. The tea leaves are slightly steamed and then mostly sun-dried. The tea steeps a very delicate, light cup with vegetative flavor. The liquor and leaf, like the tea's name, look white and are probably the most prestigious and romantic of all types of teas. Recently, some white teas have been produced in Darjeeling, Nilgiri, and Sri Lanka. Very small quantities of whitetea are produced, since it is very labor intensive.

Yellow Tea

Huang Cha, literally meaning “yellow tea" in Chinese, is one of China's six types of tea. Yellow is similar to green teas, except that it requires the additional “Menhuang" processing stage, Menhuang means “sealed yellowing," during which the leaf is piled, then covered or wrapped, and kept damp at temperatures between 77°F and 95°F until it turns yellow. Yellow tea has a history of more than 2,000 years.

Pu-Erh Tea

A category unto itself—like oolong, green, or white—Pu-Erh can be called China's mystery tea. It has been produced in Yunnan from ancient times and traded at the market town of Pu-erh until eventually the tea itself acquired this name. Pu-Erh is made from tea (black, green, or white) that is exposed to an unknown bacterium and allowed to undergo a sort of secondary fermentation. It may be compressed into many shapes or left loose; uniquely among teas, it actually improves with age.

1. Start with fresh, cold, purified water; bottled water is recommended. Water that is distilled, hot from the tap, or boiled for too long may result in tea that is flat in taste with little or no aroma.

2. Select the right water temperature from the box below:

Type of Tea Steeping Time Water Temperature
White Tea 3 - 5 minutes 75° - 80° C
Japanese Green Tea 1 - 3 minutes 75° - 85° C
Other Green Tea 3 - 4 minutes 80° - 85° C
Oolong Tea 3 - 5 minutes 80° - 85° C
Black Tea 3 minutes 100° C
Pu-erh Tea 3 minutes 100° C
Rooibos & Herbs 5 - 7 minutes 100° C
Chai Blends 6 - 7 minutes 100° C

3. Measure the approximate amount of dry leaves. For every 275 ml. cup, use one rounded teaspoon; and for teas, such as large-leaf blacks, oolongs, and whites, begin with a teaspoon and a half. Adjust the amount of dry leaf according to taste and experience.

4. Steep for the sufficient length of time - refer to the chart.