White Tea

White tea is the rarest of all teas and is produced in very small quantities in China (originally in Fujian Province). It out rivals all other teas for its delicate, mild and pure taste. It is the healthiest of all teas because of its high anti-oxidant content and it is also very low in caffeine. After harvesting, white tea undergoes the least processing of all tea, thereby retaining the most health giving properties.

All About White Tea

White tea is referred to as ‘non-fermented’ and when brewed, makes a pale, straw-coloured infusion that has a velvety, smooth taste with a fine aroma. Once opened, this tea should be used within three months.

Pai Mu Tan Imperial (also called Bai Mu Dan, Balmudan or White Peony) is made from small, unopened leaves of the Camelia Sinensis plant, which are plucked in early spring, just before the leaves open. The buds are carefully picked by hand, with great care taken not to damage them. They are placed immediately on bamboo trays in thin layers and taken to dry in the sun. The warm air circulating around them allows the moisture to evaporate and natural withering to occur. This natural drying is the only process white tea undergoes. The tea is finally sorted and blended and it is at this stage that flowers and fruits can be added for different flavours and aromas.

Yin Zhen (Yinfeng or Silver Needles) is made from tender, new, unopened buds which have a coating of white down. This gives them a silvery appearance and they are also known as ‘Silver Tip Pekoe’ and ‘China White’. This tea is picked on two particular days in the year and processed by hand. Like the Pai Mu Tan, Yin Zhen is left to dry naturally in the sun. The dried tea’s appearance is of tiny, white blossoms amongst small, delicate, silver-green leaves.

How To Make The Perfect Cup

To make White tea boil water and leave to cool for around 2 minutes or use water at 185F –85C.
Take care not to pour boiling water on to the leaves as this will scald the leaves and prevent them from opening and releasing all their delicate flavours and aromas. It is important to use good fresh filtered water and to allow time for the leaves to infuse and open releasing their fragrance and flavour. Do not let the tea over infuse as this can make the taste too strong and slightly bitter. Do not let the leaves stew in any remaining water, drain off all water and reuse the leaves by pouring new fresh hot water for a second brew, this brew can have different characteristics in taste and flavours. The Chinese have often regarded the second brew as the best!

As a guide infuse 1-2 teaspoons of White Tea per cup for up to 4 minutes depending on the strength you enjoy.

There are two good methods for brewing tea; one is called ‘the two tea pots method’ and the second ‘the warm cup method’

Use the first teapot to brew the tea and when it has brew for the required time pour into a second warmed tea pot using a tea strainer so there will be no tea leaves. This leaves all the leaves in the first pot and ready to make a second brew.
The warm cup method is as follows pour fresh boiled water into a teapot without any tea leaves in this pot and from the teapot pour into the required number of cups, then place the tea in the empty but warmed teapot, finally pour back the water from the cups and let the tea brew, not only do you have the exact amount of water needed but it is at the perfect temperature!

Whilst it is not essential to use porcelain cups for drinking tea it helps! It can be no coincidence that the Chinese produced the earliest, finest and most delicate porcelain and tea of outstanding quality, both are still held in high regard and combining the two does justice to both. So it is recommended to use porcelain cups or mugs to drink these fine white teas from, and brew in a porcelain teapot that way you get the full potential both in flavours and aromas.

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Green Tea

Green Tea is usually referred to as ‘non-fermented’ or ‘semi-fermented’ tea. The leaves of the Camelia Sinensis plant are plucked and harvested by hand with great care being taken not to damage the leaves, which would start fermentation. It is important with green tea not to allow fermentation and to stop oxidation in order to ensure that the tea retains the all important polyphenols.

The freshly plucked leaves are rushed from the fields to the first drying process, during which they are placed in thin layers on bamboo trays and left for a few hours to dry in the sun and warm air.

All About Green Tea

Green tea is then heat treated either by being Steamed, Pan-fried or Roasted. These different processes will prevent any further fermentation. Whether or not the leaves are pan fried or steamed does not seem to make any difference to the taste, but roasting gives a distinctly nut-like or smoky flavour. The leaves are then twisted or rolled into balls and left to dry and it is at this stage that the leaves turn a dull green. They are then finally separated by sifting and then graded and only at this stage can the green tea be blended with flowers, fruit and spices for different flavours and textures.

Green tea has a delicate, smooth taste that is similar to the leaf in its natural state. Green teas have very low levels of caffeine approximately 8.4mg per cup. (Compare this with coffee at 60 – 120mg or black tea 25 – 110mg)

How To Make The Perfect Cup

Withering – the leaves are spread out on trays so the air can circulate around them, thus removing the moisture. The leaves become limp ready for rolling and the leaves have a fruity aroma.

Rolling – this breaks the leaves lightly and releases the enzymes within them that are essential to the final colour and flavour. This can be done by hand or mechanically.

Fermenting – the rolled lumps of tea are broken up and spread out, then left to cool in a humid atmosphere for up to 4 hours. This causes the leaves to change from green to coppery-red; this also changes the flavour as the enzymes and oxygen transforms catechins into thearubigens and theaflavins.

Firing – this stops the fermenting process and dries the leaves, changing them from rusty-brown to black. It is during this process that the recognisable tea smell is acquired. Firing is traditionally carried out in large pans on open fires or in hot air tunnels.

After firing, the dried tea is a jumbled pile of leaves stalks and tea dust. This is then sorted by mechanical or manual sifters using graduated mesh and is separated by size. This ensures both a good appearance to the tea and even brewing. Black tea is graded according to the size of the leaf, not quality.

There are two main grades of black tea, leaf or broken. Subdivisions of leaf grade include Orange Pekoe, Pekoe and Souchong. There are three different types of Chinese Black Tea, Souchong Black Tea, Congou Black Tea and Broken Black Tea. Broken Black Tea is commonly found in instant tea and most tea bags.

To make Green tea, boil water and leave to cool for around 1-2 minutes or use water at 166F – 75C. It is important to use good fresh filtered water and to allow time for the leaves to infuse and open releasing their fragrance and flavour. Boil freshly drawn filtered water, if you use water that has already been boiled in a kettle it reduces the oxygen content in the water. The warm cup method is very good for making Green Tea, as you are less likely to find the tea is bitter with this method, as the amino acids that give the tea its flavour dissolve at a lower temperature than the tannin and the tea will taste sweeter. It is really important not to let the tea brew for too long or to leave the leaves in the teapot. It is possible to use the leaves again but you must take out all the water and fill the teapot again with fresh boiled filtered water.

Take care not to pour boiling water on to the leaves as this will scald the leaves and stop the leaves from releasing their flavour and damage the delicate flavour. It is important for the leaves to open and release the delicate aromas and taste, drink immediately and do not let the tea over infuse as it can become strong and slightly bitter if left too long.

As a guide infuse 1-2 teaspoons of Green tea per cup for up to 3 minutes depending on the strength you enjoy. Drinking Green tea without milk is highly recommended, but you can add sugar or honey to taste.

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Black Tea

Black Tea is fermented tea. Although the varieties of black tea and methods of processing differ considerably between the producing regions, all involve four basic steps after harvesting the leaves; withering, rolling, fermenting and firing.

All About Black Tea

Withering – the leaves are spread out on trays so the air can circulate around them, thus removing the moisture. The leaves become limp ready for rolling and the leaves have a fruity aroma.

Rolling – this breaks the leaves lightly and releases the enzymes within them that are essential to the final colour and flavour. This can be done by hand or mechanically.

Fermenting – the rolled lumps of tea are broken up and spread out, then left to cool in a humid atmosphere for up to 4 hours. This causes the leaves to change from green to coppery-red; this also changes the flavour as the enzymes and oxygen transforms catechins into thearubigens and theaflavins.

Firing – this stops the fermenting process and dries the leaves, changing them from rusty-brown to black. It is during this process that the recognisable tea smell is acquired. Firing is traditionally carried out in large pans on open fires or in hot air tunnels.

After firing, the dried tea is a jumbled pile of leaves stalks and tea dust. This is then sorted by mechanical or manual sifters using graduated mesh and is separated by size. This ensures both a good appearance to the tea and even brewing. Black tea is graded according to the size of the leaf, not quality.

There are two main grades of black tea, leaf or broken. Subdivisions of leaf grade include Orange Pekoe, Pekoe and Souchong. There are three different types of Chinese Black Tea, Souchong Black Tea, Congou Black Tea and Broken Black Tea. Broken Black Tea is commonly found in instant tea and most tea bags.

How To Make The Perfect Cup

To make Black tea boil water and leave to cool for 30 seconds – 1 minute or use water at 203F – 95C. Take care not to pour actual boiling water on to the leaves as this will scald the leaves and damage the flavour. It is important to use good fresh filtered water and to allow time for the leaves to infuse releasing their fragrance and flavour, after pouring (it can be a benefit to use porcelain cups or mugs) drink immediately and do not let the tea over infuse as this can make the taste too strong and slightly bitter. Use either the warm cup or two tea pot methods as described for White Tea, you can use the leaves to brew a second pot but there may be a subtle change in taste and aroma

As a guide infuse 1-2 teaspoons per cup for up to 1-4 minutes depending on the strength you enjoy. It can be drunk with milk and sugar but if you are using a good single estate or first /second flush or a black tea which is flavoured with fruit or flowers then drinking it without milk is highly recommended.

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Rooibos & Honeybush Tea

Rooibos literally means Red Bush in Afrikaans. It grows only in South Africa and comes from the Aspalathus Linearis plant rather than the Camelia Sinensis; it has needle like leaves. Rooibos tea has a delicate and soft taste and makes a wonderful, rich, red infusion.

All About Rooibos & Honeybush Tea

Rooibos tea is a fermented tea but is naturally without caffeine. The harvesting takes place in the summer months and most of the tea is picked by hand. The tea is then bruised and cut using tobacco cutting machines and at this stage Rooibos is still green. Fermentation is essential in order to enhance the flavour of the tea, which is piled into mounds and then spread out to dry in the sun. At this stage, the tea becomes an attractive red rust colour. In the final process, Rooibos is sterilised by steam, dried in commercial dryers, then sifted and graded and can be blended with flowers, fruit and spices to add flavours.

Rooibos tea contains no colours, additives or preservatives, making it a natural beverage. Caffeine freeit is rich in Vitamin C, mineral salts and proteins. Rooibos also contains anti-oxidants which can help slow the ageing process and boost the immune system.

Rooibos tea contains no oxalic acid and, according to studies conducted in South Africa and Japan, it has been shown to aid health problems such as insomnia, irritability, headaches, nervous tension and hypertension. In South Africa, Rooibos tea has been used to treat allergies such as hay fever, asthma and eczema. It is also used to treat skin irritations by brewing and then placing directly on to the infected areas. In South Africa also, many pregnant women and nursing mothers drink Rooibos because of its lack of caffeine. Rooibos tea is a great thirst quencher and is an excellent drink for active people, including children.

How To Make The Perfect Cup

To make Rooibos tea boil water and leave to cool for around 2 minutes or use water at 203F – 75C to 85C. Take care not to pour boiling water on to the leaves as this will scald the leaves and damage the delicate taste. It is important to use good fresh filtered water and to allow time for the leaves to infuse and open releasing their fragrance and flavour, after pouring (it can be of benefit to use porcelain cups or mugs) drink immediately and do not let the tea over infuse as this can make the taste too strong and slightly bitter.

As a guide infuse 1-2 teaspoons per cup for up to 2-4mins depending on the strength you enjoy. Rooibos Tea can be drunk with milk but not flavoured Rooibos or Honeybush Tea.

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Tisanes

Tisanes can not technically be classed as tea as they do not contain any leaves from the Camelia Sinensis plant. However, they are usually made in a similar way and can offer a pleasurable and healthy alternative to tea. All tisanes include a variety and mixture of different plant parts, including leaves, flowers, roots and bark.

All About Tisanes

Most tisanes are processed in the much the same way as green tea; all the different plants and fruits are dried as quickly as possible after harvesting to avoid any fermentation. The art and knowledge required for blending and mixing of herbal and fruit tisanes is vast as many of the plants are used not only for their taste but also their health giving properties such as chamomile, which is reputed to aid sleep. Fruit and Herbal tisanes have delicious aromas and make refreshing drinks. Fruit and Herbal tisanes are usually, completely caffeine free.

How To Make The Perfect Cup

To make Tisanes boil water and leave to cool for around 3 minutes or use water at 158F – 70C. Take care not to pour boiling water on to the leaves as this will scald the leaves and damage the taste. It is important to use good fresh filtered water and to allow time for the leaves to infuse and open releasing their fragrance and flavour, after pouring (it can be of benefit to use porcelain cups or mugs) drink immediately and do not let the tisane over infuse as this can make the taste too strong and slightly bitter. Please also look at how to make Green Tea for description of the two teapot & warm cup method.

As a guide infuse 1-2 teaspoons per cup for 2-5 minutes depending on the strength enjoy you enjoy. It is difficult to be precise about brewing times, as there are different plants and fruits parts in each tisane and it also depends on your preference and taste. Herbal tisanes tend to be more delicate and subtle in favour than Fruit tisanes which can have more exotic and intense flavours.

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“If a man has no tea in him he is incapable of understanding truth or beauty.”

Ancient Japanese saying