Quick Recipes and Easy

Know Your Teas- Drink Them Right

Did you know there are over 3,000 distinctly different teas? There’s small chance you’ll get to try all of them, but luckily there are just a few basic types. If you can figure out what type of tea it is, at least you’ll know how to brew it and what to expect.

There are four main kinds of tea: black, green, white and other (Pu Erh). They range from strong breakfast teas with a powerful caffeine kick to delicate green and yellow teas ideal to share with companions. Most vital is how you make the tea, as each kind must be treated just right to get the best out of it. Here you will find the main ways to make tea, including what equipment to use and step by step instructions. They cover:

Strong black tea: Assam (India), Ceylon (Sri Lanka), English Breakfast (blend).

Delicate black tea: Darjeeling (India), Earl Grey (blend, flavoured with bergamot).

Chinese black tea: Lapsang souchong, Oolong, Keemun (China) , Pu Erh (China, post-fermented).

Green teas: Long jing, Gunpowder (China), Gyokuro, Sencha (Japan). Jasmine tea (scented with jasmine flowers).

White tea: Silver needle, Eyebrow (China).

All tea is made from the dried leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which looks a lot like the Camellias in our gardens. Although some drinks made from other plants are now called tea, this is really misleading and they should be called an infusion or even a tisane. Here, tea is tea!

Most tea drunk in the Western world is black tea, and most is blended from Assam or similar potent varieties. The leaves are air-dried (oxidised) and broken into small pieces, referred to as Orange Pekoe. The tea needs to be brewed with boiling water for just 3 or 4 minutes to develop its full flavour. It should be strong and invigorating, is ideal for breakfast and is best served in large cups or mugs with a small milk.

By contrast, the delicate black teas come from many different varieties, including mountain teas like Darjeeling and flavoured blends like Earl Grey. Usually the leaves are larger, and the colour is often lighter. The tea usually tastes better if the water is just off the boil and a slightly longer infusion is needed, perhaps 5 or 6 minutes. Most are best without milk, or with only a few drops, and should ideally be served in china teacups with some ceremony.

Chinese black tea and Pu Erh are similar to the delicate black teas but have a range of floral, fruity and smoky flavours. They have the larger leaves and the lighter colour, which tends towards reds and browns. This kind of tea should not be drunk until it has stood for at least 5 minutes, and it continues to improve for at least twice that time. It is usual to pour the first cup and tip it back in the pot to aid mixing. As the leaves are large a strainer is not needed, and the tea is best served without milk. Small traditional China bowls are excellent too.

Green and white teas are withered (partially dried) and then either pan-fried or steamed to avoid oxidisation and retain the fresh flavour. White teas consist mainly of buds and have a creamy or nutty flavour, while green teas are mainly leaves with a more grassy flavour. Both varieties are rolled into distinctive shapes such as “eyebrows” before final drying. Jasmine tea is green tea flavoured with Jasmine flowers. The tea should be made with very hot rather than boiling water to avoid developing an unpleasant bitter taste. The tea can brew for an extended period and should always be served without milk, bowls preferred.

Each of these teas can also be now be found in tea bags, containing finely powdered tea referred to as “dust”. It can be a challenge to get the water hot enough to get a excellent flavour, so for any black tea boiling water is a must. Milk should be added after 2 or 3 minutes and mixed by jiggling the bag, which can then be drained and removed (but not squeezed). It is possible to make a reasonably excellent cup of tea from tea bags if you are careful.

Over the next few posts I’ll clarify in more detail for each kind of tea how to make it right and how to drink it right.

teatime.polyomino.com/2007/03/know-your-teas-drink-them-right/ teatime.polyomino.com/2007/03/know-your-teas-drink-them-right/

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