Author: Directors of Tea Leaves Date Posted:1 May 2019
You might be surprised to find that all teas grown around the world originate from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. From this plant, you can generally get five types of teas; these are White, Green, Oolong, Black and Pu Erh. The difference between the tea types is in the harvesting and manufacturing; altering the leaf shape and chemistry for each tea type.
Once the tea is harvested by hand, there are generally a number of processes that your tea goes through prior to you being able to enjoy the tea in your cup. In tea processing there are five basic steps; they are plucking, drying, rolling, fermenting and final drying. The time or number of processes that the tea is subject to depends on the tea desired.
White tea is essentially unprocessed tea, and get its name from the fuzzy white ‘down’ that appears on the unopened or recently opened buds of the tea plant. This tea is simply plucked and allowed to air dry over a number of days.
Green tea is subject to a little more processing; with being plucked, air-dried and rolled either by hand or machine. Heat is applied to the rolling process in the way of steaming or pan-fired by to prevent oxidisation.
Oolong tea is one of the most time-consuming teas to make as it utilises all five processes, with the rolling and oxidising done repeatedly until the desired result is achieved. Oolong teas are oxidised anywhere between 8-80%, and are known to have a much more complex flavour than green or white tea.
Black tea also utilises all five steps in the process, however, black teas are allowed to oxidise longer. None of the processes are repeated, unlike the Oolong, and the process of making black tea is completed in a day.
The way that Pu-erh teas are processed is almost a completely different art. It undergoes the processes similar to green, but before the leaf is dried, it is aged either as a loose leaf tea or pressed into dense cakes and then left to ferment.