January is recognized as national hot tea month – so let’s celebrate!
You can start new habits and make new plans any time of the year, however, January is generally regarded as the month of re-birth and re-discovery. The New Year is our opportunity to meditate on the previous year and make plans for the coming year. It’s a time to assess the aspects of our life that are going well and work on the areas that need improvement. While you contemplate the direction your life will take this year don’t forget to put on the kettle!
With 31 days to delve into the tea world we’ve listed a few suggestions below to help you make the most of National Tea Month this year.
Black, Green, Oolong and White teas all come from the same plant Camellia sinensis. Differences among the four types of tea result from the various degrees of processing and the levels of oxidization. Black teas are oxidized the longest, while Oolong teas are oxidized for approximately half that time and Green and White teas are not oxidized at all. This oxidization results in natural chemical reactions that form distinguishing characteristics in aroma, taste and color. Green and White teas most closely resemble the look and chemical composition of the fresh tea leaf.
We do offer on our website detailed descriptions and brewing information for each tea and tisane that we offer.
Black teas are fully oxidized leaves from the Camellia Sinensis plant and are the most popular type of tea consumed in America.
Hot tea is best made by warming a teapot while fresh water is being boiled. Tea should be placed in the teapot allowing one teaspoonful for each person plus one extra teaspoonful to increase strength. As soon as the water has boiled it should immediately be poured onto the tea in the teapot, the tea stirred and the teapot lid replaced. To obtain the full flavor and strength the tea should remain in the teapot for three minutes for a small leaf or five minutes for a large leaf, before pouring into cups or glasses. Milk or lemon may then be added if desired.
A quick definition is that Oolong teas are a compromise between black and green tea, being partially oxidized. The long definition though is that Oolong teas require great care and attention to achieve their unique and delicious taste. After the leaves are picked, sorted and cleaned, they begin a process that requires anywhere from ten to eighteen steps depending on the style of Oolong desired. Primarily the steps will include: primary withering, cooling, rattling (leaves are shaken, which begins the oxidation process), bruising (leaves are bruised by putting them in a tumbler), firing, and drying.
The leaves range from bright green to brownish in color and are usually larger in appearance than most black teas. Because of the leaf style Oolongs lend themselves to additional infusions and, until the leaves fully open, they may even yield more than six steepings. They produce a very aromatic beverage with an array of interesting flavors.
To best brew our selection of oolong teas, refer to each tea’s individual brewing instructions shown online. Generally though, to brew Oolong teas, use 1 teaspoon per 6oz cup. Oolong teas prefer cooler temperatures than black teas. The water should be between 190 – 195º instead of 212º. Steep for 2-5 minutes (depending on the type of oolong) for the finest flavor. Multiple infusions are possible for some Oolong teas.
Green teas are not subjected to the withering process. Instead, immediately after they are plucked, sorted and cleaned they are laid out on mats to begin the process of primary drying. This process involves reducing the water content of the tea leaf. Once the moisture content reaches the desired level the tea leaves move on to their individual processing phase. Green teas may be processed in a variety of different methods including sun drying, basket firing, pan firing, or oven drying, depending on the type of green tea desired and environmental factors. For instance, in some areas where the humidity is high sun drying is not an option for optimal green tea production.
Green teas are brewed similar to black and oolong teas except the water temperature should be between 160 – 185º instead of 212º to avoid a bitter taste in the brew. Steep green teas 1½ -3 minutes for the finest flavor (please refer to the individual brewing information located on each tea on our website). Green teas lend themselves to a second steeping, which is about 1/3 the normal time, since the leaves have already absorbed a certain amount of water.
Generally: Steep Japanese teas for 1 ½ to 2 minutes and Chinese and other green teas for 2-3 minutes.
White tea originated in the Chinese province of Fujian during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). White teas, which are un-oxidized, are produced from the new buds of the Camellia Sinensis plant during the months of April and May. The delicate flavor is very dependent upon correct harvesting and processing. There are two different leaf styles, budset (which is plucked from the spring buds) and new style white (which is picked after the bud has opened).
White Tea can only be hand-picked, and at 6,000 to 7,000 buds to the kilo of tea, these teas command high prices in the market. Since these leaves are destined to remain as whole leaf teas, not rolled or cut, their picking is done with extreme care to protect their quality and appearance. Once picked, these white teas are withered first in the shade outdoors and then indoors using cool air. The processing of budset teas ends here, but new style white teas are further processed by bake drying to ensure that the moisture content has been reduced in the leaf. There are many misnomers about white tea, the most important of which is the caffeine content. White tea, because of its’ long withering process and because it is harvested from the top leaves and bud of the tea plant, can actually be higher in caffeine than oxidized teas.
Since white tea leaves are so much larger than black teas, we recommend using 2 teaspoons per cup. The water temperature, as with green and oolong teas, should be below boiling. We suggest a water temperature of roughly 175º instead of 212º to avoid a bitter taste in the brew. Steep white teas 2-5 minutes for the finest flavor. Please refer to the individual brewing information located on each tea on our website.
Personally I’m excited for the upcoming challenges and adventures this year. We wish you love, joy, peace, and good health .. and great tea drinking moments this year!
Now I’m off to put on the kettle and explore some new teas…..