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Tea facts

I was extolling the virtues of my green tea that mom gets for me from Japan and decided to do a little bit more tea research so that, like wine, I could put on snobby airs while talking over a cup.

All tea comes from the same tea plant, Camellia sinensis. While there are three main varieties of the plant in use, the differences in taste mostly relate to when the tea leaves are harvested, how they are fermented, the size of leaves used, and the environment in which the tea was grown. My preferred tea is shincha, a green tea with a name that translates as 'new tea.' Depending on the region, tea plants can be harvested multiple times per year. Shincha tea is produced from the very first pick of the year, which is considered the best pick because the buds have been absorbing nutrients throughout the winter.

  • Black tea: leaves are laid out to dry, macerated (soaked, softened, and rolled), fermented, then fired/dried to halt the fermentation. The rolling process encourages the release of chemicals for the fermentation process.
  • Green tea: leaves are laid out to dry, heated/steam for rolling, and dried. They are not allowed to ferment. In China, green teas are sometimes pan-fried and then rolled into various shapes such as twisted, flat, curly or balled. In Japan the leaves are steamed then rolled by hand or machine.
  • Oolong tea: leaves are laid out to dry, shaken or rolled to bruise the edges, and shade-dried. The shaking and drying steps are repeated multiple times and the leaves are then allowed to undergo a short fermentation process. The fermentation is less than that of black tea and can vary depending on the type of oolong.
  • White tea: leaf buds covered with silvery hairs are used to make white tea. The buds are steamed and dried, which results in buds with white fuzz.

Comments (5)

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Correction: All "proper" tea, perhaps, but there are plenty of other ways to make "tea". J and I are a big fan of an African tea called Rooibos. By itself, it's a little different, though not a hard taste to acquire.... but it can also be made into yummy combinations through steps taken during the creation process. I've had several really good Rooibos-based flavors, at this point.

And, you can have it before going to bed, 'cause there's no caffeine!


The correct term for Rooibos is a tisane. Things that are called "herbal tea" are misnomers, though a commonly shared misnomer. In order to be 'tea', it must be made from a tea plant.


Didn't we once get into an argument over whether (black) tea was fermented? I said it was and you didn't believe me? And then the internet settled the argument? But then you noticed that the "fermentation" that tea undergoes is just *called* "fermentation" and does not in fact involve the sort of fermentation that, say, alcoholic beverages undergo, and hence you were right after all, somehow?



me losing an argument? I remember no such thing.

No caffeine containing tea! many people still raise their eye brows in getting this types of comment, they ain't agree to admit the fact that some green tea have zero caffeine level or negligibly weak strenght of it. But what the heck I love to have a green tea with chocolate daily in my diet. yummi.


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