Earl Grey, English Breakfast, chamomile, make no mistake: Although tea's storage time can nearly triple that of coffee, it can be just as complex as coffee brewing. For us coffee lovers who have devoted our educational time to perfecting the ways of coffee, it can be a little intimidating to enter the world of tea.
Whether you want to take a deep dive into everything about tea or learn the basics to get a good brew, here are a few tips on what kinds of teas are out there.
Tea has been traditionally enjoyed by much of Asia dating back as far as 5,000 years ago. China is the first region to have discovered it, utilising the leaves of the tea plant Camellia sinesis. To process black tea, growers pluck the leaves of these plants, leaving them to oxidize over a specific period of time. This simply means that the leaves are left out to dry - some may compare this to the way that the seeds of coffee cherries stay out and dry.
Black tea leaves typically lay out the longest in comparison to other varietals. During the oxidation process, oxygen changes the color of the leaves, developing deeper hues and changing flavor profiles. These leaves end up "tasting" malty, smoky, and sometimes even fruity. Harvest date, leaf size, and oxidation time are crucial factors in differentiating teas.
Types of Black Tea
Although black tea is common in China, many countries in the world have since cultivated and popularized their own styles of black tea. There are countless varieties to explore, but here are a few common ones you can find on a tea menu at a cafe or restaurant.
Assam: Originating from the Assam region of India, this tea is a classic malty black tea with lots of tannins and polyphenols (plant compounds) that give it a heavy body. Thanks to these notes, you can also expect a creamy and smooth finish in your cup.
Darjeeling: This tea also comes from Darjeeling, India. These incredibly fragrant teas have musky sweet tasting notes, with delicate mossy fruit and citrusy notes. Many describe this style as the "Champagne of Teas," and tea makers will often incorporate it into tea blends.
Earl Grey: Many will note heavy scents and flavors of lavender when drinking this type of tea. Earl Grey is actually Darjeeling or Assam tea infused with bergamot oil. You can continue to rely on your tastebuds, though, because Earl Grey gets experimentally combined with other floral additions like rose, vanilla, and hibiscus. This tea is also popular for baking and tea lattes because of its pungent aroma.
English Breakfast: Similar or the same as Irish or Scottish Breakfast tea, these styles are all different combinations of Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling, and other black teas. Each one intentionally blends a certain component of another to produce one consistency over another. However, English breakfast is the most mild of the three. It is a blend of the most desirable traits from the other varieties—with clean light flavors, the perfect heavy body, and a perfect sweetness, the Breakfast blends are perfect with milk and sugar to tie it all together.
How to prepare black tea
Boil water to 100 degrees Celsius. Unlike other teas, black can be enjoyed at boiling temperatures.
If you're not using a bag and working with loose leaf, try to aim for 2-3 grams of leaves for every six ounces of water. Bonus points if you have a tea steeper/infuser, which is pretty easy to find online.
Steep the bag or tea infuser in water for 5 minutes on a timer. Once the timer is ready, remove the infuser immediately and enjoy!
Believe it or not, green tea and black tea are the same thing, in a way. They both derive from the Camellia sinesis plant, but they experience different oxidation times. That is to say, that green tea does not oxidize at all, which is why it's still literally as green as it is. For this reason, green tea has the most ANTIOXIDANTS, or chemical properties that are great for health reasons.
Green tea gets processed a little differently from black tea, which withers, dries, and oxidizes. Green tea leaves are plucked then quickly heated by pan frying or steaming to avoid any oxidation. This results in a green, yellow, or light brown colour. Green tea originally comes from Yunnan, China, but Japan popularized it in 1190, when a monk studying in China brought it back to his country.
Types of Green Tea
Both China and Japan produce astounding green teas. However, many Japanese teas will be on coffee shop and restaurant menus. They vary typically by the way that tea makers apply heat to them, whether it's by steam or roasting them.
Sencha: Without a doubt, Sencha is the most common variety that Japan enjoys. The processing is laborious. After the tea leaves get harvested by plucking, tea makers will steam them then roll them into individual strands. Many will describe the taste of Sencha as slightly vegetal, with grassy and seaweed undertones.
Hojicha: Hojicha is also a transformed version of Sencha. Rather than undergo steaming, the rolled tea leaves of Hojicha experiencing roasting over high heat. As a result, this lowers the caffeine content of the tea. It also has a, of course, roasty and nutty flavor. Genmaicha, another common tea, is yet another transformed of Hojicha, since the only difference is that roasted puffed rice gets added to it—resulting in more nuttiness.
Matcha: Coffee shops may be most familiar with matcha, as the crowds have agreed that a bright green matcha latte is the way to save the day. Rather than getting shaped and rolled, tea makers grind matcha leaves into a powder. These leaves also typically grow in the shade. Many will describe matcha as grassy tasting, with notes of sweetness and umami. It is also popular for baking and lattes.
How to prepare green tea: Green tea is a little more delicate to handle than black tea.
Boil water to 85 degrees Celsius. Use 2 grams of tea for every six ounces of water.
Place tea bag or tea infuser into water and steep for 3 minutes. Remove immediately and serve.
Many people will be surprised to learn that herbal tea is actually not tea at all. It does not derive from the Camellia sinesis plant like black and green tea do. Rather, it is a combination of dried flowers, fruits, spices, and herbs. For this reason, people refer to herbal teas as tisanes or herbal infusions.
Since they are made with natural ingredients, they are caffeine-free. People will drink these for flavour, to slow down after a long day, or for health purposes.
To make herbal tea, you simply take your desired set of herbs and dry them out. You can do this with a dehydrator, your oven, or the air depending on the climate.
Popular types of herbal tea
Herbal teas have much more versatility to them than black and green tea. However, there are a few favorites that people will serve at their cafes and businesses.
Peppermint: This tea comes from the peppermint plant variety. Of course, it is minty and light green-coloured. The body is also very light with this style of tea. Similar to ginger, many claim this tea will help with digestion, especially after a heavy meal. It will also likely freshen your breath, relieve headaches, and improve your sleep.
Chamomile: This tea derives from the chamomile flowers, which look similar to daisies. Chamomile has flavonoids, a type of nutrient that many plants have that is essential to wellness. People claim that this tea helps with relaxation, menstrual cramps, and reducing inflammation.
Rooibus: Rooibus originates from Africa, specifically the leaves of the rooibus or red bush plant. Rooibus is actually the closes to regular tea production. This is because tea makers have to pluck, bruise, and ferment the leaves - they have to do similar processing but instead of oxidation, it's fermentation. As a result, these teas are extremely aromatic, with notes of vanilla and jasmine. Rooibus can also reduce inflammation, control diabetes, and control blood pressure.
How to prepare herbal tea: Herbal teas do not have the ability to become astringent as easily and green and black teas. For this reason, there is not much work to brewing them.
Boil water to 100 degrees Celsius. Then, steep your desired herbal tea for 7-10 minutes. You don't have to worry about oversteeping or only getting 1-3 uses. You can let your tea sit in the cup for as long as you like. However, be mindful that your second or third steep will probably not be as flavourful as the first!
We hope you learned how to pick the most appropriate tea for your situation, and that you learned a little more about how much care goes into processing tea as coffee!