- Tea in a nutshell
Tea is an aromatic beverage commonly prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over cured leaves of the Camellia Sinensis.
Tea originated in southwestern China in 2737 BC, where it was used as a medicinal drink. It was popularized as a recreational drink during the Chinese Tang dynasty, and tea drinking spread to other East Asian countries. Portuguese priests and merchants introduced it to the West during the 16th century. During the 17th century, drinking tea became fashionable among Britons, who started large-scale production and commercialization of the plant in India to bypass a Chinese monopoly at that time.
Two principal varieties are used: Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, which is used for most Chinese, Formosan and Japanese teas, and Camellia sinensis var. assamica, used in Pu-erh and most Indian teas (but not Darjeeling).
Leaf size is the chief criterion for the classification of tea plants. Assam type is characterized by the largest leaves and China type is characterized by the smallest leaves.
The phrase herbal tea usually refers to infusions of fruit or herbs made without the tea plant, such as steeps of rosehip, chamomile, or rooibos. These are also known as tisanes or herbal infusions to distinguish them from "tea" as it is commonly construed.
Depending on how the leaves are processed and oxidized, it will become a white, green, oolong or black tea.
White tea is the most delicate type, very light natural oxidize, yields a light, yellow liquor, soft in taste and aroma
Green tea is de-enzymed to prevent oxidation, yields a yellow-green liquor and vegetative in aroma and taste
Oolong tea is partially oxidize, yields to amber-red liquor, fruity and flowery aromatic
Black tea is completely oxidized, yields a dark, rich, reddish-brown liquor, stronger in taste and aroma
Post fermented tea, Puerh, taste and aroma presents woody, earthy and humidity notes
Tea acts as antioxidant. May help prevent cardiovascular diseases, delay aging, boosts immune system, improve lipid metabolism, relief stress
How to make the best hot Tea
- Bring filtered or freshly drawn cold water to a rolling boil.
- Warm the teapot.
- Measure the necessary quantity of tea. Place 1 slightly heaping teaspoon of loose tea, for each 200-260ml of fluid volume in the teapot. Place in the infuser or in the teapot.
- Pour the water over the tea at the right temperature according to the type of tea. Please refer to “Basic rules of water temperatures”.
- Leave the tea to infuse for the recommended time.
- When the infusion time has been completed, remove the infuser from the teapot. If you have put the leaves directly in the teapot, strain the liquor into another pot.
- Enjoy your Tea
Basic rules of water temperatures
The following are the recommended temperatures to prepare the different types of leaf tea.
- White teas: 75° to 85°C
- Green and Yellow teas: 75° to 80°C
- Oolongs: 80° to 95°C
- Black Teas: 80° to 90°C
- Hei chai: 1st step 80° to 90°C. Repeat 5 to 6 times at 70° to 80°C
- Cooked puerh: near boiling
- Raw puerh: 1st step 80°C, 2nd to 5th step 70°C
Basic rules of brewing time
The following are the recommended brewing times to prepare the different types of leaf tea.
- White teas: 3 to 5 minutes
- Green and Yellow teas: 1 to 2 minutes
- Oolongs: 5 minutes
- Black Teas: 3 to 4 minutes
- Hei chai: 1 minute
- Cooked puerh: 1 to 5 minutes according to the strength required, repeat steeping 6 to 10 times.
- Raw puerh: step 1 to 5 for 1 minute
How to make the best iced tea (to make 1 liter/quart):
- Place 6 slightly heaping teaspoons of loose tea into a teapot or heat resistant pitcher.
- Using filtered or freshly drawn cold water, boil and pour 315ml over the tea.
- Steep for 5 minutes.
- Quarter fill a serving pitcher with cold water.
- Pour the tea into your serving pitcher straining the tea.
- Add ice and top up the pitcher with cold water.
- Garnish and sweeten to taste.
- Enjoy your iced tea.
A rule of thumb when preparing fresh brewed iced tea is to increase the strength of hot tea since it will be poured over ice and diluted with cold water. (Note: Some luxury quality teas may turn cloudy when poured over ice. This is a sign of luxury quality and nothing to worry about.
Pairing basic rules
Pairing tea and food is the art of finding the best food for a particular tea (or the other way around) The tea and the food must complement, improve and enhance one another without killing each other. Keep in mind that some teas are meant to be enjoyed alone.
Here are some very broad examples:
White Teas: alone
Yellow Teas: alone
Japanese green teas: fish, fried food, sweetmeats
Chinese green teas: noodles, vegetables, fish, softy creamy desserts, soft sweetmeats, fresh food
Oolongs: alone or with basic pastry
Black Teas: cheese, meats, cold food, pasta, marmalades, pastry, spicy food
Pu-Erh: very spicy, oily and fatty food
(*) Source: Tea Sommelier Manual (V. Bisogno-J.Pattigrew)