What is Tea?
Welcome to the S P I R I T Tea blog. We spend much of our time tasting teas and educating folks on all the nuances of this wonderous plant.
Here you will find an educational series on the new frontiers of tea. Let's start with the basics!
What is Tea?
By definition tea has to come from one of three species of tree:
- Camellia Var. Sinensis
- Camellia Var. Assamica
- Camerlia Var. Camondiensis
Each of these species thrive in different environments around the world and require a specific terroir to thrive.
All Tea comes from the same plant and the types are determined by a cell degradation process called Oxidation. Oxidation is something that actually occurs to all living things. The easiest example to relate this to is a banana.
A banana starts off green and goes to yellow, brown, and finally black. In tea a very similar process occurs except it goes from white to black.
In Tea the types range between white and black. The farmer is able to slow the oxidation process by heating the tea in a very of methods. What is enormously interesting is depending on the country of origin they are going to heat it a bit differently. The method of heating will play a role in taste.
What are the types of tea?
White Tea: 1-9% oxidation
Green Tea: 9-11% oxidation
Oolong Tea: 12-70% oxidation
Black Tea: 70-100% oxidation
What role does oxidation of tea have to do with taste?
As the tea oxidizes you are going to find different chemical compounds in the tea. These chemical compounds contain flavonoids called polyphenols. The polyphenols are what help develop the taste of the tea some of these might sound familiar.
Let's take this back to the banana example when you bite into a green banana it is kind of stringy, grainy, and mineral in taste the range of flavors are pretty limited but still pronounced. Once you get into Yellow you start to develop sweetness, and more so in brown. By the time it is black it is limited again.
Until next time we hope to see you soon.