Black Tea 红茶
Red tea, or “Black Tea” as it is known in the west, is a relative newcomer to tea, which is to say a mere few centuries old. A black tea process employs deliberate rolling and bruising of freshly withered tea leaves, to encourage oxidation, flavor complexity and texture. A tea’s polyphenols will shift with oxidation, beginning in a very tannic and fresh state, softening and dampening into something rich, sweet and ripe. In one sense, a black tea is run through the oxidation gamut for you in advance, and this was indeed what historically made it optimized for long overseas voyages, where it would degrade less in a cargo hold between origin and market. Many black teas will improve and deepen with age. It’s a style that carries all the things that make oxidized things great: raw cocoa, mead, toasted malt, summer squash, stone and red fruits—in short, delight.
Oolong Tea 乌龙茶
It is possible to find good examples of amateur-made white and green tea—not so with oolong. Its name meaning “black dragon,” great oolong is one of the vaunted productions of tea for which importers, competition judges, and tea lovers will spend a lifetime scouring for. The category itself is so broad that it is difficult to narrow into a concise terminology. If there is commonality, it is this: great oolongs are grown in special terroir (high mountain slopes, jagged ferruginous cliffs, serpentine and fertile river valleys) and require both a nonpareil understanding of agriculture, and, tea processing, to achieve a finished result of character: dynamic, clear and distinct flavors. Finished oolong can be undulated longwise “strip” leaves or compressed bud-set “ball” coils, and almost anything in between. No style challenges its supposed borders more than the black dragon: you will find leaf-like oolongs greener than green teas, and meticulously rolled pearls bruised soundly into black tea territory. From creamy and floral, to rose and honey, to toasted caramel and vanilla spice—oolong contains multitudes.
Green Tea 綠茶
A drop of dew on a waxy green leaf, in the chilly mist of the morning; a dripping flower stem removed from a vase and cut with shears; the smell of sea air; the dewy taste of winter melon; the ephemeral, lucid color that only occurs in the delicate sprouting of a new leaf; the crisp crunch of nori—these are the evocative and impermanent qualities of green tea. In a way, the green tea process is an attempt to stop time, to preserve these memories in olfactory form. This is done by plucking only the downiest new leaves and buds, curtailing the withering period, and committing fresh batches to cooking. The explicit heat of the process kills the enzymes responsible for oxidation, locking the tea into a tender, green state. The process is thousands of years old, beloved by billions throughout its history, and is only growing in its list of admirers.
There are a great many plant components that you can steep in hot water and drink the resulting infusion that are not technically tea (Camellia sinensis). Transcending cultures, herbal tonics share a similar function to tea, both in their rituals, their holistic benefits, and their enjoyment. Naturally free of caffeine, but rich and compelling in flavor, our herbal infusions and tonics represent seasonally sourced and fresh milled herbs, flowers, spices, leaves and roots—both from our own local ecology and from gifted smallholders around the world.
White Tea 白茶
In appreciation of the tea plant in its nativity, white teas seek as little human alteration as possible to elicit a soft, smooth, and rounded cup of tea. Named for the small, downy hairs that occur on tender new tea sprouts, white tea elicits the dewy, aromatic and refreshing qualities of the plant. The prolonged withering and drying—indoors, under sun and, sometimes, moonlight—plays to the natural water stress reaction of the tea plant, naturally creating an aroma complex. The more consciously balanced the withering, and the more evenly the leaves are exposed to air—the better the result. With sleep, the sharp, bitter grassy smell of freshly picked tea leaves turns to something floral, creamy and sweet. Stored properly, the style ages well. What can be called white tea is an ever-widening definition: including its contemporary update employing explicit rolling, baking and oxidation: New Craft.