Each tea has its own aroma, color and benefits. Dive into the realm of infusion.
Tea is one of the most consumed drinks in the world. According to a legend, this aromatic drink was born in China from a leaf of the wild tea tree, Camellia Sinensis, which fell into a jar of water prepared by Emperor Shennong, then sitting in the shade of the same TREE. Since then, its dried leaves have traveled the world and infused hot waters. If tea has warmed hearts since 2737 BC, it has especially diversified. Dried, steamed, fried or withered, the tea leaf is worked before being consumed. Depending on the preparation technique, it will produce black, green, white, red tea and many others.
Distinguish the teas
Teas are distinguished by their smell, color and flavor. Yet they are all made from the same sheet. To produce them in various varieties, everything depends on the degree of oxidation that the tea leaf undergoes. The more it is oxidized, the closer it is to black tea, Oloong or Rooibos. Conversely, leaves that are little or not oxidized make white or green tea. Then comes the possibility of adding fruits, spices or dried flowers.
Withered or roasted, the tea leaf can be worked
For an oxidized leaf and a bitter tea, the withering step is necessary. During this phase, the leaf loses its water. To do this, it is left in the open air at a controlled temperature depending on the desired degree of oxidation. During this stage, enzymes develop. It is in rooms with humidity of up to 95% that the leaves then oxidize. They can then be dried or even roasted to stop oxidation.
For a non-oxidized leaf and a smoother tea, it is necessary to cook it by brutal exposure to heat. This roasting step, unlike withering, kills the enzymes responsible for oxidation. No oxidation possible therefore, and a tea leaf ready for rolling, drying or chopping, depending on the variety manufactured.
Just like wine, tea is an art that requires specific knowledge and mastery. Water temperature, infusion time, manufacturing technique, every detail counts in creating a well-pronounced tea. This knowledge is held by tea sommeliers, particularly from schools dedicated to this still unknown profession.
Theine, the same as caffeine?
Theine and caffeine are actually the same molecule. What differentiates them, apart from the fact that one comes from coffee and the other from tea, is their mode of action. The molecule in question, the alkaloid, is known to help fight fatigue. In a cup of coffee, its quantity can be up to three times greater than in a cup of tea. While caffeine stimulates very quickly and keeps you awake to the point of being “excited”, theine, for its part, stimulates more gently and over a longer period of time, up to 6 hours. For a “boost”, we will favor caffeine; to concentrate, theine, always in reasonable quantities.
For more details, here is the presentation of the ten most common varieties of tea.
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Pu-erh tea is a very dark tea with complex or even non-existent aromas for some.
Manufacturing process : Its leaves are roasted in the sun for a whole day before being cooked under a tarpaulin. Under the cover, the leaves, previously moistened, are deprived of air and exposed to heat, which creates this “cooking” phenomenon. If Pu Erh is made cooked, it can also be “raw”. In this case, it undergoes a long but natural oxidation which requires several years of patience. Stored in compact blocks in cellars with a warm atmosphere, the leaves develop the aromas of Pu-erh.
Recommendation : Infuse for 5 minutes in water at 95°C.
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Black tea is obtained by complete oxidation of its leaves, which makes it bitter and most laden with theine. It is better to avoid consuming it in the evening since, in too large quantities, theine excites and stimulates.
Manufacturing process : Withering between 20 and 24°C then rolling and sorting of the leaves.
Recommendation : infuse in water at 90°C for 4 minutes, and up to 7 for a more pronounced taste.
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White tea leaves are only 12% oxidized. A low oxidation which releases a subtle taste to this rare tea, and also the most expensive.
Manufacturing process : Withering the leaf in a ventilated space, then drying with hot air.
Recommendation : Allow up to 20 minutes of infusion in water at 85°C.
Rooibos tea, or red tea
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Produced from a South African red bush – aspalathus linearis – Rooibos tea, also called red tea, is similar to black tea. Its aromas are slightly sweet, vanilla and fruity.
Manufacturing process : The period from January to March is the best for preparing Rooibos tea leaves. Dried, oxidized in less than 24 hours and cut before being steamed, its leaves turn bright red.
Recommendation : Infuse for 5 minutes in water at 95°C.
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This South American tea does not come from Camellia Sinensis. It stands out in the way it is drunk, since it is consumed in a hollow gourd with a straw called a bombilla. It is the bitterest of teas.
Manufacturing process : complex, its production requires more steps than other teas. After roasting, the mate must be dried and then chopped. The size of the leaves is then calibrated to determine a mild or full-bodied mate (aroma which varies depending on the size chosen). Finally, it is necessary to store the leaves for several months, up to two years.
Recommendation : Infuse for 10 minutes in water at 75°C.
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This purple tea is made in the same way as Oolong tea. What makes it different: the color of its leaves. Made from purple leaf tea plants in the Assam region of India, this tea is quite rare. Once infused, its naturally sweet aromas are reminiscent of almond and red berries.
Recommendation : Infuse for 7 to 8 minutes in water at 80° C.
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Without prior oxidation of the leaves, very mild green tea is the most common. It represents up to 70% of tea production in China. Its mint variation is also very widespread.
Manufacturing process : The leaves of this tea have the particularity of not being withered but roasted. To do this, they are heated to 100°C to become sufficiently flexible when rolling and dried until they contain only 5% water.
Recommendation : infuse in water at 80°C for 3 minutes.
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Matcha tea is a green tea that is increasingly common in the West. Cultivated in Japan, it has the particularity of being consumed in powder and not in infusion. Since its leaf is crushed, matcha tea contains up to twenty times more benefits than traditional tea. In addition to being drunk, this superfood is also eaten on our plates.
Manufacturing process : Matcha occurs for several weeks. The emerald color of the leaves develops in the shade, before being steamed. Then, they undergo the same treatment as green tea, until they are ground into a very fine powder.
Recommendation : Matcha is prepared using a chasen, a bamboo whisk, which mixes the powder with the water. Once your matcha is added to cold water, whisk the mixture until you obtain a fine foam. Finally, add water between 70 and 80°C, but not boiling water. Keep stirring and it’s ready.
Earl Gray tea
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“Isn’t it lovely”? Earl Gray tea is the quintessential English drink that is drunk with a little finger in the air from a porcelain cup. Made from black tea, it is obtained with a touch of bergamot, creating an aroma close to lemon and bitter orange.
Manufacturing process : Earl Gray follows the same manufacturing process as black tea, all enhanced with bergamot peel.
Recommendation : infuse in water at 80°C for 4 minutes.
Oolong tea, or Wulong
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Oolong tea, “black dragon”, can, depending on its infusion time, be orange, pale yellow or white. During manufacturing, its leaves undergo up to 70% oxidation, without developing the bitterness of black tea. Its taste is even close to that of green tea, with some floral notes.
Manufacturing process : Oolong tea, also called Wulong, has the particularity of being both withered (oxidized) and roasted (deoxidized). Between these two stages of partial oxidation, the leaves are brewed in the sun.
Recommendation : Infuse for 3 minutes in water at 80° C.