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Styles of Tea

black tea in cups

Styles of Tea

All tea is made from the same amazing plant; Camellia Sinensis.  It is truly incredible that so many types and styles of tea with such different aromas, appearances and flavors originate from one varietal.  What makes each cultivar unique is its terroir; the native soil and climate.  What makes each style of tea unique is the method of processing.

There are five basic steps to tea processing; plucking, withering, rolling, oxidizing and firing or drying.

The five basic styles of tea are White, Green, Oolong, Black and Pu'erh.

White Tea is unprocessed tea. The name is derived from the white "down" that appears on the unopened or recently opened buds.  This is the newest growth on the tea bush. White tea is simply plucked and allowed to wither dry. It is the most delicate in flavor and aroma.

Green Tea is plucked, withered and rolled. During the rolling process, heat is applied, preventing oxidation. The fresh leaves are either steamed or tossed in a hot, dry wok to a temperature hot enough to stop the enzymes from browning the leaf.  The leaves are shaped by curling with the fingers and pressing into the sides of the wok. Finally, the leaves are given a final firing to fully dry them.

Oolong Tea is one of the most complex and time-consuming teas to create. It utilizes all of the five basic steps, with rolling and oxidizing done repeatedly. The leaves are rolled, then allowed to rest and oxidize for a period of time. Then they're rolled again, then oxidized; these steps are repeated over and over again.  This method results in the development of complex aromas and flavors that are indicative to Oolong teas.

Black Tea utilizes the same steps as for Oolong tea but the steps are generally not repeated on a single batch.  Black teas offer the strongest flavors and are generally the only style of tea regularly consumed with milk.

Pu'erh Tea is unique in its process and is a fermented tea.  Before the leaf is dried, it's aged either as loose-leaf tea or pressed into dense cakes and decorative shapes. Depending on the type of pu'erh being made (either dark "ripe" pu'erh or green "raw" pu'erh), the aging process lasts anywhere from a few months to several years.  Pu-erhs are prized for their earthy, woodsy or musty aroma and rich, smooth taste.