May 15, 2015

Black, Green, White, OOlong Teas

Both black and green tea is harvested from an evergreen, tree-like shrub known as camellia sinensis. Most likely originating in China, the camellia sinensis is thought to have first been used to brew a medicinal drink during the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC to 1046 BC). By the third century BC, it had become a relatively popular drink using only the leaves from this plant, rather than mixed with other things as was common when used medicinally.

Leaves that are going to be used for black tea are allowed to ferment, or oxidize, completely. The general process is to roll, tear, or crush the leaves to help the oxidation process (similar to why the inside of an apple turns brown when exposed to air). The leaves are then dried out, sometimes in the sun or using machines. As the leaves oxidize, they gradually turn from green to black.

Manufacturers create green tea by picking the leaves off the plant and then heating them immediately. This is commonly done by pan firing the leaves or steaming them. Heat stops the leaves from oxidizing and allows them to maintain their green color.

Oolong tea is initially generally processed in the same way as black tea, but is not allowed to oxidize for as long. Once the desired oxidation level has been reached, which varies by type and manufacturer (some oolong tea is closer to green tea, while others are closer to black), the leaves are fired similar to green tea to stop the oxidation process at that point.

White tea is made by picking the leaves and buds early in the year while the bud is still closed. The leaves may be placed out to dry in the sun or mechanically, and minimizing oxidation.

Highest tea consumption per person per year, as of 2014:
1 Turkey 6.87 kg (242 oz)
2 Morocco 4.34 kg (153 oz)
3 Ireland 3.22 kg (114 oz)
4 Mauritania (Africa) 3.22 kg (114 oz)
5 United Kingdom 2.74 kg (97 oz).

A cup of tea is generally six ounces.

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