Basic Tea Guide For Beginners – How To Enjoy Tea?


What is tea?

Tea is Camellia Sinensis (thea, or camellia, chinensis).  It is an herb but not all herbs are tea.  Only those leaves harvested from the camellia sinensis plant are actually tea. 

There are three related varieties of this plant, the small-leaved Chinese tea plant, C. sinensis sinensis, the larger-leaved, more tree-like Indian Assam plant, C. sinensis assamica, and another tree-like plant from Cambodia, C. sinensis assamica subspecies lasiocalyx. Hybrids are also grown, with the Cambodian plant used mainly for hybrid production.

What are the types of tea? 

Tea is known by the terms white, green, oolong, and black.  The types are references to processing and oxidization. The simplest explanation is to think of a leaf that is picked or falls from any bush.  The leaf turns stages of colors until it is finally black.  In the case of tea, oxidization is stopped at various stages.

  • non-oxidized (White)
  • non-oxidized (Green)
  • semi-oxidized (Oolong)
  • fully oxidized (Black)

What are the grades of tea?

Some of the grades of tea are as follows:

Black Tea Grades

  • Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • Pekoe
  • Souchong
  • Broken Orange Pekoe
  • Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings
  • Broken Pekoe
  • Fannings
  • Dust

Green Tea Grades

There is no uniform grading terminology for green tea. Chinese greens are graded differently depending on where they come from.  Some terms that you may find with regard to Chinese green teas are:

  • Gunpowder 
  • Young Hyson
  • Imperial
  • Twankay
  • Oolong Tea Grades

Grading for oolongs changes from Fanciest or Extra Fancy (best) to Common (worst). Unlike other grading systems, this one actually rates the quality of the drink you can get from the leaves. The top grades are Fanciest or Extra Fancy, Fancy, and Extra Choice (or Extra Fine).

What are the Major Tea-Producing Countries Around the World?

  • INDIA 
  • SRI LANKA 
  • CHINA 
  • JAPAN 
  • TAIWAN 
  • KENYA 
  • ARGENTINA 
  • VIETNAM

There are more than 50 tea-growing countries around the world.

How Do I Store Tea?

Keep it dry and out of the light. The best container is a metal box with a double lid or a canister/caddy with a seal and is light-proof. Loose-leaf tea keeps better than tea packed in tins or boxes because it has a larger bulk. Some tea comes wrapped in tinfoil and boxed, if you expect to use it all in a month or two, it is all right to leave it in the original bag. Oolong tea (with 2-3 percent moisture compared to 5-7 percent in others) keeps longer. If tea gets damp you can spread it out in a pan and dry it in the oven. Store tea in a cool, dry place, preferably well ventilated. Tea absorbs other odors easily, so never keep it in the cabinet with spices nor sitting on a counter near onions or garlic. Avoid placing tea in the refrigerator or freezer. Once the tea is tainted by an outside odor, it cannot be salvaged.

Tea should not be placed in a refrigerator since the change in temperatures when the product is used could contribute to β€œsweating” which could lead to mold formation and deterioration of quality.  Similarly, tea should be allowed to breathe so that excess moisture may safely evaporate.  Shipping tea in airtight containers for short periods of time is an acceptable practice that serves to protect the fragile product from harmful outside contaminants.

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