What is Tea?
Tea is made from leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which is a warm weather evergreen shrub of the Camellia family, indigenous to both China and India. The finest whole leaf organic teas use only the top two leaves and bud of the tea plant (yep, that's where our name comes from).
When left alone in the wild, the Camellia sinensis can grow quite tall, up to 30 feet or more. But for cultivation of tea leaves, the bushes are mostly kept trimmed for easier harvesting. A typical tea bush produces around 3,000 tea leaves per year.
Tea Types: Tea, like wine, always comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. It is in the way that tea is processed that makes it a black tea, green tea, or white tea. Red teas and herbal teas, meanwhile, are actually not tea at all. Rather they are simply herbs, fruits or spices - often called “tisanes”.
How Tea is Made
Pluckers are the beginnings of a great cuppa' tea. Moving around the garden to harvest different areas every 6 to 14 days, depending on the season, the plucker's skilled hands are the key to getting "good leaf." And good leaf is the key to a better cuppa' tea. From the field, tea is brought to the "tea factory" usually on or very close to the garden.
Black Tea requires the most complex processing method. After being plucked, the leaves are withered by being laid on a bed of forced air for about 8 hours, removing just enough moisture to allow the leaf to be rolled without breaking. Then rolling tables are used to curl the leaf and speed the oxidization or “fermentation” process. Next, tea is spread out in climate-controlled "fermentation rooms," where it gets darker and more flavorful. When the tea has reached its flavor "peak," it is “fired” – heated to dry the tea and halt oxidation. The art of tea making requires the tea maker to judge the oxidation time correctly, so the tea can be fired at its most flavorful moment.
Green Tea is steamed, roasted or fried after it’s plucked. In Japan, tea is steamed, lightly rolled and then fired, giving the tea a very light green color and a vegetal flavor. In China, most green tea is pan roasted instead, producing tea that is less green and more brown in leaf color and in the cup. Because green teas are processed less than black teas, the "fermentation" process is less complete so they tend to have less caffeine.
White Tea, so called because of its very light color in the cup, is air dried and fired at a low temperature. The best white teas are long-leafed, often including just the buds or "tips" of the tea plant.
Finally, experienced tea tasters “cup” each crop of tea and taste it to evaluate its overall flavor, texture and aroma.