New To Tea
Learn about tea, the most social beverage in the world
Introduction to Tea, Varieties of Tea and Brewing Methods
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An Introduction to Tea
One plant creates the varieties of tea available. How it is dried and oxidized by the growers will determine if the plant will become white, green, matcha, oolong, pouchong, pu-erh or black tea.
In addition, there are plants that are brewed and consumed like tea and are included within the category. Example rooibos, a red bush from South Africa, mate from South America and the broad range of herbals that are actually fruits, plants and botanicals that when added to actual tea can create additional taste and health and wellness benefits.
Varieties of Tea
- Black tea is produced when withered tea leaves are rolled and oxidized causing the leaves to turn dark. Once the desired color and pungency is reached the tea is dried.
- Oolong is created by withering and by only briefly oxidizing the tea leaves in direct sunlight. Creating oolong tea takes more care and requires a Tea Master to accomplish. When the leaves give off a distinctive fragrance—often compared to apples, orchids or peaches. The leaves are rolled, then fired to halt oxidation
- Green tea is produced when tea leaves are exposed to heat stopping the oxidation process just after harvest. This allows the leaf to retain its emerald hue. Next, the leaves are rolled or twisted and fired.
- White tea is the most minimally processed of all tea varietals. The fragile tea buds are neither rolled or oxidized and must be carefully monitored as they are dried. This precise and subtle technique produces a subtle cup with mellow, sweet notes.
- Matcha tea is made from shade-grown tea leaves also used to make gyokuro, a premium green tea. The preparation of matcha starts several weeks before harvest, when the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight. This slows down growth, turns the leaves a darker shade of green and causes the production of amino acids. Only the finest tea buds are hand-picked. After harvesting, if the leaves are rolled out before drying as usual, the result will be gyokuro (jade dew) tea. However, if the leaves are laid out flat to dry, they will crumble somewhat and become known as tencha. Tencha can then be de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder known as matcha.
- Pouchong is the most lightly oxidized of all oolong teas - just 8-10%.
- Pu-erh is a variety of post-fermented tea produced in Yunnan province, China. Post-fermentation is a tea production style in which the tea leaves undergo a microbial fermentation process after they are dried and rolled. This is a Chinese specialty and is sometimes referred to as dark tea. There are a few different provinces, each with a few regions, producing dark teas of different varieties. Those produced in Yunnan are generally named Pu'er, referring to the name of Pu'er county which used to be a trading post for dark tea during imperial China.
Herbal, Rooibos and Honeybush:
- Rooibos and Honeybush are naturally caffeine-free; herbals are single or blended infusions of leaves, fruits, bark roots or flowers of almost any edible, non-tea plant.
Making The Perfect Cup of Tea
Kettle or water heating method,
Filter method to hold the leaves
Your favorite mug or cup
To make a perfect cup of tea requires the correct water temperature, tea amount and steeping/brewing time. All these elements are necessary to have the optimum cup of tea.
NOTE: Prior to the availability of fine leaf tea in America, the consumer was only receiving the dust of the leaves in tea bags and proper brewing were not emphasized. The consumer would not have been able to receive the flavor, taste and health benefits associated with fine loose tea regardless of the brewing method.
Thank goodness that has changed; the consumer now has the option of the best tea in the world. Churchill’s Fine Teas has 250 varieties, the largest tea selection in the Midwest
Brewing Basics for Hot and Ice tea
One teaspoon per cup of tea, you should be able to get 10-12 teaspoons per ounce of tea.
Not all teas require the same preparation techniques or the same amount of tea; here is the general brewing method to get you started.
Once you begin, you can adjust the amount of tea or brewing time to suit your taste.
When tea is properly prepared using filtered water with the right amount of tea at the correct water temperature there is no better taste than tea in the world!
Bring fresh filtered water to a full rolling boil for black, herbals and rooibos tea and use less than boiling water for white, green, pouchong, oolong and pu-erh tea. Try not to let the water over-boil.
Using a teaspoon, (the best tool for measuring tea) measure one level teaspoon of loose tea (heaping for large leaf tea) for each 6 to 8 ounces of water (= to 1 cup or mug). Pour prepared hot water over the tea to brew / steep according to the brewing instructions below, and enjoy!
Water Temp Brew / Steep Time (less is always better – too long and tea will become bitter)
- White Teas - 180°F (take boiling water and let it cool for 1 to 2 minutes) steep for 3-7 minutes
- Green Teas - 180°F (take boiling water and let it cool for 1 or 2 minutes)
- Steep 30 seconds to 1.5 minute Japanese green teas and 1-3 minutes for Chinese green teas
- Oolong / Pouchong / Pu-erh - 180°F (take boiling water and let it cool for 1 to 2 minutes) steep for 1-3 minutes
- Black Teas - 212°F (boiling water) steep for 3-5 minutes (start with 3 minutes, don’t go over 5 minutes)
- Herbal / Rooibos / Honeybush - 212°F (boiling water) can steep for 5-7 minutes – roots can simmer for up to 20 minutes
Reviewing Brewing Basics
- Use water on a rolling boil for Black, Herbals, Rooibos and Honeybush tea (212°F)
- Use water that has cooled for a minute or two for White, Green, Oolong, Pouchong and Pu-erh (160-180°F)
- Remember, less is better; it can be less tea or less brewing time.
Multiple Brews / Steeping (re-use the same leaves for multiple cups or pots of tea)
Good loose leaf tea is great for at least one additional brew or more.
The key to a great 2nd or 3rd cup or pot is to remove leaves promptly after each brewing / steeping time and set aside for the next steeping or use a tea brewing unit that controls the brewing time.
Leaves should be re-used in the same seating, not another day. (You would not want bacteria to accumulate)
Matcha is used in the Japanese Tea Ceremony and is prepared using a bowl, a beautiful whisk made from a single piece of bamboo artfully designed with 100 tines. You can now prepare at home, place ¾ teaspoon of matcha or 2 scoops with the bamboo scoop in to a teacup or bowl, pour 6 ounces of hot water (160-180°F) into the cup. Using the whisk, briskly brush from side to side and then whisk until fine foam of small bubbles appears. Consume the matcha immediately, directly from the cup or bowl. Matcha is the healthiest of all teas since you consume the whole leaf!
Iced-tea brewing method - Place 5 teaspoons of tea into a teapot or heat resistant pitcher. Pour 1 ¼ cups of freshly prepared water over the tea, to make a concentrate. Brew / steep for the correct brewing time as listed above. Fill a serving pitcher one quarter full with cold water. Pour the tea into your serving pitcher, straining out the tea leaves. Add ice and top-up the pitcher with cold water. This will make 1 liter/quart of iced tea.
You are preparing freshly brewed iced tea and therefore need to double the strength of tea. Use less water than you would for drinking hot tea (making a concentrate) since it will be poured over ice and diluted with cold water.