Varieties of Tea from the Camellia Sinensis Leaf
All true tea comes from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis, and it is the way the leaves are processed that give us so many different 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 strength 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.