All tea comes from the same plant, Camellia sinesis, but there are three basic methods of processing the leaves of the plant. For black tea the leaves are not steamed and dried until fermentation. The leaves are picked, withered, rolled and twisted and placed in a cool humid environment for a few hours, then fired (pan heated) to stop the fermentation process. The oxidation and firing process causes the leaves to turn black and results in teas with strong complex flavors. For green tea, immediately after harvesting, the leaves are steamed to inactivate the enzymes that lead to oxidation in black tea. The leaves are then rolled and fired in the final drying process. Green teas have a more delicate, astringent flavor than black teas. Oolong tea is partially fermented like black tea but the shorter oxidation process produces a tea with flavor somewhere between a black and green tea. Oolongs can have complex flavors with aspects of both green and black teas. As with any natural product, the qualities of the tea plant will be affected by the region in which it’s grown, due to weather, soil, etc. Certain areas are better for particular teas- eg. Ceylon (Sri Lanka) is noted for a type of black tea, Darjeeling (in India) for another, Japan for green, Taiwan (Formosa) for oolong.
Tea designation, such as OP or FOP are part of the grading system used for whole leaf black teas and refer to the leaf size and amount of tip in the tea. For instance, OP is Orange Pekoe, a full-leaf tea with no tip or buds. FOP, or Flowery Orange Pekoe, is a longer leaf than an OP and has some buds. Grading systems and terminology vary with tea type and country. Generally, the more whole the leaf is and the more buds it contains, the higher the grade of tea. Throughout our Website we rate the flavor strength of our individual teas as Mild, Medium, and Strong.
Caffeine Content in Tea
All camellia sinensis tea contains caffeine in varying amounts with levels that vary with the type of tea, when it is picked, how it is processed, and most importantly, length of brewing time. Caffeine levels in a five-ounce cup of tea can range from six milligrams up to 110 milligrams per cup. The same amount of coffee yields 40 – 180 mg per cup.
Store tea in a cool, dry, airtight, opaque container. Tea tins with tight-fitting lids are ideal. Do not store teas in the freezer or refrigerator.
Tea Brewing Fundamentals
How to brew a great cup of tea 1. Start with fresh, clean, cold water. Tea is 98% water so be sure to use fresh clean tasting water free from chlorine and other impurities. In areas with hard water or chlorinated tap water you might consider bottled or filtered water. Don’t use distilled water as some level of dissolved solids (hardness) is needed to for taste. Don’t use water from a hot tap or water that has already boiled for a long time. Heat the water to a rolling boil for black, herbal, and Oolong teas. Stop just short of boiling the water for green teas. 2. Preheat the pot or cup into which the tea will be steeped. This will help the tea extraction process and result in a better tasting beverage. Simply put some hot water into the pot or cup to warm it prior to adding the tea for extraction. Then pour it off just before adding the tea and hot water for brewing. 3. Measure approximately one rounded teaspoon of tea per cup. 4. Pour the water over the tea leaves, cover, and infuse to your taste, although the infusion should be at least three minutes for green teas and for black, herbal, and oolong teas at least five minutes will bring out the best flavor.