Camellia Sinensis is the exotic sounding botanical name for a plant that many of us enjoy on a daily basis. It is the one plant that provides tea leaves. In fact, camellia sinensis gives us an astonishing three thousand different kinds of tea.
Many of the teas derived from camellia sinensis are exotic and limited to small regions of the world. Like grapes that produce fine wines, the distinctive flavour and pedigree of these exotic teas is dependant on varying soil and weather conditions, plantation heights and geographic locations, as well as blending, processing and tea-making methods.
The types of tea are broadly categorized under three general groups: green tea, black tea, and oolong tea. White and Puerh are less common categories of tea. Each type of tea has unique qualities and distinct characteristics derived from the processing methods used to make them.
Currently accounting for about seventy percent of the world’s tea consumption, black tea is processed using several hours of oxidation.
Popular varieties of black tea are Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling, English breakfast, Irish breakfast and Keemun.
This is the least popular variety, contributing to less than three percent of the world’s tea consumption. Tea enthusiasts often refer to oolong as the “champagne of teas”. The tea is partially fermented (oxidized), giving it a delicate taste and aroma comparable to that of fresh fruit or flowers. The caffeine content in oolong teas falls between that of green and black teas.
Unlike black and oolong teas, green tea is not fermented or oxidized, giving the leaves a vegetative or herbaceous quality. The processing method simply involves rolling and heating the freshly harvested leaves. Green tea leaves generally produce a greenish-gold drink with a much lighter flavour than other types of tea. Green tea is highly valued for its medicinal qualities
The most delicate of all varieties, white teas are imbued with a natural sweetness. White teas are hand processed and made from the youngest shoots without any oxidation. When brewed correctly, white tea produces very low amounts of caffeine.
This ancient black tea has roots that trace to China. Pu Erh tea is very strong with a deep, earthy flavour, although it is not bitter.
It is said that pu erh tea possesses several important medicinal properties. Until 1995 it was illegal to import pu erh tea into the United States. The production process is still a closely guarded state secret in China.