I had planned on having this week being all about Indian food, but after spending the end of last week AND the weekend sick with what I’m sure was the plague, I’ve been drinking vats and vats of tea. Don’t get me wrong, I love coffee, and Indian food too, but when you’re sick, you just want tea. Gone are the days of just having a simple Orange Pekoe as well! No no my friend, today’s tea world is a complex trip through different types of teas, flavours and attributes.
Today’s tea consumer no longer just chooses between cream and sugar or honey and lemon. There is first the type of tea leaf that you want, each with their own benefits. The main ones are white, green, oolong, black, pu’erh, mate, rooibos and herbal. White Tea is made from baby tea leaves and is harvested by hand only a few days each spring, and is the rarest and least processed of all tea varietals.
Green Tea comes from leaves that are withered until the leaf becomes flaccid and then immediately steamed or fired to halt the active leaf enzymes that would otherwise react with oxygen. Oolong Tea leaves are are semi-oxidized and express characteristics in-between green and black teas. Black Tea comes from leaves that are fully oxidized. Classic teas like English Breakfast and Earl Grey fall within this category. Pu’erh Tea is made from tea production style in which the black tea leaves undergo microbial fermentation and oxidation after they are dried and rolled.
The remaining three teas: Mate, Rooibos and Herbal teas as we know them are not what some would consider “true” teas. Yes, there are such things as “Tea snobs” out there. They are not “true” because they do not come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Mate is South American in origin and comes from the ground up leaf and stem of the Ilex paraguariensis tree. Rooibos is South African in origin and comes from the Aspalathus linearis bush. Herbal teas as we know them are a wide variety of different blends of flowers, herbs and other edibles brewed together, and often contain no actual “tea” itself.
So there you go, everything you ever wanted to know about the types of tea… but did you know it’s also used for more than drinking? Today’s recipe calls for it in a brine to marinate a turkey breast! Enjoy and keep on sipping!