Know Your Tea

Tea is made from the leaves and buds of a plant, the Camellia sinensis evergreen. There are so many varieties of tea available today but it all starts with the tea leaf that is handled differently after harvesting. The key to different types of teas lies in the level of the tea leaf’s oxidation. The colour and flavour of tea will depend on how long the plant’s leaves are dried and how much contact they have with oxygen. To simplify the stages of the tea production we provided the Tea Leaf Oxidation chart below. For example, Green Tea is produced by heating leaves shortly after harvesting to prevent oxidation, and then rolling the dry leaves. This results in a lighter colour tea. Black and Oolong Tea undergo full or partial oxidation respectively, which makes the leaves – and subsequent brew – darker in colour.

You may wonder if some tea varieties are healthier than others. In fact, all tea from the Camellia sinensis plant is equal in terms of how good it is for your health. Black, green, white, oolong come from the same plant, hence have the same health benefits.

Tea leaf oxidation chart

Tea is grown around the world. Teas sold in Canada mostly come from the tea growing regions of China, India, Kenya and Sri Lanka.

There are more than 1500 kinds of tea from Camellia Sinensis plant but they fall into three main groups – black, green and oolong.

  1. Black Tea

    North America’s favourite tea, black teas usually have a very rich. Black teas are also commonly used in tea bags. Black tea is made from leaves, which produce a hearty deep and rich flavour in a coloured amber brew. Popular black teas include: Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling and Keemun and popular blends such as English Breakfast, Earl Grey and Chai.

    Note: Orange Pekoe refers to the quality and condition of the tea leaves themselves. The highest grades are referred to as ‘orange pekoe’ and are most commonly recognized as the standard black tea many North Americans have in their cupboards.

  2. Green Tea

    Most popular in Asia, but is becoming more well-known in North America. It is light in colour and refreshing. Green tea leaves are steamed or heated to prevent oxidation and then rolled and dried. It has a delicate taste, light green colour and is very refreshing. Varieties include: Gunpowder, Dragonwell, Jasmine, Sencha, Hojicha, Genmaicha, Gyokuro and Matcha.

  3. Oolong Tea

    This is a popular tea in China and the name oolong literally translates as “Black Dragon”. Oolong teas have a range of flavours depending on the type. Some taste similar to floral green teas, whereas others share more similarities with toasty black teas. Varieties of oolong tea include: Black Dragon, Formosa Oolong, Ti Kuan Yin, and Formosa Pouchong.

  4. White Tea

    White tea is made from the youngest leaves of the tea plant. White Tea leaves include buds that are covered with tiny hairs. The new buds are plucked before they open, and then are withered and slowly dried at low temperatures. The result is a tea with a mild flavour and natural sweetness.

  5. Herbal Tea / Tisanes

    Herbal teas/tisanes are made from the roots, barks, leaves, seeds or flowers of other plants, they do not come from the Camellia sinensis plant . There is no supporting research that the health benefits associated with the Camellia sinensis apply to herbal infusions. Examples of herbal teas are Chamomile, Peppermint and Rooibos.

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