Tea Chronicles: A Comprehensive Guide to the Origins and Varieties of Tea

Dec 2, 2023

Tea, a simple leaf steeped in tradition, transcends mere beverage status. It's a journey through cultures, flavours, and health benefits. Join us on a delightful exploration as we unravel the diverse world of tea, exploring its many types and varieties. 

What Is Tea?
Tea originates from the renowned Camellia sinensis plant and boasts a long and significant cultural heritage. Originating in ancient China, its popularity has spread worldwide and provides many different options for tea enthusiasts. Tea has experienced incredible evolution over its millennia of history. There are various classifications of tea. While some categorize them by processing style or origin of production, understanding all these different categories is vitally important for anyone interested in tea.

Popular Types of Tea

Exploring the Bold Charisma of Black Tea
Black tea has long been recognized for its robust and full-bodied character. Originating in regions such as Assam, Darjeeling and Ceylon, black tea undergoes complete oxidation to produce its signature dark hue and bold flavour profile. Preparation involves boiling water and extended steeping times that produce an exquisite beverage with hearty, malty goodness. Black tea remains an ageless classic that provides comforting morning rituals or revitalizing pick-me-up throughout the day. If you are an ardent tea enthusiast interested in finding high-quality black tea varieties, read this introduction before beginning your quest for premium-grade types.

Popular Origins of Black Tea

Chinese Black Tea 

Chinese black teas offer an intriguing and complex journey. From its earthy Keemun varieties to Dian Hong's malty sweetness and even bold and earthy Keemun varieties, each variety offers something different for an exciting experience. Common varieties of Chinese black tea include;

1. Keemun: This premium tea boasts a robust, full flavour with subtle traces of smoke.

2. Lapsang souchong: An aromatic smoke tea that offers strong aroma and subtle sweet notes.

3. Yunnan black Tea (Dian Hong): Heavy-bodied tobacco-inspired flavours make Yunnan black Tea one of the finest offerings from our world of premium teas.

Ceylon Black Tea

Ceylon's diverse topography lends Ceylon black teas their distinctive characteristics. From sun-kissed lowlands to misty highlands, each elevation adds unique qualities that define the respective Ceylon tea varieties cultivated there. Ceylon black teas stand out for their lively nature and brightness. High-grown teas offer a vibrant and stimulating cup that exhilarates the senses. Their crispiness often comes paired with an irresistibly citrusy note for an exhilarating and rejuvenating experience. Ceylon black teas offer an exhilarating cup character that appeals to both novice and veteran tea drinkers like Assam or Darjeeling from India. Like these regions, Sri Lanka also boasts its own distinct tea-growing regions known for specific characteristics, like those found in Assam or Darjeeling.

  1. Some popular growing regions for Ceylon black tea include;1. Ruhuna Region: Ruhuna teas are known for their strong, full-bodied flavour. Their lower elevation contributes to stronger flavours that offer a greater body, making these hearty beverages perfect for those seeking robust beverages.
  2. Sabaragamuwa Region: Tea from Sabaragamuwa shares characteristics similar to Ruhuna tea. Its reddish-brown colour and sweet caramel aroma set it apart from other varieties.
  3. Dimbula Region: Dimbulla teas provide an enjoyable balance between briskness and depth in flavour profile. Tea tea offers you a refreshing cup that combines brightness and depth.
  4. Kandy Region: Tea from Kandy provides a mellow and medium-bodied experience, boasting well-rounded flavours for an approachable brew. These teas make an excellent option for anyone seeking balance in their cup.
  5. Uva Region: The elevation and climate of Uva lend tea an unparalleled vibrancy, often featuring a unique pungency and mild citrusy notes in its cups.
  6. Nuwara Eiiya Region: When visiting Nuwara Eliya at high altitudes, expect tea with light, floral notes. Your cup will have gentle astringency with an upbeat, refreshing taste!

Indian Black Tea

India is another key player in the global black tea niche. Indian black teas are known for their bold and robust character, often combined with a hearty, malty undertone. There is great variety among tea-growing regions - each has specific traits tailored to our tea needs. Here is a glimpse at some popular types of tea in India;

1. Assam Black Teas: Situated in India's northeastern corner, Assam produces black teas renowned for their bold yet malty flavours. The tropical climate and rich soil contribute to the full-bodied nature of these teas. Some popular black tea blends, such as English breakfast teas and Assam milk teas, perfectly showcase this malty richness!
2. Darjeeling Black Teas: Nestled in the Himalayan foothills, Darjeeling teas offer more delicate and nuanced qualities, thanks to high altitude cultivation that imparts floral and muscatel notes. Their light yet bright cup has earned Darjeeling the reputation as the "Champagne of Teas." With such complex fragrances, they make this connoisseur's favourite!
3. Nilgiri Black teas: In southern India, Nilgiri produces distinctive black teas known for their full and robust character, thanks to the elevation and climate factors that help shape these unique varieties.

Revealing the Verdant Symphony of Green Tea
Green tea, known for its fresh and grassy notes, is an exquisite and vibrant member of the tea family. Hailing predominantly from China and Japan, green tea undergoes minimal oxidation processing to preserve its vibrant green colour and subtle vegetal taste. The tea requires lower water temperatures and shorter steeping times to capture its essence without bitterness. From Matcha to organic green tea varieties - green tea offers an array of flavours perfect for providing a vibrant tea experience for its audiences.

Chinese Green Teas
Green tea has been an integral part of Chinese culture for millennia. Revered for its health benefits and exquisite flavours, it has long been celebrated for its health advantages. The production style plays a vital role in shaping the final flavour profile of Chinese green tea. Leaves are generally pan-fired or steamed to prevent oxidation and retain their natural green hue and fresh taste. Each region in China produces green tea with distinct characteristics influenced by climate, altitude and soil composition. Chinese green tea is celebrated for its delicate aroma, refreshing taste and high concentrations of antioxidants that provide health benefits. Some of its most popular varieties include;

  1. Longjing (Dragon Well) Green Tea: The tea hails from China's Zhejiang Province and is famed for its delicate sweet taste, resembling chestnut with vegetal notes. The infusion produces an attractive pale yellow-green-hued brew.
  2. Bi Luo Chun: Bi Luo Chun, popularly called "Green Snail Spring," hails from Dongting Mountain in Suzhou, China. Prized for its fresh and fruity taste, it is often described as apricot-like. Bi Luo Chun has an intoxicating floral aroma with vibrant, refreshing tastes; its liquor boasts vibrant green hue.
  3. Jasmine Pearls: Also referred to as Jasmine Dragon Pearls, Jasmine Pearls hail from China's Fujian province. The tea is distinguished by a delicious combination of green tea and the sweet floral essence of jasmine, creating an aromatic yet flavourful sensory experience. These fragrant jewels boast light, refreshing tastes with subtle sweetness from jasmine aroma.

Japanese Green Tea
Japanese green tea stands out from Chinese varieties due to its distinctive features. Unlike its counterpart, this form is usually steamed to prevent oxidation, resulting in vibrant green leaves with an umami flavour and an unmatchable fragrance. Matcha, a finely ground green tea, is often featured in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. Japanese green tea culture emphasizes precision when it comes to brewing and serving its tea varieties; each variety offers its own distinct flavour experience. Japanese green tea fields, often situated among hilly regions, create an influential terroir that is integral to its flavour profile. Overall, Japanese green tea is known for its grassy and vegetal notes and its relaxing effects from L-theanine amino acid.

  1. Sencha: Sencha is an iconic Japanese green tea variety characterized by steaming the leaves to prevent oxidation, then rolling, shaping and drying them - offering a refreshing grassy taste with sweet undertones and slight astringency.
  2. Matcha: Matcha is produced from shade-grown tea leaves that have been stone-ground into a fine powder by stone milling, while their shading increases chlorophyll, amino acids, and flavour compounds. Matcha offers a vibrant umami taste combined with a creamy texture. The tea's vibrant green hue and complex flavours make it truly distinctive.
  3. Gyokuro: Gyokuro requires several weeks of shaded growing before harvest, yielding tender leaves that are then processed using steaming, rolling, and drying processes to create its distinctive sweet and umami-rich flavours with minimal astringency and deep green hue. The shading process adds yet another element to its unique flavour profile.

Oolong Tea - the Elegance of Semi-Oxidation

Oolong tea represents the art of semi-oxidation in its finest form. Hailing from Fujian and Taiwan, oolong undergoes partial oxidation, resulting in its distinctive flavours, from floral to creamy to toasty and fruity. Please use different water temperatures and steeping times for preparation to reach across a wide array of taste profiles for enjoyment.

  1. Phoenix Tea (Dan Cong) :Produced in Guangdong Province of southern China, Phoenix Oolong tea is among the top-selling oolong varieties. As its name implies, Phoenix oolong comes from the Phoenix mountains, offering full-bodied flavours and aromas. It is beloved for its distinctive full-body experience that is full-bodied yet fragrant.
  2. Tie Guan Yin: If you're new to oolong tea and need help selecting which variety you should start with, look no further. Iron Goddess of Mercy (Tie Guan Yin) oolong comes from Fujian Province in China's mountainous regions and involves up to 60 hours of slow roasting; hence, it is nicknamed Iron. Iron Goddess of Mercy tastes floral yet airy like its namesake: it can even be thought of like an orchid!
  3. Wuyi Oolong Tea (Da Hong Pao) : While Iron Goddess of Mercy Oolong Tea is best known as a "light" variety, Wuyi Oolong Tea stands out as being darker. In essence, it is an opposite choice! Wuyi oolong boasts sharp, smoky flavours due to its high oxidation level and mineral components - one reason it ranks among one of the world's most expensive varieties! Get ready!
  4. High Mountain Oolong Tea (Gaoshan) : As its name implies, High Mountain oolong tea hails from mountainous regions in central Taiwan. Typically processed lightly to create an even lighter-tasting version that falls closer to green than black varieties, producing a delicate flavour profile. This processing method results in light yet refreshing notes with floral overtones for an exceptional cup.
  5. Milk Oolong Tea (Jin Xuan Tea): Can plain tea really be creamy? Milk oolong tea may be your answer! Grown at lower elevations and harvested during Spring, milk oolong is known for its creamy and sweet taste - not due to any added milk! Instead, this unique variety naturally contains creamy and buttery notes that create its creamy, buttery flavours. The ideal solution for those seeking something out-of-the-ordinary regarding their cup of oolong!


White Tea - the Gentle Elegance of Minimalism
White tea stands out among its counterparts for being among the least processed. Cultivated predominantly in China's Fujian province, white tea features delicate buds and leaves unaffected by oxidation. The tea produces a subtle yet sweet flavour profile. Some of the organic white teas are also gaining a good
Some of the famous white tea types include;

  1. Silver Needle (Baihao Yinzhen): Considered the highest grade of white tea, Silver Needle tea features young buds covered with white downy hairs for maximum fragrance and sweetness with floral undertones.
  2. White Peony (Bai Mudan): This tea is composed of young tea buds and top leaves from a tea plant, yielding a slightly more robust flavour than Silver Needle Tea. You may experience floral and fruity notes in its aroma and taste.
  3. Ceylon Silver Tips Tea: Originating in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), Ceylon Silver Tips or Ceylon Silver Needle tea is a unique type of white tea known for its silver-white hairs on young tea buds, giving this distinctive tea its name and appealing appearance. It is highly sought-after among enthusiasts for its floral notes, with honey or melon undertones.
  4. Darjeeling White Teas: Darjeeling, located on India's foothills of the Himalayas in India, is best known for producing black teas. However, this region also produces white teas such as Darjeeling White, for which floral notes and gentle flavour are prominent characteristics. Try now!

Pu-erh Tea: A Fermented Tapestry of Complexity
Pu-erh tea, steeped in tradition and complexity, hails from China's Yunnan province. This delectable fermented tea develops its distinct earthy flavours over time through its unique fermentation process. The tea imparts bold yet nuanced notes in every sip that connoisseurs love. Obtaining authentic Pu-erh requires mindful preparation methods. Optimal water temperature settings and steeping times are critical factors when producing its distinctive bold flavours.

The tea is broadly classified by its processing methods as raw pu-erh (sheng) and ripe pu-erh (shou).

  1. Raw Pu-erh (Sheng Pu-erh): Raw pu-erh is made from tea leaves that undergo a natural fermentation and aging process. This process typically starts with withered leaves being pan-fried or sun-dried to stop any further oxidation before they're compressed into various shapes like cakes or bricks. Then, these are allowed to age over time, much like fine wines do. Over time, its flavours change considerably. When consumed young, it may have an astringent but fresh taste. Over time, its complex flavours develop floral, fruity, earthy notes.
  2. Ripe Pu-erh (Shou Pu-erh): Also referred to as cooked or fermented pu-erh, Ripe pu-erh entails an accelerated fermentation process involving tea leaves exposed to heat and moisture that stimulate microbial fermentation. This step leads to their darkening and developing an earthy yet mellow flavour profile. It is often described as having smooth, deep flavours such as chocolate with notes of damp earth or sometimes even sweetness that make up its profile.

Herbal Tea as Nature's Source of Wellness
Unlike traditional teas, herbal tea does not derive its ingredients from Camellia sinensis plants, making it distinct. Instead, herbal tea encompasses various plants, flowers, and herbs with distinctive tastes and potential health benefits. From soothing chamomile to invigorating peppermint, herbal tea offers many flavours and therapeutic qualities that offer caffeine-free alternatives with variety in taste combinations and preparation versatility. Popular herbal tea varieties include Chamomile Tea, Spearmint Tea and etc.

Conclusion
Tea is an expansive world that provides an abundance of flavours, aromas, and experiences for us to discover. Each tea offers something distinct, ranging from delicate white teas to bold black tea varieties!

Discovering the world of tea is like embarking on an exploratory voyage, uncovering its cultural traditions, craftsmanship and natural variations that give each tea type its distinct character. Be it for relaxation, energy or meditation, an appropriate tea choice is sure to suit every mood and event.

Take a sip, enjoy its exquisite flavours, and allow the warmth of the tea to wrap itself around you. From delicate white teas to bold pu-erhs - let the world of tea show its rich diversity by inviting you to discover new experiences through well-brewed cups! Cheers to this glorious realm of tea!


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