This is the transcript from our Tea TV Episode: Tea 101
Jesse Jacobs: I’m Jesse Jacobs and I’m here today with Christine Savage of Samovar Tea Lounge, and we’re here to talk abut tea, of which we are looking quite a few types and let’s start with just Tea 101, Christine.
Christine Savage: As you see, all of these teas really look different from each other. But all tea is made from the same plant, this plant is Camellia sinensis and it’s a plant indigenous to the China, Burma, Northern Vietnam, Assam region of the world.
What distinguishes each kind of tea from one another is the way that it’s processed.
Jesse Jacobs: So these are all the same plant, just processed differently?
Christine Savage: There are about five or six different kinds of teas, there is white tea, green tea, oolong tea, black tea, pu-erh tea, and the tea that’s really seen outside of China, which is called yellow tea.
You want to think about white tea as being the least processed tea.
You can think of green tea as being the least oxidized of tea.
White tea is the least processed, green tea is the least oxidized. Oolong tea is the class of teas that is semi-oxidized. So where a green tea is the least oxidized and the black tea can be the most oxidized, oolong tea falls somewhere in between.
And there’s a range of processing, there are some oolongs that are very green and some oolongs that are very dark, like dark roasted.
Jesse Jacobs: So what is black tea, tell us about that?
Christine Savage: Black tea is a tea that’s been encouraged to fully oxidized and so it’s changing from the clear or like polyphenols to theaflavins, which is the color of the infusion of a oolong to thearubigins, which has a darker more reddish color.
Jesse Jacobs: Hmm, okay.
Christine Savage: And thearubigin is known for being good for your circulatory system in cleaning out your arteries.
In China black tea is known as red tea, because if you look at the wet leaves or the infusion, it has more of a reddish color, like a dark rust color, than it has a black color.
Jesse Jacobs: And what it pu-erh tea?
Christine Savage: Pu-erh tea is the kind of tea that is fermented. So there are two ways that it can be fermented, there can either be a cooked pu-erh tea, or a raw pu-erh.
Jesse Jacobs: Okay.
Christine Savage: All pu-erh starts up the same, the leaves are plucked from the tree, and then it undergoes a process that’s called sun-curing.
After that to make raw pu-erh the leaves are either left loose, or they are compressed into shapes. So it could be pressed into a cake, or a brick, or put in to the inside of a hollowed-out bamboo, or a hollowed-out fruit.
Jesse Jacobs: Wow!
Christine Savage: And at that point, it ferments and ages over time.
The other kind of pu-erh tea is cooked pu-erh tea, and this is tea that’s been fermented to an intentional accelerated fermentation process.
Jesse Jacobs: And what is herbal tea?
Christine Savage: Herbal tea isn’t actually a tea tea, or a tea proper. Herbal tea refers to an infusion made from a plant, that’s not from the Camellia sinensis.
Most herbal teas do not contain caffeine, there are some like Yerba Mate that does have caffeine. But the majority are herbs that are caffeine free.
So, people can either infuse the leaves of a plant, such as with mints, or a flower like with chamomile or jasmine, or a processed version of the plant like with rooibos, or even, I’ve seen infusions made from the peels of citrus fruits, like blood orange.
Jesse Jacobs: Okay. So, what does it take to brew great tea, how do you do it?
Christine Savage: Well, all you need to make great tea is filtered water, good tasting water, about one teaspoon of tea per cup of tea that you want to prepare and the right temperature water. So, for a black tea, some oolongs, and for pu-erh tea, we want water that’s about boiling temperature.
But for green teas and white teas, you want water that has dropped down from boiling to about 180 degrees or lower.
Jesse Jacobs: So Christine what do you look for when you’re looking for good tea?
Christine Savage: Well I look for a tea that is fresh, seasonal, and consistent in size and shape. So, even though all of these teas may look different, if you look at each one, each of the leaves are the same size, so you’re going to get a uniform brew.
And ideally you also want to get tea that is organic in fair trade, depending on where the tea is coming from.
So the fresher the tea, the more seasonal the tea, the healthier and more flavorful the tea will be to you.
Jesse Jacobs: So, that you so much for joining us today and giving us a little Tea 101, and I will see you around in the tea rooms of America.
Christine Savage: Thank you.