04 April 2006

Tea for one, or two, or three...or more!

What's the difference between white, black, red, and green teas?

Gosh, I am sooooooooooo glad you asked!  Cuz now I can provide an answer.  How the pickings are processed is the biggest difference between "color" teas.

Most tea comes from the plant "Camellia sinensis".  Black, red, and green teas use the upper leaves; while white tea comes from the early tender buds at the end of the lower branches.  Black and red teas are really the same; what americans call "black", the chinese call "red".

Oolong is a mid-step between the green tea (processed some) and black tea (processed more).  So green tea is usually unoxidized, oolong is partially (or somewhat) oxidized, and black is fully oxidized.  White tea is the closet to leaves off the plant.  Green tea is unfermented, while black is aged moreso.

What about orange pekoe, Debra?

Again, so glad you asked!!  Cuz, again, I get to explain (and hey! it's my journal, so I get to do what I wanna...most of the time).  The actual origins are lost, but now the name no longer refers to what it did at one point in time in our past.

Orange may refer to the color of the brewed liquid (a copperish tinge) or it may refer to the blossoms that used to be packed with the tea when it was exported (to disguise any um unpleasant scents and tastes cuz it is fermented) or it may even refer to the political powers that were.  And/or all three explanations came into play through history.

Pekoe, earlier, meant the fuzzy white new buds and new leaves.  But now, it refers to black teas only.  So tradition has changed through the years.  Now when we read orange pekoe on regular bags/boxes of quantity tea, we can rest assured that it really is just regular, processed, fermented, black (or red, depending if you are here or there) tea.

Rooibus is a different matter all together.  It is not really tea, in the same sense the above are teas.  It comes from a different type of plant.  And it's for another post, some other time.  As are the benefits and other traditions, flavorings, etc.

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