About Tea

Did you know there are over 3,000 types of tea in the world and all of them come from the same plant, camellia sinensis. There are lots of factors that influence how a particular tea tastes including growing region, plant variety, processing method, time of harvest and the part of the plant that is harvested. For the finest teas the bud and the first two leaves are picked by hand.

The world of tea can seem complex, but don’t let this put you off, our simple guide will help you explore and the Whittard Taste Guarantee means you can try something new safe in the knowledge that you can always exchange it for something else, should it not be to your taste.

Tea Types

The major types of tea are: White, Green, Oolong, Black, and Pu-erh.

White tea is the most prized and least processed of all. It comes from the delicate, immature buds and/or leaves of the first flush (first flush is the first picking of the tea). It is allowed to wither slowly (reduce water content and lose its rigidity) indoors in a dark, cool room. After withering for 9-24 hours, depending on weather, the tea is dried either outside or with the assistance of a fan/heater. This minimal processing retains the most antioxidants and results in the lowest caffeine level of the leaf (unpowdered) true teas. White tea has a very mild taste that can be somewhat floral. The leaves/buds are very pale/”silvery ” in colour and produce a pale infusion.

Green tea can be produced from any flush. Unlike white tea, the leaves may be twisted, rolled, or otherwise shaped during processing. They are also either roasted (most common in China) or steamed (most common in Japan) to dry them and stop them from oxidizing. There is a wide range of flavours and appearances with green tea. The best green tea is very fresh and sappy – it tastes green and alive offering the experience of drinking the essence of spring.

Oolong tea is more processed than green tea. It is semi-oxidized. That is to say that a chemical reaction is allowed to occur before the tea is dried and the chemical reaction is halted. Tea leaves contain enzymes inside them and when they are bruised, broken or crushed, the enzymes are exposed to the air resulting in oxidation. The colour of the leaf will turn darker and the flavour will become stronger. They are capable of holding very complex, layered tastes and are excellent on their own.

Black tea is fully oxidized. The chemical reaction in it is not halted, but allowed to end on its own. After the oxidation is complete, the tea is fired to dry it and to prevent it from going bad. Black teas often have the most caffeine. Their flavour tends to be strong and earthy. Some black teas are smoked. Many black teas are flavored or served with milk and/or sugar. The colour of the leaves is very dark brown to black and the colour of the brew is a red-brown colour.

Pu-erh tea is cultured (with bacteria) after it has been fully oxidized. The taste is strong, earthy, and even a bit musky. It is served on its own and is considered to be a tea connoisseur’s tea.

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