Tuesday, January 20th, 2009...12:00 am

Tea Plants (part II)

Japanese Tea Field

Japanese Tea Field

The strongest flavored tea made from the Camellia sinenses leaves is called black tea or red tea.  Black tea is the tea which was most commonly sold over the years in the US by brand names like Tetley, Lipton or “Good Morning” organic. Black teas are made from “fermented” tea leaves.

What is called fermentation is really oxidation because it takes place when Camellia sinensis leaves are spread on trays in a cool, humid atmosphere to oxidize the leaves. This changes the chemical structure of the leaf, and allows the tea’s  characteristic flavor to emerge. The longer a tea is allowed to ferment, the stronger flavor it will have and the darker it will become. To retard the fermentation process the leaves are dried. After drying the leaves are graded –  longer leaves are used for loose teas and leftovers and dust leaves are used for tea bags.

Connoisseurs think of tea like great wines or coffees, each with its special flavor. Aged tea is considered a great delicacy in the Chinese culture. TheGardenLady was invited to  a Chinese tea ceremony where she tasted 50 year old black tea. This was a first for TheGardenLady who has attended a number of Japanese Tea Ceremonies.

Some of the black teas are:

  • CEYLON: Black tea mostly grown at high elevations, Ceylon tea is noted for its rich flavor and pungency.
  • DARJEELING: Grown in the foothills of the Himalayas; the finest flavored Darjeeling is available only 3-4 weeks during the year and is extremely expensive. (Much of what is sold commercially as Darjeeling is actually blended with teas from other origins.) It is a fine, delicately flavored tea with an exquisite bouquet.
  • FORMOSA OOLONG: Oolong is picked only once a year in Taiwan. It has a natural, slightly peachy aroma, brews to an amber colored liquor and has a superb flavor reminiscent of fine Darjeeling.
  • KEEMUM: The best of the China black teas, Keemun has a powerful arom a(somewhat like orchids) and a rich taste.
  • LAPSANG SOUCHONG: Grown only in a special area of China, Lapsang Souchong is a pungent tea with a smoky exotic flavor and aroma. It is generally a tea that is loved or hated—it always evokes a strong reaction.

Japanese Green teas are:

  • Sencha, one of the most popular green teas in Japan. Shincha indicates sencha green tea which is harvested in the early season.
  • Gyokuro is the most superior green tea with a sweet flavor. It is raised in the shade.
  • Macha is green tea powder, which is made from green tea leaves raised in the shade. The tea leaves are steamed, dried, and ground into powder.
  • Houjicha is made by roasting green tea leaves. It contains little caffein or tannin.
  • Genmaicha is blended tea of green tea leaves and popped rice.
  • Bancha is low grade green tea which is made from tea leaves picked in late summer.

These are tea leaves and flowers of var. sinensis.

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