More Tea Terms

Assam - located in Northern India, is the world’s largest black tea producing region.   Depending on personal taste, Assam teas can be drunk on their own or with milk and sugar.   They are known for their distinctive fragrant malt qualities. Darjeeling - is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas.  During the monsoons season, the unpredictable weather can produce up to 16ft of rain.   During the growing season, a yield of at least 3 flushes is common due to the hot days and cool nights. Ceylon– currently know as Sri Lanka, was once renowned only for its coffee.  This changed in 1867 when Scotsman James Taylor planted 19 acres of tea plant seeds and from there an exciting new industry was formed.  Ceylon now produces superb teas.China – is synonymous with tea.  For centuries tea has been produced in China.  Due to the world wide demand for fine teas, China is now set to increase its market share.  After silk and grain, tea is currently China’s 3rdlargest export industry.  There was a time when the Chinese had categorized over 8000 different types of tea.  Today, tea is grown in 18 regions, the majority being green tea and it is generally sold by identifying names that let the buyer know their quality and origin. While mechanization is altering the way tea is produced, hand made teas are still common place in China due to the large workforce and the love of tea. Flushes– the new growth of leaves and buds on a tea plant.  On average, there are usually 3 flushes, however due to their year round hot weather, some temperate regions can produce up to 10 flushes.Orthodox– is the term used for the great care taken in the hand picking of tea.   Tea was produced this way for centuries, and today some of the great teas are still produced in this manner. CTC– (Crush – Tear – Curl) – Taking over from the orthodox method that was used for centuries, this mechanized method of harvesting leaf is used for its efficiency.Camellia Sinensis- a shrubby evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia, is a relative of the common garden Camellia.   The top few leaves and sometimes the new buds of this plant are what “tea” is comprised of.  If it doesn’t originate from this plant then it is not “tea”. When it is allowed to grow of its own accord, the tea plant can reach heights of 60 feet.  As a tea bush it is usually kept pruned to heights of no more than 3 – 5 feet and produces black, green and oolong teas.  The processing of the leaf is what makes the different tea varieties. Polyphenols– are a group of naturally occurring plant chemicals that account for the pungency and unique flavour of tea.  This component of tea accounts for approximately 30% of the soluble matter in tea.  We have learnt through modern science that these compounds are powerful anti-oxidants, immune stimulants and potent cancer fighters.  Therefore tea is now known as one of the best things a human can consume. Antioxidant– is the substance that can protect cells from damage caused by free radicals that are unstable molecules made by oxidation during normal metabolism.  It is believed that free radicals may play a part in diseases such as cancer, heart problems, stroke and other diseases associated with ageing.Chlorophyll – is the molecule that absorbs sunlight and uses its energy to synthesis carbohydrates from CO2 and water.  Tannin- a necessary component in the ageing of wine.  It is found in the skin of grapes and can be supplemented by oak tannins from barrels.   In the terms of tasting it identifies a dry sensation, with flavours of tea and leather. Withering– is the process that removes moisture from the freshly plucked leaf.   For a period of 24hrs the leaves, after being spread on trays, are left in a cool room.  The leaf by this stage will have lost about 50% of its weight and is now soft and pliable, which makes it ready for the next stage. Rolling– The twisting of the leaf results in bruising, which in turn releases enzymes that react to the air.  This chemical process is called oxidation.  As a twisted leaf releases its essences slower than a flat leaf it makes a smoother and milder tasting cup of tea. Fermentation– is the process that applies mainly to black tea.  After the withered and rolled leaves are spread out on a table they are allowed to ferment for up to 5 hrs.  The longer a leaf ferments, the darker it becomes.  This does not apply to green tea and a lesser period for Oolong tea.  The longer the leaf is left to ferment, the darker it becomes.  The flavour of the tea is altered in this process, allowing the true elements to be released, which result in the ultimate cup of tea.Firing– The fermented leaves are heated to a constant temperature of 120F, thereby stopping the fermentation process.   This is a critical in the making of  black tea.  Oolong and green teas are fired for a lesser time.   This process is where black tea turns black and only retains 2 – 3% of its original moisture content. Too much heat can produce a tea lacking in flavour, colour and aroma.