Sunday, April 27, 2008

Colors of Tea

Left to right: Green, Oolong, White and Black teas

As a general rule, the darker the tea, the stronger the flavor and higher the caffeine. But "darker" doesn't always mean the color of tea will be dark when steeped. With oolong tea, for example, some of the finest varieties yield a very pale brew, though the leaves themselves are dark. Oolong tea can range from yellow or pale brown to bright green.

And with white tea, sometimes the steeped color is very dark, especially when more-developed leaves are used. In the traditional Bai Mu Dan variety, we use leaves that are 2 days old (the tips) as well as up to 4-week old leaves to achieve the full flavor of natural white tea. The resulting tea, when brewed, gets darker with the second and third steepings (or if you steep it for a long time).

White tea can be surprisingly dark when steeped; this is the natural color and flavonoids that are preserved deep within the leaf. If just the needle tips are used, it tends to be light in color, but with much less flavor than the full-leaf varieties.

Green tea can be very pale or dark, depending on the variety. With all teas, how long you steep the tea and the quantity you use will determine a lot of the color, and hotter water tends to make the tea darker more quickly.

Kinds of Natural Tea

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Common teas made from Camellia Sinensis:

Green tea - Green tea is heat-cured using a variety of methods, temperatures and durations to produce different flavor variations. Its composition is denser and more durable than white tea, and its flavor fuller, ranging from sweet to smoky. Green tea, as well as white, are generally made from the youngest leaves.

White tea - the purest form of the Camellia Sinensis leaf, white tea is simply picked, washed and dried, giving it a fragile, flaky texture when dry and a very light gentle flavor. White tea is the least processed of all the teas, and therefore is highest in antioxidant, while it is lowest in caffeine.

Oolong tea - Oolong is usually made from the darker, richer leaves, and is partially fermented before curing, giving it a much richer, more complex flavor and velvety texture. Good oolong is often considered the "champagne" of tea; unfortunately, most Americans never get to taste good oolong, for reasons noted below.

Black tea - Black tea also comes from the same plant, but is fermented, giving it a much darker color and stronger flavor. Black tea is probably the most popular in most western countries due to its richness and higher caffeine levels (roughly half of coffee, though in practice it depends entirely on how strong you make it).

Jasmine tea - Jasmine blossoms are a traditional Chinese flavor that is often infused into green tea, and sometimes other kinds, while curing. Jasmine offers a sweet aroma and, when properly infused, complements the natural tea flavor. Jasmine is the only really common infusion in China; American teas use lemon, mint and other flavors to counter the bitter taste tea gets when it's stale.


Tea Article - Central Coast Magazine

Here's an article about tea in Central Coast Magazine featuring Dragon Pearl Tea and discussing white tea, green tea, oolong tea and black tea, and a little about the business of tea...

You can read the whole article in Central Coast Mag.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ask the Tea Master

If you want more detailed information and tea research articles, see

Gongfu Cha

In China, people serve tea methodically according to tradition. Gongfu cha is the skill of serving tea (gongfu or "kung fu" means "skill"). In general application in China, tea serving is part of several aspects of the culture.

As its background character, tea plays a significant role in certain Chinese ceremonies. In weddings, tea is offered to the parents by the bride and groom, a symbol of their respect and the approval of the families.

In tea shops, tea is served using instruments to avoid touching the tasting cups and teapots, which are usually kept in simmering water and removed with tongs. The finest oolong tea is usually kept refrigerated, as its flavor is the most sensitive to changing levels of oxidization.

A traditional Chinese teamaster set uses a tray with a drain and an urn with handling instruments, which are typically made of wood, including a funnel for adding tea to small pots; tongs for handling the cups; a tea scooper; and a poker and scraper for removing leaves from the baskets. When served to guests, tea is offered with both hands with a respectful bow of the head, which is returned by the recipient.

White Tea and Caffeine

True, white tea tends to be lowest in caffeine (theine). However, remember that any tea can be decaffeinated naturally by pre-steeping, and it might be a good idea to pre-steep (that is, pour out the first steeping) if you're drinking any tea at night. Even white tea, if it's fully potent, can keep you up late.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Steeping Fresh Whole Tea

1. Use whole tea. Do not use powdered tea bags. In studies we conducted using teabags versus whole teas, the teabags disappointed every single time.

2. Find a convenient implement. Chinese steeping cups might be the easiest--a porcelain cup with a lid and a porcelain basket inside that you remove after steeping. French coffee presses also work well, and many great teapots are available online.

3. Use pure water. Tap water contains chlorine and minerals which can drastically affect the taste of the tea. Infuse the tea with warm water, not boiling. Green and white tea should be in the 160-180 degree range, while oolong and black can be hotter, but does not need to be boiling.

STEP 1: Put the tea in the steeping basket

STEP 2: Put the tea in the cup or pot and add water

STEP 3: Remove the basket and enjoy. Repeat.

In addition to the quantity of tea you use in your cup or pot (Chinese brew it much lighter than westerners), the hotter the water and the longer you steep it, the stronger it becomes. Even high-quality tea can become bitter if steep for too long. 1 to 4 minutes is fine for most teas, according to how strong you want it. If you use a large infuser to make a single cup or very small cups, you may need to steep only a few seconds after the initial infusion.