Many tea drinkers have only heard of “Black” tea, “Green” tea, and herbals, as that is simply what is stocked most commonly on the supermarket shelves. But there’s another extremely viable, extremely delicious form of tea that everyone should appreciate at least once in their lives: oolong tea.
Oolong teas are a vibrant in-between of green tea and black tea, offering qualities of both but never reaching either’s extremes. The reasoning for this lies in the process used to create oolong teas.
When the camellia sinensis (tea) leaves are picked off the bush, they are subjected to a process that gradually (or sometimes very rapidly) increases the oxidation levels in the leaves. Green tea is usually described as unoxidised or very lightly oxidised; typically the levels are very low or non-existent. Black tea, on the other hand, has been fully oxidised, which gives it its blackened colour and fuller taste.
So where does this leave oolong tea?
Oolong tea is right in the middle of green tea and black tea on the oxidation chart. It encompasses a wide range of oxidation percentages and can have more characteristics of green tea, or more characteristics of black tea, as a result. Typically, increasing the oxidation level of a tea will lower its catechin count and increase its caffeine levels.
Taiwan and China are especially famous for their oolong teas, and produce a large range for consumers to pick through. Some are among the most highly revered teas in the world.
The humble herbal tea, as many of you have already discovered, is indeed not a tea at all.
This distinction can be traced back to how the word “tea” was originally used. That is, tea is a plant that is steeped in water to produce the drink we know as tea – the catch being, that plant can only be a variety of camellia sinensis.
So what does that leave our humble little herbal ‘tea’ with? Not much? Not so! Herbal teas actually have a proper name, which is ’tisane’ (pronounced tis-aine). This name helps distinguish them as not containing any trace of the plant camellia sinensis, and also distinguishes them from herbal tea blends, which contain both tea and herbs to create a finished product.
Although the word tisane is still relatively unknown, it is gradually being uncovered by the tea drinking community and we are all too happy to facilitate and spread its use.
Matcha is an interesting and somewhat different type of tea that you may encounter. Derived from Japan, matcha is green tea powder. Traditionally it has been used in the Japanese Tea Ceremony for years, and continues to be to this day.
In present times the popularity of this tea with the rest of the world has skyrocketed, with matcha being well-distributed amongst many other world-famous teas in both tea houses and markets. However, its current popularity can be seen most clearly at its origin in Japan, which has spawned an entire selection of matcha-related and flavoured products. Matcha has been put into all sorts of things, the least of which is featured below:
Matcha is very interesting, as you can mix it into just about anything to give the food a different flavour, and not to mention a health boost. If you’ve already discovered the wonders of combining matcha with food, why not tell us what you made, and what you thought of it?
As I write this, rain just began pouring over the office roof. It’s just hit winter here in Australia – 12 days ago to be exact – and after a record-breaking El Niño event we’re finally beginning to see the weather get colder.
In the Northern Hemisphere, however, it’s an entirely different story. For all of you lovely Northern Hemispherians it’s summer – or almost summer, anyway – and you’ll all soon be enjoying the wonderful holiday weather. So, today we have something just for you!
Australian Tea Masters has created a Pinterest account where we will be pinning all of the best iced teas and tea cocktails to refresh you as you run around enjoying your summer antics. If you’d like to join in the fun (while we freeze to death making them), then head on over to http://www.pinterest.com/austeamasters/. We’re still setting the account up, but expect a lovely stream of pins in the coming weeks.
As for our lovely local Australians, we’ll get around to creating some beautiful winter warmer recommendations for you soon, so stay tuned!