Tea can be mainly broken down into 5 main tea types:
Black tea, or red tea as it is known in China, is the result of the complete oxidation of the leaf before firing. The leaf is first spread out to wilt, losing some of its moisture, stiffness and much of its weight. It is then rolled to expose the essential oils to the air and start the oxidisation process. When this is completed the process is halted through heating and the tea graded for quality and packed. Black teas are full bodied and able to withstand the addition of milk and sweeteners.
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Green tea is picked and then quickly dried by either pan frying, steaming or firing in an oven. The goodness of the leaf is sealed inside. This produces a delicate leaf which means that it should be brewed in water that is well below boiling point to prevent cooking the leaves and destroying their subtle notes. Green tea has a short life span - it doesn't stay fresh for long. Since Green teas are only minimally oxidised they tend to have less caffeine than most other types of tea but have high levels of polyphenols Unflavoured green teas can often be used to make several infusions from the same leaves providing they have not been allowed to totally dry out.
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After picking, Oolong tea is gently rolled, allowing the essential oils to interact with air and slowly oxidise. This process turns the leaf darker and produces distinctive fragrances. When the desired level of oxidisation is reached the leaf is heated in a process called panning to stop further oxidisation. The resulting tea can be anywhere between a Green and a Black, depending on the processing method.
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The new buds are plucked before they open, withered to allow the natural moisture to evaporate and then dried. These teas give a very pale liquor. Our white teas can be used to make several infusions from the same leaves providing they have not been allowed to totally dry out. In addition it can be left to brew for longer than shown on the packet without the infusion becoming bitter.
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