Six Colors for One Kind of Tea
Tea is a delicious drink obtained from the infusion of the leaves and sprouts of the plant Camellia Sinensis, who belongs to the Camellia genus.
All types of tea come from a single plant species, of which there are currently two varieties: Sinensis and Assamica.
The Sinensis variety is the most widespread and the oldest and is virtually synonymous with tea. The English later created the Assamica variety in India.
The colors correspond to the processing that the tea leaf receives once it has been picked and are the result of the Chinese poetic sensibility, which has named them according to the appearance of the wet leaf after the infusion.
The six original colors of tea emerged under the Ming dynasty in China.
Blue-green Tea or Oolong
White tea is named after the little white to silver hairs found on the buds of the Camellia sinensis. It requires little processing, and that is why it was perhaps the first tea to be consumed. Its production is, however, very delicate.
For the best white teas, only buds and the youngest leaves are selected and harvested for a short period.
For those of us more used to drink green and red tea, white tea can be a bit tasteless. Tasting its subtle flavor requires some familiarization.
Green tea is a non-oxidized tea. It is produced in greater quantity and many more places than white tea. That’s why there is a wide variety of ways to process it that results in countless types of green tea. In any case, the best green teas are produced in China and Japan.
Yellow tea is a lightly fermented tea exclusive to Jun Shan Island in Lake Dongting in China’s Hunan Province. It is obtained in a very similar way to green tea, but between the fixing and rolling phases, it is covered and left to ferment slightly.
Red tea is wholly oxidized tea. As the inventors and only tea producers over many centuries, it was the Chinese who gave it that name. When the English began to plant tea in India, they gave it the name of black tea.
The Chinese called this tea red because of the color of its infusion. The English called it black because of the color of the rusty leaf. The Chinese reserve the name black tea for post-fermented tea. In any case, red tea accounts for about 90% of the tea sold in the West.
Blue-Green Tea or Oolong
This type of tea is called oolong or wu long, which means Black Dragon, or qin cha, which means green-blue or just blue. The finest oolongs come from China, both from the mainland provinces of Fujian and Guandong and from the island of Taiwan.
Oolong is a semi-oxidized tea. Its manufacturing process is almost the same as that of red tea, and the result is between a green tea, not oxidized, and black, completely oxidized.
An enormous variety of fragrances is obtained by being able to create oolong with different degrees of oxidation of the leaf. Along with yellow teas, oolongs are the great unknown in the West. But they are perhaps the most complex and subtle.
Black teas are post-fermented teas. They have two peculiarities: they are the only ones that are fermented and are the only ones that improve with time.
They are produced in five Chinese provinces: Hubei, Hunan, Guangxi, Sichuan, and Yunnan. From the latter comes the famous Pu-erh, which has become synonymous with black tea (red among us).
Its production process is like that of green teas, except for the fermentation’s final stage, which the green teas lack.
All the types of tea described above are pure teas. That is, they contain nothing but more or less oxidized or fermented Camellia sinensis leaves or buds.
Throughout most of history, tea has been consumed pure. With the introduction of this infusion in the West, flavored teas also emerged. These are those to which the scent or flavor of flowers, fruits or other foods have been added.
Tea quickly acquires smells and tastes from the elements that surround it. This can lead to complications during its transport because if it is not adequately isolated it can be spoiled by the proximity of unwanted aromas. But it can be a good quality if it is used to add subtle flavors to the tea that reinforces the tea’s aroma.
There are two ways to flavor tea, adding natural elements such as flower petals, fruit peel, spices, and essential oils from plants, or adding synthetic flavors. Whenever we look for flavored tea, it is advisable to choose those flavored with natural ingredients.
Difference Between Tea and Herbal Teas
Tea is an infusion. So are chamomile or mint. We should use the term Tea exclusively for the infusion of Camellia Sinensis and call Tisane to the infusion of any other type of plant or herb.