Tea Time Anyone?

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We go to an internationally oriented university with students from countries all around the world with different cultural and backgrounds. However, the most important difference between these countries is obviously: their tea traditions! After all, tea is the world’s second most widely consumed drink…..after water.

How is Tea made

All types of pure tea — white, green, oolong and black — come from the same plant, called Camellia sinensis. A single bud and two leaves, or a “flush,” is plucked by hand from each stem, usually twice a year. I bet you didn’t know that the plant that tea comes from looks like this:

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Types of Tea

In general, the more tea leaves are processed, the stronger the flavor. The level of oxidation is what determines whether a tea is white, black, oolong or green.

Oxidation refers to a series of chemical reactions that result in the browning of tea leaves and the production of flavor and aroma compounds in finished teas. Depending on the type of tea being made, oxidation is prevented altogether, or deliberately initiated, controlled then stopped. Oxidation begins when the cell walls within tea leaves are damaged. To achieve cell damage, tea producers macerate, roll or tumble tea leaves to intentionally initiate oxidation.

White: The lightest and most delicate variety. The youngest, freshest leaves are simply plucked and dried, so there’s no time for oxidation. This leads to a fragrant and sweet taste.

Black: The leaves are rolled and given plenty of time to oxidize before being fired. Black teas are bold, complex and strong. This leads to a rich and full-bodied taste which is more popular in the West.

Green: The leaves are heated before they’re rolled (by hand or in a machine) and dried. Very little oxidation, but the extra steps bring out more natural flavor, which is lightly toasted and grassy.

Oolong: Bruising or tearing the leaves results in partial oxidation, and a cup with fuller body and richer color. Commonly served in Chinese restaurants. It has a floral aroma with a smooth finish.

The Great Tea Debate: Contestants to your corners!

Tea Cups: Glass vs Ceramic

People who drink wine will understand that the shape, and material of your glass influence how you taste a beverage. The major difference between these three types of materials is their degree of imperfection.

Ceramic teapots and cups were commonly fired in open pits, and originated 11,000 years ago in Asia and the Middle East for everyday use. The tiny imperfections in the surface of this glaze of the cup which means that tea has to bump into, and rub up against many micro-sized obstacles on the journey from inside the cup to inside your mouth. As the liquid bumps into and tears up against these tiny imperfections, the liquid opens up. It’s the smell and flavor crashing into and opening up against the ceramic walls of your teacup, giving you a slightly more open sensory experience than you would have with glass. Glass is almost perfectly smooth, which is why it is used to consume wine. With a perfectly smooth surface, the liquid of your tea or wine has nothing to bump against, and it smell and flavors remain fairly compacted. It is a neutral material. A quick nod to the thermodynamics In the case of a glass cup the the radiation emitted by the tea in the cup moves out of the cup in all directions unlike only the top surface in ceramics and metals. This is because of the optical transparency of glass.

Classic Debate: Tea Leaves & Strainer versus Teabag

The differences between loose leaf tea and traditional tea bags are numerous, and it goes far beyond the surface. Whole leaf teas provide you with more flavor, aroma, antioxidants, and pleasure than the tiny leaf bits and stale tea dust in most mass-produced tea bags. Typical tea bags are produced on an industrial scale and may sit in a warehouse or on a shelf for a long time before you ever get them.

Typically, teabags are blended for standardization. Year to year, a particular grocery store tea will taste the same. Loose-leaf tea is frequently the opposite. Loose-leaf tea may be speciality tea from a single region or even a single portion of a single estate. Its flavor profile, aroma and appearance vary from year to year and season to season.

By Olivia Hobden

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