When the autumn chill sets in there is nothing quite as soothing to the body and soul as a hot cup of tea. When we say ‘tea’ we usually think of black tea, but did you know that black tea, green tea, white tea, oolong and pu-erh tea are all the same plant? The tea plant is an evergreen that is native to China, Tibet and northern India and is called Camellia sinensis. The specific variety of tea plant and the way the leaves are processed after harvesting determine the type of tea that is created.
The traditional method of processing black tea comprises four steps: withering, rolling, oxidizing (fermenting) and drying. The term fermentation when applied to tea actually refers to how much a tea is allowed to undergo enzymatic oxidation by allowing the freshly picked tea leaves to dry. This process may be stopped by either pan frying or steaming the leaves before they are completely dried out. Green teas are minimally or non-oxidized (eg. Sencha). Oolong are partially oxidized and undergo the most difficult and time consuming processing method. White tea is the most delicate and is made entirely from new leaf buds in early spring. Pu-erh tea is ‘post-fermented’ meaning it is oxidized and then aged under high humidity conditions, which contributes to its often musty smell.
Tea is considered to have originated in China, but as the tea trade developed beyond neighbouring countries, it was discovered that the more oxidized black tea would retain its freshness and flavour better over long journeys than its minimally oxidized green tea cousin. To this day, most of the black tea produced in China is exported out of the country.
Interestingly, Orange Pekoe is not a variety of black tea. When harvesting tea by hand only the top two leaves and bud are picked. The top most ‘bud’ is actually an unopened leaf and the first leaf just under it is known as the ‘pekoe leaf’ and the second leaf from the bud is called the ‘orange pekoe leaf’ (‘pekoe from the Chinese word for white hair, as the leaf is covered with silver down for two days after opening.)
Come to The Hollow Willow and enjoy our new selection of premium “Camellia sinensis” and locally grown organic herbal teas while taking a stroll downtown along the Grand River.... it’s Tea Time!