The varieties of loose leaf tea are rich and diverse, with each type showcasing its unique characteristics. The robustness of loose leaf black tea, the fragrant notes of loose leaf oolong tea, the freshness of loose leaf green tea, and more—all are worth exploring. When you delve into the world of loose leaf tea, it feels like opening the door to a fascinating realm.
Tea-Making Processes Shape the Diversity of Loose Leaf Tea.
Depending on the production techniques, loose leaf tea can be classified into six major categories: green tea, white tea, yellow tea, oolong tea, black tea, and dark tea. In fact, fresh leaves from the same tea plant can be processed into these six tea categories through different manufacturing techniques.
Each of the six tea categories has its own unique style, creating various aromas and flavors solely through the tea plant variety and production process, without the use of artificial flavors. This makes them ideal choices for gifting healthy Christmas tea and New Year tea to family and friends.
In the production of the six tea categories, some processing techniques are common to multiple types, such as Weidiao (withering), Rounian (rolling), Shaqing (killing green), and drying. Others are unique to specific tea types, like the green tea fixation process and the dark tea pile fermentation process.
Different types of tea emphasize different aspects in their production processes. For instance, in green tea production, fixing is a crucial step that determines the quality, influencing the aroma, color, and integrity of the tea leaves. In the case of black tea, rolling is essential, as thorough rolling disrupts the structure of the leaves, allowing for subsequent fermentation and creating the rich flavor of black tea. If you're unsure about which type of tea suits your taste, it's recommended to explore through tea sampler to discover the one that best fits your preferences.
Knowing the 6 Major Categories of Loose Leaf Tea
Loose leaf green tea is one of the primary types of tea in China and is also the earliest type to appear in Chinese history. During the production process, green tea undergoes no fermentation, and the finished product retains the green tones of fresh tea leaves, preserving a significant amount of natural substances. The tea polyphenols and caffeine retained are more than 85% of the fresh leaves, chlorophyll is retained at around 50%, and there is also minimal loss of vitamins. Therefore, if you have friends who appreciate the fresh taste of tea, iTeaworld's Green Tea Sampler would make an excellent tea gift set.
Representative teas of green tea include Biluochun, Liuan Guapian, West Lake Longjing, Shien Yulu, Huangshan Maofeng, and others.
White tea is a lightly fermented tea known for its characteristics of having many buds, being covered with white down, and possessing a light and sweet aftertaste. It is considered a special treasure among Chinese teas. The production process of white tea is relatively natural. After picking the fresh leaves, they are spread thinly on bamboo mats under weak sunlight or placed in well-ventilated and well-lit rooms. The leaves naturally wither, air-dry to about 70-80% moisture content, without frying or rolling, and are slowly dried over a low fire.
White tea is characterized by its fragrant and elegant aroma, fresh and refreshing taste, and a yellow-green liquor. One notable feature of white tea is its suitability for aging, often improving in flavor and offering beneficial effects as it ages.
Representative white teas include Baihao Yinzhen, White Peony, Shoumei, Moonlight Beauty, and others.
The distinctive quality of yellow tea is characterized by "yellow liquor and yellow leaves," which is the result of the tea-making process involving a unique fermentation and oxidation technique. Some yellow teas undergo a stacking process before rolling to develop a mellow yellow color, while others are stacked or left to mellow for an extended period after rolling. Some may undergo mellowing after the initial roasting, while others achieve the desired yellow hue during subsequent roasting. Yellow tea can be categorized into three types based on the tenderness and size of the original leaf buds: Huangya Cha, Huangxiao Cha, and Huangda Cha.
Yellow tea is relatively unique and less commonly found among the six major tea categories. If you have friends who are interested in more niche teas, consider gifting them a selection of yellow tea.
Representative yellow teas include Junshan Yinzhen, Huoshan Huangya, Yueyang Yellow Tea, Goushan Maojian, and others.
Loose leaf oolong tea is one of China's traditional semi-oxidized teas with a variety of cultivars, making it a tea category with distinct Chinese characteristics among the country's major types of tea. Oolong tea undergoes processes such as picking, Weidiao (withering), Zuoqing (shaking), Shaqing (killing green), Rounian (rolling), and drying to produce high-quality teas.
Oolong tea is known for its rich aroma, fresh and refreshing taste, and enduring aftertaste. What sets oolong tea apart from other tea types is its abundant fragrance, making it a suitable tea gift for friends who enjoy exploring tea aromas.
Representative oolong teas include Da Hong Pao, TieGuanyin, Huangjin Gui, Fenghuang Dancong, Lingtou Dancong, Dongfang Meiren, and others.
Loose leaf black tea is a fully oxidized tea. During the processing of black tea, a chemical reaction centered around the enzymatic oxidation of tea polyphenols occurs. This leads to significant changes in the chemical composition of the fresh leaves, with a reduction of over 90% in tea polyphenols and the generation of new components such as theaflavins and thearubigins. The resulting black tea is characterized by a red infusion, red leaves, and a rich, sweet, and aromatic flavor. Black tea is generally well-received, making it a good choice when you're unsure about which tea to gift to a friend.
Representative black teas include Lapsang Souchong, Jin Junmei, Yunnan Black Tea, Yingde Black Tea, Jiucun Hongmei, and others.
Dark tea is produced by pouring water over processed tea and then undergoing a post-fermentation process known as wet piling (here, "fermentation" refers to a complex process involving moisture, enzymes, anaerobic, and aerobic conditions). Dark tea is considered a post-fermented tea, inhibiting the enzymatic activity of tea leaves and promoting microbial activity. It has certain benefits for digestion and regulation of intestinal microflora.
Dark tea is one of China's traditional post-fermented teas, primarily produced in Hunan, Yunnan, Sichuan, and other regions. Traditional dark tea is made from matured dark-haired tea leaves and is tightly compressed. Dark tea is characterized by its deep red color, robust taste, and unique aroma. It is a favorite among many seasoned tea enthusiasts, making a carefully selected dark tea a great tea gift for friends who have been enjoying tea for many years.
Representative dark teas include Hunan Anhua Dark Tea, Yunnan Shou Pu'er Tea, and Guangxi Liubao Tea.
Different Loose Leaf Teas Require Different Brewing Methods.
Green tea is best brewed with hot water between 80 to 90 degrees Celsius. Avoid prolonged steeping to prevent the tender leaves from becoming stale. Green tea is known for its fresh and brisk flavor, offering a refreshing and unique experience. Additionally, it has the benefits of clearing heat, relieving dryness, and promoting alertness.
Similar to green tea, white tea and yellow tea should not be brewed with high temperatures. If the water temperature exceeds 95 degrees Celsius, it may result in a loss of the drinking experience. However, aged white tea is an exception; it can be boiled or steeped, enhancing the flavor of the aged white tea.
For daily consumption, red tea can be brewed with water at 90-95 degrees Celsius. Oolong tea can be brewed at a slightly higher temperature, around 95-100 degrees Celsius. The first 1-2 infusions of red tea and oolong tea require "awakening" the tea leaves, and subsequent infusions will reveal the optimal taste.
Black tea requires a higher brewing temperature to fully release its aroma and taste. When brewing black tea, it is recommended to rinse the tea leaves with boiling water at 100 degrees Celsius to awaken the tea, and subsequent infusions will bring out the full flavor of the black tea.
To fully appreciate the characteristics of loose leaf tea, it's best to try and experience it personally. You are welcome to try iTeaworld loose leaf tea. iTeaworld offers various tea samplers in the form of tea selections. This allows you to economically and conveniently experience the flavors of best loose leaf tea.
I hope this article helps people understand some basic knowledge about loose leaf tea. Exploring the world of loose leaf tea is best done with a relaxed and curious mindset. By trying, experiencing, and exchanging ideas, you can discover more of the beauty of loose leaf tea.