It’s no mystery that we love indulging in these aromatic elixirs, but it can be hard to make sense of all the plant varieties! Here’s a little glossary to help you see the wood for the “teas.”
It’s the most consumed tea in the world, and is particularly popular in the West. Its dark color is the result of longer oxidization than for green and white teas. This process also lends the tea a singular and more intense aroma. Despite their differences, all teas come from the same plant, called a “tea bush,” or camellia sinensis.
There are a vast number of black tea varieties. Here are just a few examples:
- Black tea from the Assam region, located in northeastern of India not far from Bhutan. This variety is defined by its powerful flavor.
- Ceylon tea is found in Sri Lanka, as this was the little island’s former name. This tea offers a bold, full flavor.
- Darjeeling is from the eponymous city and its region – West Bengal – in India. The bushes are grown on the Himalayan slopes and characterized by fresh, vegetal aromas.
- Yunnan is black tea sourced from a province of the same name in southwest China. It is often called Dianhong tea, and is grown at 2,500 meters of altitude. It has a subtle bitterness and discreet notes of damp earth.
Green tea undergoes fewer transformations than black tea, as it is only partly oxidized. This variety can be found in many forms and in a number of different regions:
- Genmaicha is a Japanese green tea mixed with grains of roasted brown rice that offer notes of hazelnut. Legend has it that a samurai flew into a rage when his servant – named Genmai – spilled rice into his tea, and had him decapitated as punishment. But after tasting the concoction and realizing how unique and delicious it was, he named it “Genmai-cha” in honor of his late servant (cha meaning “tea” in Japanese).
- Gunpowder is a green tea from the Zhejiang province of China, and is named as such because its leaves are rolled into little pellets.
- Sencha leaves are long and flat and are used to make the most popular tea in Japan, where the beverage symbolizes hospitality. They produce a clear, highly refreshing liquor.
- Matcha is a green tea ground into a fine powder that is then enjoyed in its entirety as the whole leaf is absorbed in water. This tea is increasingly used as a cooking ingredient – particularly as a delicious flavoring for pastries.
This tea is characterized by leaves that look like they have been freshly picked, and only undergoes two processes – withering in the open air and drying. The plant can be recognized by long buds often covered with a fine down, and its leave offer a delicate flavor.
Maté (or yerba mate) is a plant from the holly family that grows in South America. Nicknamed the “tea of the Jesuits,” this stimulating drink contains a substance similar to caffeine, and is traditionally enjoyed in a gourd and sipped through a type of straw known as a bombilla. The beverage has a vegetal flavor and can sometimes be slightly bitter.
Rooibos is a shrub with needle-like leaves from the acacia family in South Africa. This plant offers sweet, full flavors. Its only similarity with the tea bush is the way in which its leaves are prepared. Rooibos is caffeine-free, making it an ideal beverage to be enjoyed throughout the day.
Finally, a last type of tea ?
Hibiscus flowers, more specifically the roselle variety, can also be infused after drying and are now enjoyed all over the world. Also known as the Abyssinian rose, the hibiscus sabdariffa shrub grows in West Africa, Egypt, and Mexico, where is it known as flor de Jamaica. Totally caffeine-free and flaunting a pretty pink color, this infusion will be an instant hit with the whole family.
Needless to say, there is a vast choice available – especially if we add in all the flavored blends!