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Let's Talk Tea

Posted by on 7/6/2022

Legend has it that when the wind blew some leaves off a tree into a pot of boiling water in 2737 BC, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung discovered the first cup of tea. From these humble beginnings to a history of smuggling during the 18th century due to steep taxes, tea became a highly sought-after commodity. The Victorian era brought tea to a new level when it gained popularity in trying to predict what the future holds.
Tea slowly became known as the drink needed to ward off that 4 o’clock slump. Nowadays it is ingrained in many cultures as a daily ritual. According to the Tea Association of the USA, last year alone Americans consumed almost 85 billion servings of tea!

While all tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, different degrees of processing and levels of oxidation will result in these five main types of tea: black, green, oolong, white and dark (post fermented). Yellow tea is another type, that is not as common, due to its high production costs, and time-consuming process.

Now let’s dig in a little deeper into the different varieties of teas.

Black Tea
One might think all black teas are the same, but where it’s grown, when it’s picked and who is processing it greatly changes the aroma and flavor of those powerful little leaves. Climate, altitude, and soil can all create different flavor profiles in your tea. Black teas are considered fully oxidized which gives them a bold, full-bodied taste. If you’re looking for a tea to get you going, this is a great place to start. Whether a breakfast blend or single-estate Assam, black teas have enough strength and body to get you through the toughest mornings.

Green Tea
The leaves of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) that have been steamed or heated to halt the oxidation of the leaves result in what is widely known as green tea. Green tea flavors vary greatly depending on where it’s grown and how it’s processed. The deeply grassy and marine notes in Japanese greens are very different from the slightly nutty, cooked vegetal flavors often found in Chinese green teas. There is a wide range of flavors to experience with every new green tea you try.

Oolong Tea
Oolongs fall between black and green teas in terms of oxidation. The best is picked by hand during the spring and winter months in southeast China and Taiwan. Oolong teas are partially oxidized teas and undergo the most difficult and time-consuming processing method. Processed to be full-bodied teas, the leaves for oolong tea must not be picked too early but just when they reach their peak, and they must be processed immediately. Flavors vary greatly, as the degree of oxidation can range from under 10% to over 80%.

White Tea
White tea is the leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, that are picked when the leaf buds are immature. White teas are the least processed category of tea which makes a graceful, fresh cup. These teas do not have the loud flavors of black or oolong teas, nor do they contain the deeply vegetal notes of green tea. White tea is reputed to be richer in antioxidants than green, oolong, and black teas. White teas are subtle, but don’t let that fool you—they can be quite complex in their quiet flavors. They are perfect to sip slowly, in order to focus on the mild flavors.

Pu-erh Tea
Pu-erh is a distinctive tea type originating in Yunnan, China. Made from sun-withered and gently pan-fired leaves (mao cha), naturally occurring wild yeasts and beneficial bacteria cause the tea to ferment over time and develop unique and truly complex flavors. Our pu-erh tea has a refined texture, soft body with savory-sweet notes of mushrooms and roasted nuts.

Herbal Tea
We did not forget about herbal teas. However, herbal teas do not come from Camelia sinensis. A tisane is a word often used to describe herbal infusions that have no true tea in them (i.e. no leaves from the plant Camellia sinensis). An herbal tea can be made from herbs, spices, or flowers and fruits. All our herbal teas are naturally caffeine-free, except for Yerba Mate.
What makes a good cup of tea?
Now that we learned a bit more about each type of tea, let’s talk about what makes a good cup of tea. The first thing is quality – with over 60 teas and tisanes to choose from, you’ve come to the right place for quality tea.

The second thing one should think about when brewing tea is quantity – how much does one use to experience the best taste. This is not an easy answer. While we generally recommend one teaspoon of tea per cup of water, this will vary greatly depending on the tea, its density, caffeine content and personal preference. More does not always equal better taste, or stronger – with black or green teas, more might translate in a bitter cup.

And that leads us to the last thing worth mentioning – temperature and time. If you’ve ever had a cup of green tea that was too bitter, chances are that the water used was too hot. Black tea needs water that’s come to a rolling boil for 3-5 minutes. Let the boiled water cool off for a bit before steeping green tea for 3-5 minutes. White tea can also benefit from a gentler steeping, with water that’s around 175°F (no need for a thermometer, you can boil the water and let it cool for a few minutes). Oolong and pu-erh teas can benefit from multiple infusions. Pu-erh and herbal teas are very forgiving when it comes to steeping them, as they won’t get bitter or too overpowering even with a longer infusion time.

Caffeine Levels
As avid tea drinkers here at Atlantic Spice, we have learned what kind of tea we should have depending on the time of the day, or what need we want fulfilled – do we need a pick-me-up or a soother to warm us up?

Teas have varying levels of caffeine, with white and green teas generally having less caffeine than oolongs, and black teas having the most.

Please use this chart as an estimate, as there are many factors influencing caffeine levels. For example, chai will likely have less caffeine than pure Assam tea because it is blended with spices that do not contain caffeine.
Loose or bagged tea?
In today’s fast-paced world, the convenience of a tea bag is very appealing. However, the quality of the tea that goes in a tea bag is usually much lower than the loose. Also, the more room the tea leaves have to unfurl, the more flavor you will enjoy.
How to store tea?
To ensure your tea stays fresh for as long as possible, store it in a cool, dark place, away from light, oxygen, moisture and fragrant pantry companions like coffee or spices. While some people store it successfully in the freezer or in the refrigerator, improper storage in those environments can introduce moisture – believe us, airtight containers in your pantry are great for storage.
Tea is a great way to keep our bodies hydrated and functional. From its accidental discovery in the year 2737 BC to the year 2022 when Boba tea is what the cool kids drink. With the warm weather upon us, this is the best time to find your next favorite iced tea.

We hope that the next time you brew a cup of tea, you will take the time to appreciate the art of making and drinking tea. Bring back the unhurried character of tea by enjoying every step of the process!

Any questions about teas? We’re here to help.
Monday to Friday 9am to 5 PM EST
800-316-7965 - [email protected]

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