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Questions about teas in general

Tea is an ancient beverage obtained from the tea plant. The tea plant is an evergreen tree of the genus Camellia, one of the 30 members of the Theaceae family, and although it produces flowers and fruits, only its leaves are used to make tea. Its productive life is relatively long and can extend over a hundred years. This species of Camellia comes in two main varieties for tea: Sinensis & Assamica.

The Sinensis, which means "from China" is mainly cultivated in high altitude in China, Japan while the Assamica has been chosen to be cultivated on a good part of the Indian, African and Sri-Lankan territory.

Today it is the phenomenon of oxidation that transforms the natural state of the leaf by changing its color and taste, which can offer a black, Oolong, green or white tea for example.

Both black and green tea are made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, but they undergo different manufacturing processes. Each family of tea is made by a particular method of processing. To make green tea, the leaves must be desiccated, which involves heating them to denature the enzyme that causes oxidation. This causes an increase in tannins and the vegetal character of the liquor. This operation is also used to stop the oxidation of Oolongs. On the contrary, in the case of black teas, oxidation is encouraged by exposing the leaves to high humidity (80-90%) and an ambient temperature of 22 or 23°C.

Plain tea is tea that has not been blended with other ingredients, so it is pure and natural. It is made only from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, and can vary in flavor, color and aroma depending on where it is grown and the manufacturing process used.

A scented tea, on the other hand, is a tea that has been blended with natural ingredients such as flowers, fruits, herbs, spices, essential oils or aromas to give it a distinctive scent and taste. Flavored teas can be made with a variety of different teas, such as black tea, green tea, white tea, and they can vary greatly in flavor and aroma.

White tea comes from very valuable harvests consisting of only buds in the case of the best grades. It is harvested very early in the growing season, usually before flowering, and is made using a very gentle production method to preserve its natural flavor and light color. The leaves are hand-picked, then carefully air-dried to avoid fermentation. 

It is generally considered to have a sweeter and fresher taste than other types of tea, with floral and fruity notes. Their liquor is low in tannin and very refreshing, and it is also rich in antioxidants. 

It is important to note that white tea is generally more expensive than other types of tea due to its rarity and delicate production method. It is also usually brewed at lower temperatures and for shorter periods of time to preserve its delicate flavor.

Rooibos is a beverage made from the leaves of a shrub called Aspalathus linearis, which grows mainly in South Africa. It is not considered a tea because it does not contain Camellia sinensis, the plant from which traditional tea is made.

Rooibos is made by harvesting the leaves and stems, which are then cut, crushed, oxidized and sun-dried. Rich in minerals and vitamins, its red liquor is fruity and tart. It is usually consumed without sugar or milk, and is also often recommended for people who seek to limit their caffeine intake, as it is naturally decaffeinated.

The purpose of the operation is to extract precisely the quantity you need, without damaging either the tea leaves or the cake itself. This is usually done with a tea knife or a tea pick. Handle the package of your tea cake with care, especially if it is an aged tea (the wrapping paper becomes fragile with time) or if you plan to store the tea for a number of years. With your cake on its side, take advantage of the hollow in the center to insert your knife or pick into the cake, making it penetrate parallel to the surface of the cake. Apply pressure on the handle of your tool to make the tip penetrate a few centimeters (depending on the amount of tea you want to extract). Then use a slight leverage movement to detach a small block of tea that you can then put in your teapot. Let it steep for 3-5 minutes before serving. You can also use a technique called "hot water rinsing" to release the flavors of the tea before serving. This technique involves pouring hot water over the tea leaves for a few seconds before discarding the water and serving the tea.

Generally, the more fragile a tea is, the faster it loses its aromas. This is especially true for green teas, especially Japanese green teas, which can be kept for about 6 months without losing their aromas and flavors. Unlike aged teas which are the only ones that can improve with time, Oolong, white and black teas can be kept for about 1 year. This is why you should try to delay their aging as much as possible. The best way is to put the tea in an airtight container, away from light and humidity. It is also preferable to keep it away from strong odors such as those of spices or coffee.

It is advisable for green teas, especially Japanese teas, to keep them in a cool place. Grands Crus teas deserve special attention in terms of conservation. Indeed, these exceptional teas are particularly fragile. Therefore, we advise to keep the Japanese Grand Cru green teas, such as Gyokuro tea... in the refrigerator! 

Be careful, however: they must be protected from humidity and odors in an airtight box. And to take advantage of all the flavors of these prestigious teas, it is preferable to consume your tea within 12 months of harvest.

It is important to note that these are general guidelines, some varieties of tea may vary depending on the methods of cultivation, production, drying, etc. Therefore, it is best to follow the producer's instructions to get the best possible taste.

Tea reacts to several important factors that must be taken into account if you want to get the maximum taste from an infusion. The ratio between the quantity of tea and the quantity of water, the temperature of the water and the infusion time.

White teas: about 75°C for 5min
Green teas (Chinese method) 75 to 85°C for 3 to 5 minutes
Green teas (Japanese method) from 65°C to 80°C during 3-4 min
Oolong teas: 85°-90°C for 4 minutes
Black teas : 90°C from 3 to 5min
The Pu'erh : 95°C from 4 to 6min

There is no single answer as to which is better, it depends on individual preferences. Some prefer the convenience of tea bags, while others prefer the superior quality of loose leaf tea. Tea bags and loose tea are two different options for buying and preparing tea. 

Most tea bags from the mass market contain CTC tea, which is tea dust that is easier to pack and whose purpose is to give a powerful taste but without subtlety or surprise. However, more and more teabags (including those from the supermarkets) contain real tea leaves like loose tea. The difference lies in the price, the taste and the ecological parameter. 

Tea bags are generally more expensive per kilo than loose tea (to pay for the packaging machines and the packaging itself). In addition, tea bags, once brewed, produce more non-compostable waste and increase the weight of the garbage.