Tea Story

Types of Tea

The four basic types of tea are White, Green, Oolong and Black. But depending on the influence of culture, these four types can turn into thousands of varieties!

White Tea is essentially unprocessed tea. The name is derived from the fuzzy white "down" that appears on the unopened or recently opened buds - the newest growth on the tea bush. White tea is simply plucked and allowed to wither dry. That's it, really. If the weather isn't cooperating, the leaves may be put into a gentle tumble dryer on very, very low heat to assist (tea waits for no one, not even spring showers!) But the leaves are not rolled, shaped, etc. Some minimal oxidation does happen naturally, as it can take a full day or two to air dry the tea leaves. This is why some white teas, like the classic White Peony, show leaves of differing colors (white, green and brown). White teas produce very pale green or yellow liquor and are the most delicate in flavor and aroma.

Green Tea is plucked, withered and rolled. It is not oxidized because during the rolling process, oxidation is prevented by applying heat. Remember our baked apples? For green tea, the fresh leaves are either steamed or pan-fired (tossed in a hot, dry wok) to a temperature hot enough to stop the enzymes from browning the leaf. Just like blanching vegetables, really. Simultaneously, the leaves are shaped by curling with the fingers, pressing into the sides of the wok, rolling and swirling - countless shapes have been created, all of them tasting different. The leaves are then given their final firing to fully dry them and they're done. The liquor of a green tea is typically a green or yellow color, and flavors range from toasty, grassy (pan fired teas) to fresh steamed greens (steamed teas) with mild, vegetable-like astringency.

Oolong Tea is one of the most time-consuming teas to create. It utilizes all of the five basic steps, with rolling and oxidizing done repeatedly. Oolong is a complex category because it's so broad: it's most simply described as half-way between green and black, and that's quite accurate. These teas are anywhere from 8% oxidized to 80% (that's measured roughly by looking at the amount of brown or red on the leaf while the tea is being made). The leaves are rolled, then allowed to rest and oxidize for a while. Then they'll be rolled again, then oxidized, over and over. Often, gentle heat is applied to slow the enzymes down a bit. Over the course of many hours (sometimes days), what is created is a beautiful layering or "painting" of aroma and flavor. Oolongs typically have much more complex flavor than Green or White teas, with very smooth, soft astringency and rich in floral or fruity flavors. Because of their smooth yet rich flavor profiles, Oolongs are ideal for those new to tea drinking.

Black Tea also utilizes all five basic steps, but is allowed to oxidize more completely. Also, the steps are followed in a very linear form; they are generally not repeated on a single batch. The tea is completely made within a day. The brewed liquor of a Black tea ranges between dark brown and deep red. Black teas offer the strongest flavors and, in some cases, greatest astringency. Black teas are the only style of tea regularly drunk with milk and sugar (though some dark Oolong drinkers may disagree) and are the most popular bases for iced tea.

Masala Tea is spice tea and is connected to Ayurveda, an ancient holistic healing science based on the concept of balance and knowledge of life. In tea, the balance of spice has been shown to improve circulation, along with anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and digestive properties. Recent studies have also shown that anti-oxidants in tea may help reduce the risk of heart disease and stem the development of cancerous cells.

The Viva Himalaya Masala Chai (Spiced Tea) is a beverage from Indian Subcontinent made by brewing tea with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs. It is sometimes used to indicate spiced milky tea as distinct from other types of tea. Because of the large range of possible variations, masala chai can be considered a class of tea rather than a specific kind. It brews a rich and strong cup to which milk and sweetener must be added to counteract its astringency, making it a perfect base for spices. This tea consists of the following ingredients: