what is tea?
Did you know that green tea comes from the
same plant as black tea? In fact, one of the
most amazing things about tea is that whether it’s black, green, white or oolong, it ALL comes from the same plant; camellia sinensis (or the tea bush to you and me). The type of tea you end up simply depends on the processes the leaf goes through once it’s picked. Rooibos and herbals aren’t technically ‘teas’ at all, because they don’t come from the tea bush – but more on that later!
White tea is basically unprocessed tea and is named after the fuzzy white ‘down’ that appears on the buds. White tea is simply plucked and then left to dry. A bit of oxidation does happen naturally, as it can take 24 hours to air-dry the tea leaves, but very little. White teas should have a very pale green or yellow liquor – they are super-light and delicate teas, a real treat.
Green tea is plucked, withered and rolled and then either roasted (in something resembling a giant wok) or steamed like your veggies (in a big cylinder); this heats the leaves, preventing fermentation and sealing in that lovely greenness. Steamed green teas tend to have a more delicate taste than the roasted version.
The leaf is plucked from the bush and allowed to wither. It's then twisted and allowed to ferment… partially; that is, it's allowed to turn slightly from green to brown but not completely, and it’s then dried in a giant oven. Sometimes called “blue tea”, oolong is between green and black – it has some of the strength of a black tea but still has the fragrant taste that you’ll find with a green tea. Best drunk without milk.
Black tea is plucked from the bush and withered in the open air. When the leaf becomes soft it is twisted and then fermented. The fermentation is the most important and skilled stage; this is when the leaf oxidizes and turns dark. Finally the leaf is cooked in a giant oven to seal in the flavour. Black tea is the British favourite, with milk and a couple of biscuits!
Peppermint is native to Europe and The Middle East but is widely grown all over the world.
The active ingredient in peppermint is menthol, which is an organic compound that produces a cooling sensation when applied to the mouth or skin. Peppermint has been taken after meals for centuries and we love it as a tea and in a chocolate!
Rooibos tea, (pronounced "roy boss") which is also known as red tea or Redbush tea is a soothing drink, sweet and nutty in taste, naturally caffeine free and low in tannin. It comes from the leaves of the Rooibos plant, which only grows in the Cedar Valley, deep in the heart of South Africa.
Rooibos is not a true tea, as it comes from the plant aspalathus linearis. It's a small shrubby bush that has very thin, needle-like green leaves that turn their characteristic red after fermentation.
Rooibos is packed full of nutrients and makes a great caffeine free alternative to regular tea because - although it's technically a "herbal" tea - you can still drink it with milk.
Chamomile is one of the old favourites among garden herbs and its reputation as a medicinal plant that helps you snooze is well known. The fresh plant has a lovely scent, with a distinct ‘appley’ smell - not lost on the Greeks, who named it ‘ground-apple’ (Kamal-melon).
Liquorice, or sweet root as it is known, is grown throughout Europe and Asia. The roots of the small liquorice plant extend to 30ft in length, and it is this root which is used to make our tea thanks to its natural sweetness.