Camellia Sinensis – thousands of teas from one plant.
Since tea House was opened, I have learned that many people did know know that Green Tea , White Tea , Oolong and Black Tea are all from the same plant! Camellia sinensis! So what is this plant that so many of us have only known as ‘tea’? And how is it able to produce a multitude of various teas? Let me fill you in….
Camellia Sinensis is the scientific name given to the tree that has its leaves harvested and processed for tea. It is native to East Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Today however, it is cultivated in many places across the globe, mostly in tropical and subtropical areas. Each tea growing country produces it own unique tea with individual qualities differing between regions, and even plantations.
Did you know that tea trees can become fully grown? In most circumstances however, they are kept pruned at waist height to allow for ease of picking and harvesting.
The leaves are usually 4–15 cm long and 2–5 cm across. Fresh leaves contain about 4% caffeine, as well as a phethora of compounds. The young, light green leaves are preferably harvested for tea production; they have short white hairs on the underside. Older leaves are deeper green. Different leaf ages produce differing tea qualities, since their chemical compositions are different. Usually, the tip (bud) and the first two to three leaves are harvested for processing. This hand picking is repeated every one to two weeks.
Camellia sinensis is an evergreen shrub or small tree with a large tap root, and it does flower every year.
Green, Black, White or Oolong?
It is incredible that one tree can produce so many varieties of product. What sets different teas apart is the unique processing involved. Bear in mind though that country, regional and even plantation variances occur. Tea is similar to wine in that small differences in harvesting time, harvesting techniques, timing and processing can turn the humble tea leaf into something unique and delightfully different. The five main factors in tea production are:
1. Region, taking into account soil and altitude.
2. Time of harvesting the leaves – early, middle or late in each season.
3. Method eg picking only buds or buds with leaves.
4. Processing – withering, rolling, oxidizing, drying, fermenting and aging.
5. Preparation – how it is prepared just before drinking.
Generally speaking, it is the process that happens after picking that dictates what type of tea is produced. The tea that Tea House stocks is processed in many differing ways – one things that remains the same however, is the fact that the leaves are left whole and not cut or torn. But that is another blog – watch this space for more in depth information of how the different processing produces different tea!