As a tea enthusiast, this question must have crossed your mind at some point as you were sipping your tea. The truth is that all tea is derived from an evergreen plant known as Camellia Sinensis. This means that other plants that have the same properties as tea are not really tea. This includes rooibos, peppermint, and chamomile. This must be a lot to digest, you better take a break to sip your tea.
The mode of leaf processing is the one that determines the tea type. The other shocking truth is that there are different variations of the tea made from this plant. This means that there is no such thing as black or green tea plant. The two taxonomic variations that create tea are Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica and Camellia Sinensis var. Sinensis and. Sinensis.
Assamica Versus Sinensis
Sinensis is characterized by its small leaves. On the other hand, Assamica is characterized by its flourishing in climates that are slightly cooler and tends to grow into a large tree because it is left to grow among natural vegetation.
The two are genetically diverse. You might have come across the terms cultivar or variety when you research about tea, but what exactly do they mean? Most people have no clue. Cultivar relates to a variety that is cultivated selectively by man. On the other hand, variety relates to a phenotype that is naturally occurring or an observable trait. The cultivar is not altered even when it is grown in a separate location. For example, Tie Guan Yin remains the same if it is grown in a separate location. Growers choose their varieties because of a number of reasons namely cold hardiness and drought resistance. This helps improve the production of the plant.
Thus, it is all about the processing method and the time when the leaves were picked. You should note that even though black, white and green tea looks different, they all come from the same tea.
- White tea: This is created from the bud just before it opens up. It still has the white hairs covering the bud. This is how the tea got its name. Its processing method is minimal in comparison to other teas. Its drying process is done right after it is plucked. This minimizes oxidation and improves the quality of the tea.
- Green tea: To create this tea, you have to use young opened buds and leaves. Let the leaves wither to allow the water to evaporate. After that, they are pan-fried or steamed. This prevents oxidization from occurring on the enzymes that are naturally present in the leaves. The drying process takes place while the green color of the leaves
- Black tea: The leaves are plucked while fresh and withered, just like green tea. The rolling process of the leaves supports oxidization. This is what makes it have its black color. When the oxidization process is complete, the leaves go through the drying process that halts the oxidation process.