April 22, 2024

Let's Hear it For Tea

By Brett Evans
Let's Hear it For Tea

Have you ever noticed how people order their favorite drink, like coffee or tea, without knowing much beyond the fact that it tastes awesome?  Let’s take it a step further: have you ever wondered what goes into making that perfect cup of Feel Better Tea? Or even your best tasting sweet tea that we all love so much? It's like unlocking a whole new world—of flavor! I've chatted with tons of curious customers who've had that 'aha' moment when they start delving into the secrets of their go-to brew of ours. Trust me, once you start asking questions and exploring the world of tea or coffee, you'll find it's like diving into a delicious, bottomless ocean of knowledge. Whether you like it hot or iced, tea's basically what happens when you pour hot water over a blend of leaves or plant parts. Think your classic black tea, or get wild with herbal blends like peppermint, lemongrass, or chamomile. And hey, it's not just leaves - we're talking roots like ginger or turmeric, and even flowers like those blue beauties in Earl Grey, delicate rose petals, or even saffron. Tea's like a botanical adventure in a cup! So today, we demystify the question that everyone wants to know: what are the differences in teas, anyway?

Let’s talk about Herbal Tea

It’s a wide and vast subject. These types of tea are a hit because they're caffeine-free, thanks to it steering clear of the Camellia sinensis plant - the caffeine culprit in black and green teas (but hold that thought!). Maybe you're already sipping on classics like Vantage’s Feel Better blend or cozying up with your favorite sleepy-time brew that we have. Herbal teas have been rocking cups for ages in East Asia, from medicinal practices to spiritual rituals or for personal enjoyment. So whether you're chilling or celebrating, herbal teas have got your back with a flavor for every occasion!

Let's kick things off with the OG of teas - White Tea

They're definitely the lightest and most delicate of the tea gang, which makes them super special. White tea is all about that gentle touch - after plucking, the leaves get a sunbathing session on drying mats, no crushing or bruising at all! This relaxed process gives them a delicate texture that's so soft, it practically crumbles in your hand. One crowd-pleaser in the white tea world is Bai Mudan, aka "white peony" tea, made by snagging the bud and two leaves below it, then letting them soak up the sun for a few days. This brews up a golden elixir with full flavor and floral notes!  Now, if you're feeling extra fancy, you gotta try Biahao Yinzhen, aka "silver needles'' tea - it's like the VIP of white teas!  Made from just the top leaf bud, these are covered in little silver hairs, giving 'em that white appearance. They're handled with care, sun-dried, and packed up snug to keep them from crushing or folding. The result? A heavenly brew with hints of honey and flowers that'll make your taste buds do a happy dance. Trust me, it's a sip of pure bliss and a total must-try in my book!

It's time to talk about Green Tea

Just like its friend white tea, green tea's got a whole lot of variety, but what sets it apart is the heat treatment it gets right after plucking. That's the secret sauce that keeps the leaves looking green and fresh instead of turning dark. Now, how they heat them up varies - some places steam them, others give them a “wet” heat bath, and there's even the 'pan frying' technique for that extra sizzle. Once they're all toasty, it's rolling time! Rolling helps open up those cell walls, letting out all that flavor like a burst of sunshine.  After that, it's a wild ride of shaping, drying, sorting, and maybe even a little grinding - each step adding its own special flavor twist to the mix. Green tea's like the ultimate Asian superstar - it's a staple in countries like Japan, China, Vietnam, and Thailand, where folks consume it more than any other tea. It is a traditional tea to this part of the world that has much prestige and honor in the culture. Having green tea in these countries is both a part of daily life, but also used in religious ceremonies and for special occasions depending on the grade and type of tea used.

Now let's dive into the world of Sencha tea, straight from Japan

It is a very popular green tea that is steamed instead of being pan fried, which gives it the distinct flavor over other green teas. Fun fact: that's where matcha gets its start! After its epic journey, Sencha gets transformed into this vibrant green powder, aka matcha, and this stuff is potent and full-flavored; so only a small amount is necessary for your drinks. Some folks in the West call it "grassy," but personally, I'm all about those tasty vegetal and herbal notes!

Here we go: Black Tea

It's practically legendary, especially down South where we sip it as sweet tea. But hold onto your hats because black tea is more than just a drink—it's a whole world of flavors grown and crafted in unique ways across the globe. India, Nepal, Sri Lanka—these are just a few of the spots where black tea reigns supreme, but there are tons of other regions with their own black tea game too. Now, here's where things get interesting: ever heard of CTC? This is the magic behind black tea's color and taste. Picture this: freshly plucked tea leaves, hit with a burst of heat to make them flexible, then bam! They're cut, torn, or curled to release those enzymes and kickstart the oxidation process. Translation: that iconic black color is born. And depending on how long they let it oxidize—anywhere from a quick dip to days on end—you get a whole spectrum of flavors and tea types. Take oolong, for example—it's like the rebel cousin of black tea, only partially oxidized for a lighter, greener vibe. After all that, the leaves get dried, sorted, and sometimes even flavored, ready to brew up the classic cuppa we all adore. 

Now let's take a journey to the heart of India—where we’ll find Assam

This region isn't just any old spot on the map—it's the tea capital of the world, pumping out more black tea than you can shake a tea leaf at. Seriously, if it's black tea, chances are it's got roots right here in Assam. Assam tea is a game-changer. Whether it's holding down the fort as a single-origin specialty tea or adding its bold flavor to breakfast blends like English, Irish, and New York breakfast teas, Assam tea is both versatile and unique. Picture this: a cup of Assam tea, brewing up a fiery red storm, bursting with flavor and tannins, which leads to that mouth-drying sensation after you taste it. Speaking of adventures, let's talk about Irish breakfast tea—my  favorite. It's like a punch in the taste buds, strong and malty, perfect for kicking off your day with a splash of milk and honey or just straight-up solo.

The End 

And there you have it! A (sort of) short introduction to tea and what each type of tea is! Of course, this is only scratching the surface of the tea world and what different types of tea there are. If you’re still curious, Vantage sells all types of tea, from white to black to herbal. The only way to tell if you will like it is to try it, so don’t be afraid, we're here for you!