Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Teaology 101: Tea and a game of checkers!

In some of my previous posts, you might have noticed that when I mention black tea, I often indicate red tea in brackets beside it. There is a perfectly good reason for this. Black tea and red tea are the same types of tea. The references can be used interchangeably, with terminology and perhaps your geographical location being the only difference. In North America, black tea is referred to as red tea in the East, specifically in China.

In an earlier post, I indicated that all tea comes from the same plant called Camellia sinensis. The differences such as the aroma, appearance, and taste of the teas are the result from the different processing methods of the leaves. However, in the West, black tea is so called based on the colour of the dried tea leaves. In China, red tea references the colour of the brew from the infused tea leaves. The fact that the colour of the liquor actually refers to the tea type and not the tea leaves makes much more sense to me. There are some green tea leaves that almost look black in their dry format but produce green or even yellow liquor. Black tea leaves actually produce beautiful mahogany, burgundy, and sometimes amber liquors. Take a look at your brew in a clear glass mug the next time you infuse a black tea. It is far from black.

Close-up of tea being infused.

Liquor from infused leaves.

There is a tea that produces a black brew. It’s called Pu-erh. The liquor for this tea almost looks like diesel oil. Pu-erh is a wonderful tea, but an acquired taste, with an interesting aroma. I’ll go over it in a future write-up.

Whether you want to call it black tea or red tea is solely up to you, but, don’t confuse them with Rooibos, which literally means "red bush" and is often called "Red Tea". Aspalathus linearis, the botanical name for Rooibos, is a plant grown in South Africa, and is a member of the legume family. Rooibos is actually a tisane. Do you recall what a tisane is? A tisane is a beverage brewed much like tea but does not contain any tea. Aspalathus linearis is not related to Camellia sinensis.

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