Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tea - tracing its flavorful journey - Part Four

Historically tea was traditionally made in a shalu or very large clay pot, in a gaiwan or covered individual bowl, or in a gongfu or very small pot. 
 When using a small earthenware pot, teacups are placed together in a cha chuan or tea serving saucer.
 One of the best known teapots is the 'Yixing Dragon Teapot' made with wet reddish-purple clay. 
This pot enhances and conserves flavor and heat, and holds the aroma of the tea.

The Chinese discuss tea categorizing it by the color of tea leaf, as follows:

1. White Tea is also called silver tip. 
  • This tea is mostly new buds plucked before they open, then withered to allow much of their moisture to evaporate. 
  • These unfermented tea leaves are gently dried in the sun, usually in bamboo trays or in low temperature ovens. 
  • The tea infusions from them are referred to as white or light yellow, and are known as the champagne of teas. 
  • They are rare, harvested but once a year usually in early July, and gathered within a two week period. 
  • It is the only tea that is considered non-astringent. All other teas have some or a considerable amount of astringency.  
2. Green Tea is also an unfermented tea. 
  • It is from leaves allowed to dry somewhat, then heated, also called roasted, in ovens or pans to stop the oxidation process sometimes incorrectly referred to as fermentation. 
  • Some green teas are steamed first then rolled into balls or around a very thin stick. 
  • If on a stick, they are slid off. 
  • As such or as balls, they are then put to dry. 
  • Infusions from these teas are considered yellow to yellow-green and are considered very astringent.
  3. Oolong Tea, is a semi-fermented tea with leaves dried and as they are so doing, shaken periodically to bruise them. 
  • Then they are heated, fried, roasted, fermented, or whatever you'd like to call them, to further the oxidation process. 
  • Puchong oolong teas are oxidized the least, Formosa oolongs the most. 
  •  This provides infusions from pale yellow-orange to a deeper orange-red, respectively.
4. Black Tea is also dried first, in the sun or in the shade. 
  • The leaves are then rolled or not and set aside in a reasonably moist place until the leaf turns reddish brown. 
  • After the correct color is achieved, they are put into large woks and heated, fried, fired, or which ever expression you prefer, or they can be put into pans and oxidized in an oven. 
  • The infused brew is reddish in color.

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