Sunday, July 9, 2017

Summer School- All About Tea Chapter One

So........I signed up for an online class about tea. Yep. I figured, why not, it's free and I love tea, always have loved hot tea and believe it or not, I have finally learned to love iced tea too, so I might as well learn a little bit about it, right? And guess what!! I'm going to share it with you! To help me with my Tea Project I have asked friends to share their tea pictures with me, whether it's a fancy china teacup or a big and chunky mug, I want to see what everyone drinks their tea from. I think it would be fun to also include pictures of tea, tea collections, kettles, anything! I'll be sharing these pictures, and some of my own, throughout the series of Tea 101.

This beauty is owned by Sherri Chapin.
Chapter One focused on the different types of tea and how they're grown and processed. The very first thing I learned was that there are more varieties of tea in China than there are varietals of wine grapes in France. That caught my attention and I knew I'd be hooked. The chapter starts with black tea, which is the most common tea in the United States. To make black tea, the tea leaves are allowed to wither, then they are rolled up and allowed to oxidize. Much like foods like apples, potatoes and avocados will turn dark when exposed to the air, the same thing happens to the rolled up withered leaves. When the leaves have reached just the right stage in oxidation they are "fired", or heated to dry the leaves and stop the oxidation process.

Next on the list was green tea. I had to giggle as I realized that as I was reading I was sipping an iced green tea! Green tea is HUGE in Japan and China and gaining popularity here in the U.S. as well, mostly because of the health benefits associated with it. The first notable difference from black tea is the steaming process. The leaves are harvested then steamed to bring on a bright green color. This also prevents oxidation so the leaves don't turn black.  After steaming the leaves are rolled or twisted into shape, then fired. Green tea has many anti-oxidant properties and is very light and flavorful. I personally am addicted to iced green tea lemonade and could drink it all year long, maybe even heated. I bet it would be very soothing when winter cold season rolls around. I'll have to keep that in mind!

Laura Duffield Biegger's teacup is almost
exactly like some my mother owned.
The third tea discussed just so happens to be one of my current obsessions- matcha. Matcha is green tea's close relative. To make matcha, the green tea plants are grown in shade then ground into a fine powder. Instead of steeping in tea bags, the powder is whisked into hot water and served in all kinds of ways- by itself, over ice, or in lattes and similar beverages. The dry powder is also used in any dishes, such as baked goods. I'm constantly playing with desserts containing matcha. If you are familiar at all with Japanese history, you know that matcha is the form of tea used in ancient tea ceremonies. I have always been drawn to matcha ever since I first heard of it so I am excited to learn even more later.

A Chinese tea was the next tea covered. I remember oolong tea from the old Chinese Restaurant, King Ying Low, that was in downtown Des Moines when I was a child. My mom never learned to drive so we would take a taxi downtown to do our shopping, and we'd almost always have lunch there. Mom always had oolong tea. Oolong tea leaves get their oxidation time in direct sunlight, and when they become fragrant like peaches or apples, they are fired to halt the process and preserve the fruitiness. I prefer oolong over black tea.

White tea is something I discovered about ten years ago. White tea buds are picked the day before they open and can only be harvested in the spring. The leaves are not rolled or twisted, but left to dry as they are. The chapter said white tea was introduced to the West in 2002 but I'm not so sure that's accurate. I'd swear I've had it before that.

I had never heard of the next tea- pu-erh tea. Pu-erh tea can only come from the Yunnan Province in China, much like wine restrictions in France, and cheese and sausage restrictions in Italy. This type of tea is processed similar to green tea but it's then piled up and heated with moisture added to get a little fermentation going. When the tea is just the right stage it's partially fired, which stops the bacterial activity but still allows the tea leaves to age, like wine, and they stay good, always changing, for decades. Pretty amazing actually.

Last, but not least, we learned a little about herbal teas, which are not really teas at all but steeped herbs and fruits, and those types of teas will get a chapter of their own later on.

Did you learn anything new about tea in this brief overview of teas? I did! I can't wait to see what Chapter Two brings!    

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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