«Tea instills purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of social order. It is, in essence, a cult of the imperfect, since it involves the difficult attempt to carry out something possible within that impossible thing that we know by the name of life». The Book of Tea, Kakuzo Okakura.
Tea is an infusion of leaves and buds of the tea plant (Camellia Sinensis), small perennial shrub (1-9 meters) that possesses a strong main root; The tree is usually trimmed so that it does not exceed 2 m when grown to make tea. The leaves are always green, about 4 cm wide and between 3 and 12 cm long, on which stands out a strong vein. The flowers, aromatic, are in groups of 2 to 3 or isolated, white and similar to jasmine.
The different types of tea (white, green, black ...) come from the same plant, but differ by their degree of oxidation and processing.
• White tea: The name of this type of tea is due to the silvery hair produced by the terminal leaves of the plant, with the shoot unopened. Only these closed buds are suitable for processing. They are selected by hand and then spread over large filters. By means of a controlled ventilation the leaves wither away and finally dried at low temperature, avoiding to break. White tea belongs to the finest that can be served in a cup.
• Green tea: The oxidation of the leaves is prevented by rapid scalding, so they maintain their natural color. The leaves dry and are fragmented rapidly after collection. Some types of green tea are Sencha or Gyokuro.
• Yellow tea: Semi-fermented or partially fermented tea.
• Oolong, also called blue tea: The literal translation means black dragon or black snake. It has a medium degree of oxidation (between green tea and black tea). In its elaboration, the processes of rolling and oxidation of the leaves are repeated up to twenty times.
• Black tea: the leaves are harvested after wilting to be processed. It continues the fermentation process from 35 to 40 ° C, in which the leaves by complete oxidation transforms the original green color into shades ranging from a reddish brown to an intense black. It is the most stimulating variety, since the oxidation favors the release of the tein in the infusion. Common varieties of black tea include Ceylon, Assam, Darjeeling and Sikkim, the latter being considered by many the two finest black teas.
• Pu-erh, also called red tea: Since ancient times this tea has been pressed to be able to transport it more easily. The most important feature of this variety is that its quality increases with age, unlike other types of tea. To produce this tea, the leaves are oxidized after being harvested and then kept in the hold where a longer fermentation process occurs. This type can be kept up to 20 years in the hold and continue to be suitable for making more than one infusion.
• Kukicha (tea in branch): is a mixture of teas made of petioles, stems and twigs of tea Bancha, common Japanese variety of green tea.
• Matcha: Tencha leaves are used for this tea. After harvesting and drying, the leaves are slowly ground in granite mills to a jade green powder. Traditionally, the powder is used in the preparation of tea, but is also used for cooking and baking.
There are also infusions that do not contain among their components the tea plant, which nevertheless bear the name. An example of such cases is rooibos tea which is an infusion of the rooibos plant (Aspalathus linearis), of South African origin.