Nothing makes me feel quite as good as making a cup of tea. If I need a bit of energy, need to calm down and relax, need to wake up my mind and get ready, whatever the need, tea can help. Now, at this stage, it's important that I clarify a bit before moving on. The word “tea” is often used to describe a hot (or cold) beverage made from dried herbs. For the purpose of this post, I am using “tea” to talk about a hot (or cold) beverage made from the dried leaves of the Tea plant, Camellia sinensis. All of the recipes I give you here will have this plant as it's base.
There are two main varieties of the Camellia sinensis and each are preferred in making specific teas. Camellia sinensis sinensis (Chinese tea) is native to China and grows best in cool temperatures and high elevations so often it is grown on mountain slopes. This variety is known for producing a sweeter, gentler taste and is the preferred variety for both green tea and white tea. Camellia sinensis assamica (Assam tea or Indian tea) grows best in the Assam region of Northern India. This plant grows larger and produces bigger leaves that the Chinese variety, which is why it's often considered more tropical. This variety is used for robust teas like black tea, oolong, and pu-erh.
Though the varieties grown for each tea are not the only difference between them. There are several processing steps that each tea goes through which gives each variety of tea it's unique flavors.
This is the most delicately flavored of the teas, with a light, fruity and sweet flavor. The taste profile of this tea is often described as floral. White tea leaves are minimally processed from only the young leaves of the C. sinensis. The leaves are then sun-dried to prevent oxidation.
Several varieties of White Tea exist. These include:
Silver Needle- The rarest and most famous white tea, Silver Needle tea consists only of spring buds. It has a delicately sweet taste and floral aroma.
White Peony- This variety consists of the buds and first few leaves of the stem. It is less expensive than Silver Needle and has a slightly stronger flavor.
Tribute Eyebrow- Consisting of larger leaves plucked after Silver Needle and White Peony has been harvested, this tea has an earthy flavor. "Eyebrow" refers to the curved shape of the leaf.
Long Life Eyebrow- Similar to Tribute Eyebrow, but Long Life Eyebrow has a lighter taste and is less processed.
Darjeeling White- Grown in India, this tea is less expensive and more widely available than many of the above varieties.
Green Tea leaves are withered in sunlight and then dried by pan roasting, steaming, or frying to prevent oxidation. This drying process allows the leaves to maintain the color of the tea bushes. They are typically rolled before packaging.
There are quite a few varieties of Green Tea and my favorites tend to be from Japan. So here are some of the more popular varieties from Japan:
Sencha- The most commonly drunk variety of Japanese green tea is known as Sencha.
This tea is grown in direct sunlight, and tends to be harvested in the first or second flush of leaves. Once picked, the tea leaves are steamed, then the leaves are dried out and rolled. Rolling the leaves gives them their needle-like shape and helps release all the juices inside of the leaves, thus intensifying the flavor.
Gyokuro- The process for Gyokuro green tea is similar to Sencha, except that about 3 weeks prior to harvest the tea leaves are hidden from sunlight. This allows the leavs to keep more of the strong-flavored amino acids and gives Gyokuro its fuller taste. After this, the tea goes through the same steaming and rolling process as Sencha, but since the tea is more difficult to shade and cultivate, the production cost and selling price are higher.
Tencha- Tencha is made very similarly to Gyokuro Tea. It is removed from sunlight three weeks prior to harvest, and then after harvest the leaves are steamed, air dried, and removed of vines and stems. A major difference between Tencha and Gyokuro is that after it is harvested and cultivated, the Tencha does not go through the rolling process.
Matcha- Matcha Green Tea is ground up Tencha. After the shading, harvesting, and steaming, the leaves are then air-dried, removed of stems and veins, and then ground into a powder to be brewed.
Fukamushicha- Fukamushicha contains leaves from the several other processes that are deep steamed providing a deeper color and brew. This process provides a richer flavor and surprisingly has soothing effects on the stomach due to its light flavor.
Kukicha- Kukicha is also known as twig tea because unlike most teas, it is made with twigs and stems instead of the leaves. Although more yellow or brown in color, the tea is still made from the stems of leaves that go through the Green tea process. It is known for its yellow brew.
Bancha- Bancha is the second harvest after the first flush has been taken for Sencha, then regrown. Bancha leaves tend to be picked in three periods varying between June and October, with the tea leaves becoming less desirable in each harvest.
Green and White Teas are processed to prevent oxidation. Oolong and Black Teas rely on oxidation during their processing. Oolong Teas fall somewhere between a Green Tea and a Black Tea in oxidation levels, ranging from around 8%-80% oxidized. This allows the flavor of Oolong Teas to varry quite a bit. Some taste more like Green Tea (less oxidation) and some taste more like Black Tea (more oxidation).
China and Taiwan may be where this tea style originated, but now there are several styles throughout the world. Some of the more popular varieties from China and Taiwan include:
Phoenix Tea- The leaves of Phoenix oolong teas are harvested from one single bush of the tea plant. Each bush has a different flavor, meaning this tea tastes different with every batch. Today, Phoenix tea is also used to refer to all oolong teas produced in Guangdong province, not just the ones from a single bush. Phoenix teas are noted for their natural flavors and aromas of flowers and fruits. Phoenix oolong tea has a rich, full-bodied feel. Some Phoenix oolongs offer a floral flavor that is similar to orange blossoms or orchids. Other Phoenix oolongs are fruity or spicy with flavors similar to ginger and grapefruit.
Iron Goddess of Mercy- This type of oolong tea is arguably the most famous Chinese tea. These oolong teas were only used to brew tea for the emperors of China. Today, you can get your hands on high mountain oolong teas reserved for royalty. This oolong tea is light and airy and features hints of flowers and honey. It's often described as smelling similar to orchids and boasts a refreshing finish.
Wuyi Oolong Tea- This oolong is heavily oxidized and dark in color. This tea is revered for its health benefits and legend has it that this oolong tea saved the mother of an emperor in the Ming dynasty.
It has a sharp, smoky flavor that is unique among oolong teas and similar to Formosa Gunpowder black tea. It boats hints of caramel, butter, and toast.
High Mountain Oolong Tea- Also known as Gaoshan, High Mountain Oolong Teas consist of a variety of different oolongs grown at the highest elevations in Taiwan. They are typically seasonal teas due to their production timeline. High Mountain oolongs include Alishan, Wu She, and Yu Shan. These oolongs are grown at altitudes higher than 3,300 feet and tend to grow more slowly than other oolongs. Harvested by hand twice per year, the leaves harvested in October are known as winter and the leaves plucked in June are known as spring Gaoshan. The leaves are spread out on a large tarp to dry before undergoing oxidation. As the leaves dry, they develop aromas of rose, jasmine, and geranium. Once the tea develops aroma, the leaves are folded and withered for eight hours. Tea masters then oxidize the leaves before they are sorted and packaged for sale. High Mountain Oolong tea is generally crisp and sweet with notes of flowers or pine. The tea features a buttery aftertaste that is smooth and creamy.
Milk Oolong Tea- This tea is also commonly known as Golden Daylily tea or Nai Xiang tea. The tea is named for its creamy flavor that is light and flowery. This tea is grown at higher altitudes and is also produced in Thailand. Milk oolong tea is characterized by a buttery, creamy flavor with a smooth finish. The milky flavor is not produced by infusing it in milk. Instead, the tea leaves naturally produce a milk-like flavor and aroma when oxidized for a certain period of time. There are some artificial milk oolongs on the market, though these are generally labeled as flavored oolongs.
Oriental Beauty- One of the most interesting oolong teas is Taiwan's Bai Hao Oolong. Also known as Oriental Beauty, this tea has a unique appearance and flavor profile which is a direct result of having been infested with leaf hoppers. These tiny insects chew on the soft tea leaves to get access to the sap and nutrients in them. In turn, the plant goes on defense, producing compounds which act as a natural bug repellent. There are two side-effects as a result. First, by chewing on the leaf, these insects cause parts of the leaves to oxidize while the leaves are still on the plant. Second, the compounds released to fend off this infestation of leaf hoppers have a different flavor profile than the tea would normally produce. Oriental Beauty oolong is known for its complex aroma of honey and stone fruits.
Black Tea is heavily oxidized, giving it more of a bold woodsy flavor that is often described as astringent. Black tea is the most popular type of tea in the West. Many believe that this is due to the bold flavor and long shelf life of black teas. In the East, black tea consumption is less common. In China, black tea is known as "hong cha" (or red tea) due to the reddish color of the infusion. Some of these teas are intended to be served with milk and sugar, others are not. However, serve it the way you want, you are not restricted by how other people say you should serve your tea.
Some of the more popular varieties of Black Tea include:
Darjeeling- Commonly known as the "Champagne of Tea," the region of Darjeeling produces what is often considered to be the world's best black tea. These blends vary substantially by when they are harvested. Each of the harvests is known as a "flush" and the first flush, harvested in spring, is the most famous and the "greenest" of the flushes. In general, Darjeeling teas taste delicate, fruity, floral, and light, and are best served without any milk or sugar added.
Keemun- This tea is from the Anhui Province of eastern China. High-quality Keemun teas are a connoisseur favorite and are noted for their distinctive aromas and flavors, which are often described as smooth, tobacco-like, fruity, floral, piney and reminiscent of wine. This tea is good by itself or with milk and sugar.
Assam- This tea tends to be bold, malty and brisk. It's often used as the base for English and Irish Breakfast Tea, as well as other black tea blends. A bit of sugar and a splash of milk are commonly added to Assamese teas.
Yunnan- This black tea hails from Yunnan, a province in China better known for its pu-erh tea (an aged variety of heavily oxidized tea). Some Yunnan black teas are partially fermented, meaning that they straddle the line between black tea and pu-erh. Their flavors are typically chocolaty, dark, malty, and nuanced. Sometimes, they have notes of spice or a lasting sweetness in the finish. People who love chocolate tend to love Yunnan tea.
Ceylon- These teas come from the island nation of Sri Lanka. As Sri Lanka has an immense range of altitude in a limited space, it produces a wide variety of flavor profiles in it's teas. However, Ceylon teas are generally bold, strong and rich, sometimes with notes of chocolate or spice. Ceylon teas are the most common bases for Earl Grey blends and are often served with milk, sugar, honey, or lemon.
Nilgiri- This is a fragrant, floral tea from the mountains of South India. In the 1980s, Nilgiri teas suffered from major quality issues, but in recent years, the teas from this region have vastly improved and earned a spot on the world stage. This tea is particularly good served iced and holds up well to additions such as sugar or lemon.
Bai Lin Gong Fu- This rare tea is a nuanced, flavorful, handmade black tea. It's rare even in its homeland of China. It can be brewed multiple times in the traditional Chinese syle of tea brewing. If you can get your hands on some, it's well worth a try!
Lapsang Souchong- This is a smoked black tea that varies in flavor from delicately smoky (which is more traditional) to an almost ashy flavor that some people describe as similar to that of an ashtray (which is, more commercial). Lapsang Souchong tends to appeal to people who like bold flavors, such as smoked meats, roasted coffees, and bittersweet chocolates. This tea is usually served hot with the occasional bit of sugar. Though these teas also stand up well to being iced.
The process of brewing tea at home has it's own benefits. Not only is the process itself often relaxing, but the tea leaves and herbs you use can have a great impact on your health and mood. One thing that people don't often think about is how the smell, the aroma, of the tea can effect your mood. The scent of Tea is considered to be soothing and relaxing over all, without being overly sedating.
Here are some mood enhancing tea blends that I love. All of these recipes are measured in “parts.” Simply substitute the amount you want for the word “part” (i.e. if you want a small amount use teaspoons, if you want a large amount try cups). For any recipe that has a liquid extract, place the extract in the container first and swirl it around to evenly distribute it. Then add in the remaining ingredients. These recipes are “make ahead” recipes, allow them to sit for a few days before using them to allow the extract to be absorbed.
1. This blend is a great mixture of comforting Cinnamon and Vanilla with relaxing Rose. It's great to drink any time you just feel the need to relax. I prefer this blend as a hot tea and I typically make it with a mixture of Darjeeling and Ceylon, but any Black Tea will work well.
Exotic Spiced Rose
5 parts Black Tea
1 part Rose Buds
½ part Vanilla Extract
½ part Cut Cinnamon or Cinnamon Chips
2. This soothing tea is one of my favorite late Summer, early Fall blends. It's great either hot or iced. The Lavender can sometimes overpower the delicate White Tea flavors, so feel free to use less Lavender if you want more of those flavors to come through. Sometimes I sweeten this tea with honey, and I occasionally add a little bit of Chamomile. The White Teas I usually use for this are the Darjeeling White or the Tribute Eyebrow, but any White Tea will work.
5 parts White Tea
1 part Dried Peaches, diced
½ part Peach Extract
½ part Dried Lavender
3. This tea is a great pick up when you're low on energy. Not only is there a little bit of caffeine in Oolong, the Citrus and Peppermint help to increase your awareness and boost your energy. I save and dry the citrus peels from all the citrus I eat, so I always have a blend of citrus peels on hand, but you can use whatever citrus you prefer. You can also switch up the extract to any other citrus flavor (I like Grapefruit on occasion), or use a blend of citrus extracts. This tea is great either hot or iced and I often sweeten it with some honey. The Oolong Teas I prefer with this blend are either the Iron Goddess of Mercy or the Phoenix Tea. But any Oolong will work.
5 parts Oolong Tea
1 part Citrus Peels (a mixture is good, but you can use a single citrus as well)
½ part Orange Extract
½ part Peppermint Leaves
4. This tea blend reminds me of long walks through the woods. It helps to balance you mood, bringing a calm and refreshing energy. I prefer this tea blend hot without any aditives, but it stands up well to sweetening and adding a little lemon if you want a more energetic tea. The Green Teas I prefer with this are Gyokuro and Kukicha, but any Green Tea will work, though I wouldn't recommend any of the ground teas such as Matcha.
5 parts Green Tea
1 part Pine Needles
½ part Catnip
½ part Tulsi
½ part Juniper Berries
5. One of my favorite teas has always been Jasmine Green Tea, which is a Jasmine Scented Green tea common in China. This blend takes the concept of a floral scented tea to a whole new level, adding in bits of the flowers and making a calming blend that is reminiscent of a gentle breeze flowing through a flower garden. This tea is great either hot or iced and is perfect to drink while enjoying a relaxing bath. The Green Teas I prefer for this blend are Fukamushicha and Sencha, but any Green Tea will work well. I don't recommend any of the ground teas such as Matcha, however.
Relaxing Garden Tea
5 parts Green Tea
1 part Tulsi
½ part Jasmine Flowers
½ part Jasmine Extract
½ part Chamomile Flowers
½ part Rose Buds
6. White Tea is great to use in herbal blends when you want other bold flavors to stand out. The White Tea helps to provide a great balance in these teas. This tea in particular is full of bold flavors that help to invigorate you without going overboard into a jittery state like you would from being over-caffeinated. This tea is great either hot or cold and I often sweeten mine with honey. Because it's full of bold flavors, the White Teas that hold up best in this blend are the stronger flavored ones such as White Peony and Tribute Eyebrow, but any White Tea will work well.
Invigorating Ginger Berry
5 parts White Tea
½ part Dried Ginger Root
½ part Dried Pomegranate Arils
½ part Lemongrass
½ part Strawberry Extract
7. This tea blend is loaded full of flowers and fruits, giving it a beautiful appearance. It balances your mood and reminds you of a tropical garden, perfect for relaxing. This tea is great either hot or iced and I prefer to sweeten mine with honey. I will occasionally add a bit of lemon to it as well. My favorite Oolong Teas to use for this blend are Oriental Beauty and High Mountain Oolong. Any Oolong will work well in this blend, however.
Back to Eden
5 parts Oolong Tea
½ part Calendula Flowers
½ part Passion Fruit Extract
½ part Rose Hips, seedless cut
½ part Hibiscus Flowers
8. This blend is a gently invigorating and uplifting one. The zing of the Peppermint is tempered with a hint of Vanilla and Lemon Balm. I prefer this tea hot, but it works well iced too. The Black Teas I prefer to use for this blend include Yunnan and Nilgiri, though any Black Tea will work.
5 parts Black Tea
1 part Peppermint
½ part Vanilla Extract
½ part Lemon Balm
I know I just threw a lot of Tea information you way, I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and want to see more, Become a Patron!
All About The Tea Plant (Camellia sinensis): The Spruce: https://www.thespruce.com/camellia-sinensis-definition-765682
Don't Just Drink Tea, Breath It!: Silver Tips Tea: https://www.silvertipstea.com/blogs/updates/tea-as-potpourri
How Tea Works: How Stuff Works: https://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/edible-innovations/tea1.htm
Sweet Smell of Tea: Tea Muse: https://www.teamuse.com/article_010302.html
Tea 101- Camellia Sinensis Tea Plant: Cup and Leaf: https://www.cupandleaf.com/blog/camellia-sinensis
Tea Aromatherapy: Sugimoto Tea: https://www.sugimotousa.com/blog/tea-talk/japanese-culture/902/
The 6 Steps of Tea Processing: Red Blossom Tea: https://redblossomtea.com/blogs/red-blossom-blog/the-6-steps-of-tea-processing
What are the Benefits of Green Tea Essential Oil?: Leaf: https://www.leaf.tv/articles/what-are-the-benefits-of-green-tea-essential-oil/