About Tea

What is Tea?

All teas come from the tea plant 'Camellia sinensis'. 
Rather similar to wine grapes, there are different varieties and cultivars that have been developed by different farmers in different regions over the past centuries.

Why do Tea taste different?

With a tea's cultivar being a very dominant factor crafting the taste of a tea, a tea farm's soil, altitude, humidity, climate and several other factors play together in the game of a tea and lead to a teas to very different taste profiles.

Why are there different Teas?

Over time in tea history, tea producers have found many methods to produce different tea from the same tea leaves.
White, Green, Oolong, Black tea and Pu-Erh... describing teas in different stage in fermentation, any sort of tea can be made from the exact same tea leaf as one in another category. However, they differ enormously in the way these fresh tea leaves are processed. Different regions, as part of their culture, have also found their expertise in the production of a tea variety. This makes some regional teas famous and special.
Osmanthus Alley deals with these regions and specialities for you and selects only those teas that meet our high standards which can represent their variety and region well.

Oxidation:

One of the main factors that distinguishes teas is oxidation.
Oxidation occurs when a fresh tea leaves are damaged, i.e. pressed, bent or formed into balls. Oxidation stops when heating the tea leaves (by roasting, steaming, boiling, etc.) or dehydrate the leaves.

 

How are different Teas made?

White tea
The least processed type of tea.
Tea farmers pick the buds with the smallest, freshest leaves with great care of not crushing them in any way. After harvesting, they dehydrate the leaves, and as soon as the leaves are dehydrated, the tea is ready. White tea is therefore the oldest way to drink tea.
The reason why it is called white tea is because of the small white hairs grown on the tea leaves. No fermentation process takes place because the tea leaves are not crushed. Also the cell walls of the tea leaves are not destroyed and therefore only very little aroma is developed.
Because of the great care taken in this process and the need for hand-picked buds of the tea plant, white tea is usually an expensive variety that is not produced in bulk. 

Green tea
Made from buds and young tea leaves (one bud and the 2 youngest leaves are the standard). It is a non-oxidised tea.
Farmers must be very careful not to crush the leaves before the next process. After a short withering, the leaves are heated to deactivate the enzymes. According to Chinese tradition, the tea leaves are heated in a wok. In the Japanese tradition they are steamed. That makes the Japanese green tea with a grassy taste profile while the Chinese green tea becomes more complex and often has a nuttier and roasted flavour. After the enzymes are deactivated, the leaves are treated very roughly to destroy the cell walls of the tea. They are rolled, twisted, pressed, etc. This process increases the flavour of the tea. In the end the tea is dried and ready to drink.
Green tea is famous for its health benefits. All types of tea have certain properties that can benefit health. Since different types of tea can benefit your health in different ways, we advise you to research and learn about the different types of tea so that you can find the perfect tea that will also strengthen your health.

Oolong tea 
Available in a wide range of variations. Oolong tea is a semi-oxidised tea.
This means that the degree of oxidation is located between 15% and 85%. For Oolong tea, fresh, but comparatively larger leaves are picked. After wilting, there is a long, repetitive process of crushing and withering. This process depends on the processor, and results in oolongs being found in very many natural flavour profiles that are formed during this process. Finally, the tea leaves are heated (usually fried in a pan), then formed into either balls or strips and then baked in a final step. Many factors in this baking process can have a major impact on the tea. A high temperature for a short time or a low temperature for a long baking time, as well as the type of fuel used for the baking chamber, can influence the taste and shelf life of Oolong tea. If you look at the colour of the leaves of an Oolong tea, you can clearly distinguish low-oxidised from high-oxidised Oolongs.
Taiwan is considered the "Capital" of the Oolong tea culture. We are very proud to have selected for you many teas from Taiwan, Fujian Province and Vietnam, all of which have found unique ways to produce oolong tea. 

Black Tea
Oxidised at a level between 90% and 95%.
Tea farmers pick the young leaves and roll them either by hand or mechanically. They try to squeeze the leaves as often and as hard as possible so that all essential oils can react with the air and oxidise. This process makes the leaves black and the taste stronger and more robust. This process also develops the tannins in the tea.
Black tea is very suitable for milk, as milk-tea and also as chai.

Pu-Erh tea
A tea variety originated in Yunnan province in the south of China.
Pu-Erh teas made in this region are from old and mature tea trees. The tea leaves of these special mature tea trees enable the tea to ferment later. After a fairly common process (similar to green tea) the tea is fermented a second time. Traditionally, this tea was stored for the second fermentation for at least another two decades in a large, earthy cellars, where it began to ferment again. Nowadays, this process is faster and tea farmers store Pu-Erh tea just for several months under controlled temperature and humidity to achieve this unique earthy aroma.
Pu-Erh tea is famous for being pressed into beautiful, round tea cakes and is also often presented in this form. Good and old Pu-Erh is traded on the Asian market at similarly high prices as old wine from wine collectors in Europe. Pu-Erh tea is also a popular remedy for hangovers in the medicine chest of many people.