Let’s continue our tea journey. We were in the world of black teas. We will now move away from blacks and go into the oolongs before heading to the greens.
Oolong tea manufacturing falls somewhere between the processes for black and green teas. The most notable is Formosa Oolong. Grown in Taiwain in the region for which it is named, Formosa Oolong is very aromatic and has a flowery note that does not overwhelm its deep, full flavor which can contain hints of chestnut, honey, and peaches.
Ti Kuan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy) is the most famous of Chinese Oolongs. It is grown in China’s Fujian province. It is a greener style of Oolong that can have a complex aroma, with hints of orchid, herbs, nuts, and melon.
I am not too familiar with the Oolongs. I find them earthy and needing honey to make them a little more palatable. There are others out there to experiment with and taste.
Green tea varieties are numerous. Grown primarily in China and Japan, greens include Gunpowder Green, its name refering to the tightly-rolled, pellet-shaped leaves that “explode” when infused. Moroccans use Gunpowder to make mint tea. Dragonwell, another green, is a celebrated tea of China that has an earthy aroma and relaxed taste.
Jasmine Green is a common tea easily found in tea shops. Jasmine, native to the Persain Gulf, was brought to China sometime around the third century A.D. Pouchong, a style of green tea, is used as the base for this scented tea. The scenting process is natural; tea is mixed with fresh jasmine flowers so that the tea absorbs the scent.
As with the Oolongs, I am not the hugest fan of the greens. I drink them mostly for their anti-oxidant benefits. I always add honey.
Of course, there are also the herbal teas. Though not technically a “tea,” herbals are ever popular and very enjoyable. Chamomile with honey is sure to make any time of day go slower.
There is also Yerba Mate, the national drink of Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay. My wife introduced me to this tea. A plant native to tropical forests, its leaves are processed to make green, somewhat bitter, woody-flavored tea. It is filled with anti-oxidants, natural energy compounds, and is super good for you. Traditionally, it is drank from a gourd or wooden cup and through a metal straw called a papilla. I enjoy this tea more than the standard geen teas. For more info, check out www.guayaki.com.
While we are on the anti-oxidant kick, there is also Rooibos. Red bush tea is the national drink of South Africa, the place of its origin. It is a beautiful red tea that results from brewing the fine, needle-like leaves of the bush.
The last tea drink I’ll offer is chai. Chai, or derivatives of the word “Chai,” is the word for tea throughout much of the Himalaya. Usually, chai is black tea that is spiced up by adding spices from the local region. Chai variations can include any and or all of the following, plus others: cardomom, cinnamon, peppercorn, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. Once brewed, heaping amounts of sugar is added to accentuate the spices. Warm milk is added as well. Westernized versions of this tea blend are found in latte form in almost all coffee and tea shops in America. I admit, I am a nut for hot Chai tea latte. I usually add a little honey to the mix.
With that, I will end this tea journey. Though, in actuality, the journey is not ending. With the next cup that is brewed, it will continue on its path.
I hope that you will pick up some fine loose tea if you haven’t done so already. Pour boiling water over the leaves, and the journey begins.
Happy tea to you.
(written 28 March 2004)