Why do we drink tea? For some, it’s a means to unwind, for others, it’s a vehicle for health: to keep the body healthy, to maintain mental focus, and the list goes on. No matter which way you look at it, the benefits of drinking tea reach much farther than you’d first expect. Physically and mentally, tea continues to be a positive force in the world today. While the uses of tea have varied over the years, the benefits remain timeless.
How can you tell which tea is right for you?
The answer to this is determined by your preferences: ultimately, which flavor profile and experience are you seeking?
While all tea comes from the same plant, not all tea tastes the same. Just like any fine wine, tea flavor profiles will vary based on the following conditions of the Camellia sinensis plant: the type of soil, the weather conditions, the upkeep, the neighboring plants, all leading to the way the leaves are processed.
From white, to green, to oolong, to black, to pu’erh, the way your tea leaves are processed will predict which tea ends up in your cup.
The biggest game-changer is the oxidation and/or fermentation of the leaves—how long tea leaves are allowed to be exposed to oxygen and microbes once they’ve been harvested from the tea plants.
The longer the leaves are exposed to oxygen, the darker the leaves become, resulting in deeper flavors. Tea masters use many different methods to create and control oxidation:
Fermentation, as done with pu’erh tea, takes oxidation a step further. A solid-state fermentation over long periods of time (sometimes years) allows for the molds, bacteria and yeasts on the harvested leaves of the tea plant to create an end product with truly unique flavor profiles.
To get the boldness of Black Tea, the Camellia sinensis leaves are fully oxidized before being heat-processed and dried. The longer exposure to oxygen creates the deep brown to black coloring of the leaf and gives the tea its stronger, full-bodied flavor profiles.
What you’ll taste: bold, rich, malty, herbaceous, spicy, savory, sweet, bitter, smooth, smoky, earthy, nutty, metallic, citrus, caramel, leather, fruity, honey.
Green Tea results from the instant heating of the leaves after harvest—by pan firing or steaming—then immediately starting to dry the leaves. This process prevents the leaves from oxidizing too much, allowing the tea to maintain a green leaf with refreshing flavors.
What you’ll taste: grassy, earthy, mellow, sweet, vegetal, seaweed-like, spinach, basil, lettuce, lush, wheat grass, citrus, herbaceous.
Oolong Tea leaves are partially oxidized, and can vary depending on the tea master in charge. Because of this process variation, the overall oxidation of Oolong teas will range from 8% to 80%—resulting in flavor profiles that fall anywhere between light green tea (less oxidized) to full-bodied black tea (more oxidized).
What you’ll taste: sweet, woodsy, fruity, berry, peach, honey, mineral rock, floral, melon, orchid, herbaceous, hearty, grassy, toasty, intense, pungent.
White Tea gets its soft flavors and aromas from the minimal processing the leaves undergo. As soon as the buds are plucked, they are set out to wither and air dry in the sun (or a carefully controlled environment). This natural drying process decreases the overall oxidation, allowing the white tea to maintain a mostly delicate leaf.
What you’ll taste: floral, grassy, honey, fruity, melon, apricot, vanilla, chocolate, citrus, herby, mild, subtle, sweet, green beans, vegetal, snow pea, spicy, peachy, ginger, cloves, pepper, cucumber, biscuit.
Tea masters ensure the Pu’erh Tea’s soft, woodsy quality through the fermentation of the tea leaves after being oxidized, dried, and rolled. Its gradual fermentation and maturation with time ensures a soothing, unique flavor profile that cannot be matched by other teas.
What you’ll taste: earthy, woodsy, mushrooms, herbs, leather, hay, tobacco, musty antique store, barnyard, damp forest, dates, sweet.
Most herbal teas are a mix of leaves, flowers, seeds, roots, and bark that come together to create a tea-like drink. But some herbal teas add essential oils, or other elements of herbs, to tea leaves to infuse flavors and aromas.
What you’ll taste: sage, lemon, rose, chamomile, mint, rosemary, lavender, peppermint, savory, marjoram, calendula, floral, sweet, honey, fruity.
For anyone, be they first-time tea drinkers or seasoned tea enthusiasts, it’s important to explore your options and taste the possibilities. Get to know your teas. Search for new flavor profiles. Be adventurous. From its origins in Eastern Asia to its influence in today’s world, tea is a cornerstone of life as we know it: refreshing, unifying, and timeless. And, while there are many benefits to drinking tea, the most important benefit of all is its flavor.
At Colonel De, we uphold the importance of what it means to enjoy a moment: from the first sip, to the first bite. No matter the tea you drink, it’s all about the experience you’re searching for.
What do you want your day to taste like? Explore today.