Each type of tea has a distinct character, and displays a flavor, color, and aroma that is decidedly its own. The following guidelines will help you experience the full potential of the teas, but as enjoyment is paramount, feel free to adapt the guidelines to your taste.
At its best, green tea will bring a freshness reminiscent of open meadows or the sea. Start with a leaf less than one year old, and pay attention to water temperature. Too much heat will kill the gentle amino acids that sweeten the leaves, while water that is too cool will prevent the flavor from developing fully. Steeping time is very important for green teas. As an over steeped tea can be astringent and bitter, it is best to start with a short steep, taste it, and increase the steeping time by 30 seconds, until it suits your palate.
Measure: 1 tbsp for 175ml water
Water temperature: 75°C (170°F) for Chinese and Darjeeling teas; 65°C (150°F) for Japanese teas. Use spring water, if possible
Infusion: Test with a short steep, and increase steeping time by 30 seconds for each infusion. Can be used for 3-4 infusions
There is a wide range of oolongs available, each with different oxidation levels, aromas, and flavors. A green oolong, such as Ali Shan from Taiwan, may have a 35 per cent oxidation level and a floral aroma, while a Wuyi Rock could have an 80 per cent oxidation level and rich, roasted, earthy notes. Oolongs are among the most difficult teas to produce, as their quality depends on the skill of their producer. Although this semi-oxidized tea literally takes a beating during processing, oolong is very forgiving, and can be used for multiple infusions, presenting new flavors each time.
Measure: 2 tsp for 175 ml water.
Water temperature: 85°C (185°F) for lightly oxidized oolongs; 95°C (200° for heavily oxidized oolongs)
Infusion: Warm the steeping vessel first, and rinse the leaves with hot water before steeping for 1-2 minutes. Increase steeping time by minute for each subsequent infusion. May be used for up to 10 infusions.
Considered the most nuanced and subtle of teas, white tea contains a number of healthy compounds including polyphenols. It is early picked just as the first buds appear, and therefore given high status in the Chinese tea world. It can be a challenge to appreciate this subtle tea with layered flavors, especially for those who prefer rich black teas. There is only a handful of styles of white: Bai Hao Yin Zhen (Silver Needles) is the highest quality and is divided into even more refined groups, with pricing reflecting the quality. Bai Mu Dan (White Peony), a more affordable style, contains silver buds as well as large leaves
Measure: 2 tsp for 175ml water.
Water temperature: 85°C (185°F) Use spring water if possible.
Infusion: Steep for 2 minutes, and increase steep time by 30 seconds for each infusion. Can be used for 2-3 infusions
This tea is rare, but well worth seeking out, yellow tea is made from the youngest tea buds. It is grown only in China and there are just a few types of yellow tea available, such as Meng Ding Huang Ya (Meng Ding Mountain yellow Sprout) from Sichuan province and Jun Shan Yin Zhen (Jun Mountain Silver Needle) from Hunan province. Yellow tea is rich in amino acids, polyphenols, polysaccharides, and vitamins that may be beneficial for the spleen and stomach and aid digestion and weight loss.
Measure: 1.5 tsp for 17Sml water
Water temperature: 80°C (175°F). Use spring water, if possible
Infusion: Steep for 1-2 minutes. Increase the steeping time by a further minute for each infusion. Can be infused 2-3 times.
Pu'er, or dark is the only tea that contains probiotics, or "good" microbes. It can be aged for many years, and increases in value accordingly. This tea is most commonly available in cake or brick form, but is also available as loose leaves, sometimes aged in barrels. If you're using pressed Pu'er, try not to break the leaves when prying them from the cake, as this will damage them, making the tea bitter. Look for production dates on the wrapper. Pu'er continues to ripen and age over time, so can be kept for many years and tasted each year to experience the developing flavors.
Measure:1 tsp for 175 ml water. Water temperature: 95°C (200°F)
Infusion: Rinse with hot water first, to soften the leaves for steeping, then steep for 2 minutes. Increase steeping time for t minute for each infusion. Can be used for 3-4 infusions.