According to the French dictionary “Petit Robert”, tea is defined as: “tree or shrub from the Far East, cultivated for its leaves which contain alkaloids, including theine”.
The tea leaves come from the tea tree (camellia sinensis), an evergreen tree that can reach several meters in height. To facilitate the picking of the leaves, as in many tea growing regions such jobs is reserved for women, the tea plant is generally pruned between 70 and 110 cm from the ground.
There are 2 two varieties of tea coming from China and India:
- China: grown at altitude, small and fine leaves, fragile plant, low yields. Most delicate, fine and fruity teas, with low productivity.
- India: grown rather in the plain, large, thick and juicy leaves, a more robust and disease-resistant plant that produces more full-bodied, tannic, high-yielding teas.
All teas contain theine but in variable proportions, depending on the type of tea: black tea, green tea, white tea, blue-green tea (oolong, etc.). Coming from the same tea tree, it is the harvesting and manufacturing processes that will characterize the type of tea and give them their color.
- White tea is the youngest shoots, harvested in the spring. It has a rather refined and delicate flavor.
- Green tea is made from non-oxidized dried leaves. Halfway between green tea and black tea, blue-green tea with bluish leaves is a semi-oxidized tea (oxidation has been interrupted during the process).
- Finally, black tea undergo a full oxidization process, hence its more pronounced taste and color.
Many people mistaken “Infusion” as a drink, in fact infusion is a method of beverage preparation which consists of pouring hot water over leaves, flowers or plants and letting them infuse for a few minutes.
Depending on the type of tea (black tea, green tea, white tea etc), the infusion time generally varies between 3-5 minutes for water temperature between 60 and 95°C. In general, white tea will require 5' of infusion in water at 70°C, green tea 3' in water at 80°C, black tea 4' in water at 90/95°C, and blue-green tea 4' in water at 85°C.
A little tip for measuring tea correctly: 2g (1-2 teaspoon) tea leaves for approximately 200 ml water.
Then what is a “tisane” or “herbal tea”?
“Petit Robert” definition for herbal tea: “beverage containing a plant substance (obtained by maceration, infusion or decoction) with a medical or hygienic effect”. The difference between tea and herbal tea is that herbal tea does not contain theine and therefore does not provide a stimulating effect.
Is there a difference for preparing tea and herbal tea? Yes! Pay attention to the infusion time. The infusion of an herbal tea goes far beyond that of a tea, to extract full advantage of the benefits of the plants used.
3 preparation methods for herbal tea:
1. Delicate & fragile elements of the plant, such as the leaves, the flowers, make an infusion. To do this, pour water at 95°C over the plants and cover. Leave to infuse for at least 5 minutes. Then strain and enjoy.
2. Hard elements of the plant, such as bark, berries, seeds, fruits, roots, make a decoction in this case. Put the elements in cold water then raise the temperature of the water until it boils. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes, then strain.
3. Finally, the last infusion technique for herbal tea: maceration. It is indicated for fragile plants that should not be heated. Soak the plants in cold water for 8 hours (or overnight) before straining them. This will allow you to get a delicious drink.
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Source: terre d’Oc, by Rozenn S.