We take our organic tea seriously and have a fantastic selection of Fair Trade, Certified Organic tea to try here at Amavida. We’d be happy to talk to you about them too. Our Baristas participate in an in-house training program that requires a score of at least 90% to become certified in tea. In this program, we discuss the history of tea, and steeping guidelines. It is a difficult certification but it allows us to answer your organic tea questions with confidence as well as introduce you to your next favorite tea!
I love learning from customers in the café who want to talk about coffee and tea. This is how I learn more, and develop my craft. If I don’t have an answer to a question, I have a brand new opportunity to learn something new from an all-together different perspective.
As a Barista, I’m fascinated by craft. Creating a product with care and attention to detail is something that I respect and strive for. Making tea is a craft that I share with countless generations of like-minded people dating as far back as the Chinese Shang Dynasty in 1766 B.C. Throughout time, tea has been used eaten as food, used as a medicine, created wars, and spread throughout the world with religion causing social change. In fact, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world next to water and has even been used as currency. But dispite its popularity, many of our customers still have basic organic tea questions.
In this spirit of learning, I’d like to share with you the most common topic of interest that I hear from our customers about tea in the café:
What is the difference between Green Tea, White Tea, Black Tea, Oolong, and Pu-erh?
All tea comes from the same species of tea plant, known as Camellia Sinensis. These tea classes differ by the way they are grown, picked, processed and packed for consumption.
Going back to early 17th century in the Chinese Ming Dynasty, oxidation was discovered and black tea was created. Fully oxidized, Black tea was now able to make the long journey at sea to the West and allowed the Chinese to export tea to Europeans establishing a trade route for spices and porcelain in addition to tea. Black tea comes primarily from China and India.
Green Tea is traditional in China and Japan. There are an extremely large amount of subclasses of green tea in Asia. In fact, it is estimated that there are around 3,000 styles of green tea in China alone. Green tea is not oxidized, but rather dried or fired to keep the tea’s highest level of soluble solids, flavor, astringency and health benefits intact. Green tea is typically brewed at lower temperatures, for a shorter period of time to avoid becoming overly astringent.
White Tea is a mild, delicate tea with a floral aroma. It is picked in early spring before the buds have a chance to develop into leaves. In the time of ancient Chinese emperors, only virgins wearing silk gloves were allowed to pluck white tea budsets in Fujian, and only royalty or the extreme fortunate consumed this tea. If you have never had the chance to try one of these soft teas, we offer a Silver Needle, and a White Peony in our cafes that will truly be memorable.
Oolong tea is one of the most complex, time-consuming teas to produce. It is oxidized over a long, controlled period of time, but also offers a spectrum of aromatics and flavors from fruity and floral to deep ripe pit fruit. This tea is made from very large leaves that are traditionally lightly folded or tightly rolled into small balls. Taiwan is known for their excellent Oolong tea production and these very tough leaves can be infused up to nine times!
Pu-erh Tea is an ancient Chinese tea that is mostly fermented after the main production is completed. Some “cooked” Pu-erhs exist and are oxidized first. The tea is allowed to ferment for months or even years like a fine wine. This tea is certainly an acquired taste, but it produces a deep, sometimes woody, lingering flavor. Brew this tea in short infusions at near boiling water to bring out it’s potential.
With any of these classes of tea, it’s important to follow steeping instructions close to the following table:
Incorrectly steeped tea can become very astringent and less desirable. Too many times I hear the sad story about how someone is turned off to a green tea because it tasted too bitter only to find out that the tea was never taken out of the beverage. Not only will the tea taste better at the proper steeping time, but you can also steep most teas 3 times before they need to be thrown away. This is probably the biggest benefit to switching to loose-leaf tea as opposed to a tea bag. Quality goes up, and so does the value!
I hope I’ve answered your biggest organic tea questions. We offer an extensive menu of teas from all the major growing regions throughout the world as well as a large selection of herbals that you can enjoy for any occasion. Come find out why organic tea has played such an important role in many cultures for more than two thousand years!
For more information on tea and for answers to more organic tea questions, please visit our friends at Rishi Tea.