The beneficial qualities that tea brings to both mind and body have long been recognized by the vast majority of people around the world. However it’s always the green leaf variety that takes the plaudits with other varieties playing second fiddle at best, and often times ignored. We are constantly bombarded through the media and treated to information overload to the extraordinary attributes of the green tea variety. It is certainly then no surprise that it is to green tea that one’s thoughts first turn while looking for a healthy drink to refresh. Whilst it is certainly true that green tea does come packed with an incredible health-giving pedigree, the black tea variety, or ‘crimson’ as it is known in Chinese and languages influenced by Chinese, should most certainly not be ignored.
What's the Difference?
Black tea has as much to offer as the green leaf variety to those that choose to give it a try. A fact of which many people are not aware is that both black and green tea comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The larger leaves from the Assamese plant are used for the black variety, with the smaller leaves from the Chinese plants being used for green and also white tea too. Whilst much has been said of the health giving qualities of green tea, those benefits can be said to be present in black tea also as they are essentially derived from the same source. This is despite its more intense processing and consequently lower levels of antioxidant. There also tends to be more caffeine in black tea and hence black tea can be considered more stimulating.
It is often of a better flavor too as green tea tends to lose its flavor after a year or so, whilst black leaf tea can retain the flavor for many years more. It is due to this attribute of black tea that it has long been used a commodity for trading, and black tea bricks were even used as a form of currency in the 19th century in countries such as Mongolia, Tibet and Siberia. TF-2 is a compound present in black tea. It is an antioxidant and as such is very helpful to the human body in the fight against cancer, diseases of the heart and other inflammatory ailments.
Black Tea Research
Studies carried out in Europe spanning a decade have shown that drinking in excess of 2 cups of black leaf tea a day can cut in half the incidence of heart problems in males. The best method by far with which to imbibe tea is in its loose form, and in the authors opinion the bagged variety should be kept firmly on the shelf. It’s not just a great flavor from which you will benefit with black tea but also the extraordinary health-giving benefits that it will bring to your body. And there are of course many brands from which to choose with varied tastes and flavors. All without exception compete admirably with their green leaf counterparts in health properties and arguably make a more enjoyable and flavorsome drink.
Many people around the world, including chefs and even scientists believe that white tea has numerous benefits towards everyone’s health. But do you really know what exactly white tea is and how you could benefit from white tea leaves? The immature tea leaves are alternatively called white tea. These loose leaves are picked from the tea plant just before the plant has fully bloomed. The name ‘white tea’ came from the fine silvery fuzz covering the tea leaf and making it white in color. The four distinct varieties of white tea include the White Peony, Silver Needle, Long Life Eyebrow and Tribute Eyebrow. The difference between them is the proportion in which the tea leaves are blended with the tea buds.
Harvesting White Tea
Usually buds turn into tea in two days after they are picked. When two tea leaves are mixed with one tea bud, it forms the White Peony and if the mixture is made completely of buds, it is termed as the Silver Needle tea. The low quality tea variety called Long Life Eyebrow is made by mixing up the left over leaves after the White Peony and Silver Needle harvest. Tribute Eyebrow is processed using a special tea bush and is also a lesser quality tea. All four white teas can be purchased in loose leaf forms. On the other hand, teas available in bags have comparatively less quality and flavor than white tea. Tea bags are generally tea leaf dusts that remains at the bottom of tea bins after harvesting, reducing the desired quality and flavor.
White Tea Research
Scientific research has also shown that white tea provides additional protection against skin cancer, colon cancer, stomach cancer and even prostate cancer. Studies on the effect of white tea extract on skin exposed to direct sunlight has shown improved protection and reduced cell damage. A partially repaired immune system was also observed in some test subjects that consumed white tea leaves. Scientists found a wealth of antioxidants present in white tea and they suggested it may have anti-aging effect. Some compelling evidence has also been found in the direction of disease prevention using white tea leaves. It is shown that the white tea leaf extract may have the ability to stop pneumonia and the bacteria that causes Staph infection. It is also used to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, plaque and even bad breath.
What Else Can White Tea Do for You?
It is also believed that white tea leaf has anti-fungal effects. Recent studies have shown that some fungal types became inactive when the fungal drugs are consumed along with white tea leaves. Results of this study also show that white tea leaves might be used to prevent the fungus growth in certain similar conditions. Cholesterol is a health requirement and there are two kinds of cholesterol: good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. It is the bad cholesterol that causes the hardening of the arteries that could lead to heart attack. A type of antioxidants called catechins has been found to reduce bad cholesterol; white tea also helps raise the good cholesterol in the human body. It has been suggested that white tea leaves could lower the blood sugar levels, and thus reduce the occurrence of diabetic symptoms. More scientific research and results can be expected in the near future as the research on white tea continues.
Due to the variety of minerals, vitamins and other elements contained in tea, this drink improves health, relieves fatigue, strengthens the immune system and has an overall tonic effect on the body.
Mineral substances contain in green tea leaf and in finished products, it constitutes about 5-6% of dry matter. Among them are the following: potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, manganese, fluoride and others. With the aging of the plant total number of minerals increases, while the most valuable part of the soluble reduces. Only the components of relatively small molecular weights which are infused with hot water give a specific accent to the tea infusion. Between the quality of tea and the content therein of soluble mineral substances there is a direct link.
The potassium content in the tea leaf is 50-60% of all mineral substances and depends on the mineral nutrition of plants. This compound plays a very important role in the livelihood of tea tree; it is given a great importance in the synthesis of carbohydrates and proteins, and in the general metabolism. Potassium is very important to the human body; it prevents muscle cramps and regulates fluid and electrolyte balance.
Another important mineral is located in the tea - phosphorus. Its content ranges from 15-20% of weight of all mineral substances in tea. The properties of the finished product depend on its quantity. The two top leaves and a bud have higher content of phosphorus compare to the lower coarse tea leaves and stems. It is known fact that phosphorus is needed for the human body for normal functioning, as part of the nervous, brain tissue and bones.
Despite the slight content, copper and iron play an important role in plant’s life. They are part of some physiologically important organic compounds, such as enzymes. Another, small in content, but necessary for redox processes, is manganese. Its share is approximately 1-4%. Due to the iron content, tea has a beneficial effect on the human blood, as well as a good means for the prevention of various vascular diseases. In addition, the body needs iron to transport oxygen.
The complex experiments revealed effects of the duration of brewing tea and the quantity of the tea leaves on the degree of content in the drinks of various trace elements. Adding citric acid increased the yield of all elements, except copper. In the end, it was found that a tea drink satisfies the daily requirement of zinc, copper and manganese at 1, 2 and 50% respectively.
Now let us turn to vitamins contained in tea. This is mainly vitamins B complex and C. The tea shoot has the following B complex vitamins: B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3, and B5 (PP), B6, B12 and P. Since these compounds are very stable, in the processing they are almost completely transformed into finished products. Content of vitamin B1 is small - an average of 0.3 - 10 mg per 1 kg of dry tea leaves. In the body this vitamin (B1) regulates metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, fatty acids, has versatile affect on the function of the cardiovascular, endocrine and central nervous system. Vitamin B2 has positive effect on the skin and mucous membranes, the health of the liver. The most important is the presence in tea of vitamin P. One of its most important properties is the strengthening of the capillaries of the plant. During the technological processing of raw material quality and quantity of the vitamin are undergoing significant changes. Its content is reduced from 20-25% in green tea to 8-15% in the final. Along with others, the tea contains vitamin PP that is important for normalizing the higher nervous activity, the functions of the digestive system. It also affects the cardiovascular system, in particular, expanding the small vessels.
Tea leaves are rich in Vitamin C. Gentle leaves contain approximately 2-3 times more of this vitamin than the coarse. In the process of refining its amount is sharply reduced, especially during the fermentation and drying. This vitamin is essential for strengthening the immunity of a person, it reduces the risk of infections, but also useful for the prevention of osteoporosis and periodontitis (inflammation of the periodontal tissue, i.e. tissue surrounding the tooth root). Tea fluoride also provides the beneficial effect on teeth. This element exists in tea leaf as anion. Fluoride anion produces various fluoride compounds and covers the surface of teeth to prevent bacterial attack. Just wanted to point out that tea is very useful for vision, because it contained β-carotene and other elements, strengthens blood vessels.
Darjeeling is the Chinese variations of the Camelia sinensis tea grown on Indian plantations in the province of Darjeeling and considered one of the most exquisite and expensive teas in the world. By the methods of cultivation and production, Darjeeling is closer to the Chinese teas rather than to the Indian teas. This is a small leaf tea, with slightly astringent taste and rich delicate floral aroma. Although Darjeeling is marketed commercially as "black tea", almost all of them have incomplete oxidation (<90%), so they are technically more Oolongs than black teas.
This tea has a delicate taste due to the unique natural conditions of the region where it grows: cold and humid climate, high altitude location of plantations and the characteristics of the soil. Depending on the location and time of collecting, the taste, aroma and characteristics of Darjeeling are highly different. The most significant impact on tea quality has seasonal factors. Not everyone will be able to distinguish the differences, for example, between Darjeeling Makaibari and Darjeeling Lingia. The difference between a drink obtained from the leaves collected in the spring, versus leaves from the same plantation, but harvested in early summer, will be obvious. The best varieties of Darjeeling is consider the "champagne of teas". The methods of processing tea leaves are very traditional, it includes withering, rolling, fermentation and drying, which is why this tea is so highly valued.
First of all, today there are only 86 existing plantations of Darjeeling with a total area of about 19.000 hectare. Annual production on average is 11-12 thousand tons. This is about 1% of the total cultivated tea in India. It should be be noted that it would be impossible to obtain the taste qualities if Darjeeling if cultivated outside this region, therefore, making it an exclusive beverage.
The labor on plantations is very tedious and demanding, the normal requires a production force of about 52 thousand people that are constantly engaged. While in the tea harvesting season, which lasts from March to November, an additional 15 thousand workers are hired. More than 60% of workers in the tea gardens are women.
The collection of tea leaves takes place 4 times per year. The first harvest is the so-called Easter (March-May) begins immediately after the winter lull. Leaves collected at this time are light-green color. The characteristics of a good First Flush Darjeeling are a lively fresh, delightful flowery aroma and a honey color infusion. The connoisseurs of Darjeeling tea compare the first collection to tasteful green grapes "muscatel." Perhaps, that is why Darjeeling is called “champagne of teas”. Tea mixture of the first collection is very highly regarded by experts; it consists only of the upper leaves and buds that give this tea such exquisite taste. First Flush Darjeeling is sold at auctions, and prices are several times higher than the subsequent harvest from the same plantation.
The second collection takes place during the months of a May - June. Tea leaves collected during this period have a reddish color. Infusion is softer, intense, featuring a bright amber color. Because this tea is collected in the last month of spring and early summer, it has a light fruity aroma and a peculiar aftertaste. Darjeeling from the second collection, also called "In-Between", is considered a tea of high quality and is recommended as an afternoon tea. The leaves and the infusion are already turning darker and the diversity of the flavors varies from full-bodied to slightly aromatic. The "In-Between" is often used as a profitable blend, due to the high demand, the prices are not as cheap.
The summer collection takes place from June - July. During this period, the properties of the tea leaves are changing, along with the nature of the infusion. It becomes more robust, but it retains all the traditional characteristics of Darjeeling. The taste is a full-bodied, with a distinctive nutmeg note. The third collection is no less interesting and appreciated by connoisseurs, sometimes higher than the first crop.
The last collection, "Autumnal", is October - November. The infusion obtained from the leaves of the autumn collection, has a unique characteristic, the leaves are a light-copper color and has a somewhat milder taste.
All this together ensures the highest quality of the famous Darjeeling. Because of its exclusivity and small production volumes, forgery of this tea was very popular. It is a big problem for world trade, the number of Darjeeling sold each year is more than 45 thousand tons, despite the fact that its official production is only about 11-12 thousand tons. The falsification and blending of tea has led to a drop in prices for real Darjeeling, resulting in considerable losses for the Indian economy. To prevent further tampering, the Tea Board of India jointly with the Darjeeling Tea Association have agreed that only 86 tea plantations, with special certificates, will be entitled to call their tea "Darjeeling".
The fragrance of tea depends on the essential oils and tar substances that are contained in plants. Essential oils are complex mixture of substances that belong to the most diverse class of compounds which are soluble in organic solvents and possessing the ability to escape from water vapor. Overall the total content of essential oil is minimal; it is determined by only hundredths of a percent. For example, aromatic black tea contains about 0.02% of oil. Pure essential oil of fresh tea leaf is a green color with a strong fragrance of fresh greens. In the technological processing of tea leaf occurs the formation of a new aromatic substances that contribute to the specific flavor of the finished product. Thus, the composition of essential oil of green plants is different from the finished black tea. The substances that make up the oils can be divided into 4 main classes of compounds: acids, carbonyl compounds, alcohols and phenols. These volatile compounds found in tea are trace amounts - 0.01% of dry matter, but their role in the establishment of the tea flavor is tremendous.
Some parts of the plant contain different amounts of volatile compounds, which, in turn, differ in their compositions. The maximum concentration of essential oil found in the tender stems and leaves. The top leaf with the growing bud and two next leaves are equivalent to the content of essential oil. Further down the stem, as general coarsening occurs, oil content decreases. Which explains why the top three leaves are the most vaulable for high quality tea.
In the formation of the aroma of tea, the main role is played by aromatic aldehydes (Organic compound that has OH-group in its structure. They are used in organic synthesis as fragrances). In the composition of essential tea oils are vanilla, lavender, cinnamon aldehydes, etc. During the processing of tea leaves into black tea, the various fractions of volatile compounds undergo significant changes. The total content of these compounds increases most radically in the early stages of rolling. In the process of withering the relative content of components with higher boiling point reduces and low-boiling point, on the contrary, increases.
Along with essential oils important role in creating a tea aroma played by various resinous substances - carriers of flavor. They are in a close chemical relation with essential oils and are a complex mixture of different classes of organic compounds.
The content of tarry substances in tea leaves ranges on average from 3% to 6%. These substances are separated by several fractions, the most valuable of which is a neutral faction. It has a pleasant sweet floral aroma. In the process of technological treatment , the amount of this fraction in tea leaves increases by 40%.
During the processing of tea leaves, the content of resinous substances decreases, indicating the result of oxidation. I.e. ratio: fresh leaves – 3.48%, withered leaves – 3.27%, after two hours of curling – 2.92%, semi-finished product – 2.35%.
Through fragrance of tea, all the deficiencies that have arisen as a result of violations of technological regimens or improper storage of products, can easily be found. Disadvantages may include: acidity, mustiness, smell of the green, smoke and other uncharacteristic for tea scents. Most difficult to improve defect is acidity, which results in a violation of the fermentation process. Since in the processing of tea leaves, especially during the fermentation, occurs a reduction of Tannin. Therefore, the tea produced in violation of this process turns out with a bitter flavor and pale color of infusion. The cause of the smell of greenery is an infringement of withering, rolling, and fermentation. Such a tea has a mild flavor that the brew is a greenish color in the cup with a greenish ring on the surface and instead of the characteristic astringent taste; this product has a bitter taste. If there is excessive moisture in semi-finished product (more than 7.5%) tea is aging much faster. For extended storage. it gets the smell of dampness and can come in unsuitable conditions for consumption.
In addition, it is worth noting that different varieties of tea, as well as different ways of brewing, have an imprint on the final quality of the drink