Essential Information for Buying Tea
Essential Information for Buying Tea

The Victorian Teashop in Matlock Bath stocks quite a few tea flavours, but I’m not greatly enthusiastic myself.

I prefer a simple Earl Grey or a Darjeeling, if you can get the real thing, that is. Although I sometimes settle for a cup of good old ‘normal’ tea.

Tea to Choose

Still, we’re here to please, so if you want to mess around with flavours and exotic teas, here’s a bit of information about them.

Although it took tea thousands of years to spread throughout the world from China, it is now cultivated in over thirty different countries in different continents, including South Africa, Nepal and Argentina – and there are no fewer than fifteen hundred varieties.

It is not surprising that tea is the most consumed drink globally, apart from the water itself.

Many new tea cultivars have been developed to thrive in difficult conditions, such as drought and high altitude.

Tea has ‘character’, just like wine and is influenced by many subtle attributes, including the elevation of the plantation, the quality of the soil, the weather conditions, including wind, temperature and rain. How the tea is collected is also an important factor.

Basically, though, all tea comes from one plant, Camellia sinensis. The differences in white tea, green tea, oolong, black tea and put-erh all come from the conditions in which the tea was grown and the way it was processed. Tea is also blended, and there are herbal infusions to consider.

We can’t list all the tea flavours available, but the following is a pretty good selection. We begin with some of the important types of tea.

Table of Contents

Earl Grey

The classic ‘English’ flavoured tea. A China black tea blended with natural bergamot oil to produce the traditional citrus taste that has now been popular for three centuries.

However, the blend is named after the Second Earl Grey, who was British Prime Minister in the 1830s, after he reputedly received a gift of tea flavoured with bergamot oil.

The tea proved so popular that Twinings were given a sample and asked to match it. Thereafter, they marketed the first ‘Earl Grey’s tea‘, as it was called.


Lady Grey

This is a similar tea to Earl Grey with a blend of Seville orange, lemon and bergamot. It was once believed the addition of fruits would counteract “improper impulses” that tea was widely believed to have upon the female temperament – I can’t think what they mean!

Lapsang souchong

A black tea, originally from the Zheng Shan part of Mount Wuyi in China’s Fujian province. The ‘real’ Lapsang Souchong is rare because Wuyi is a small province. Hence, what may be sold as Lapsang Souchong may not be the actual tea.

Lapsang souchong is withered over pine or cedar fires, pan-fried, rolled and oxidized before being fully dried in bamboo baskets over burning pine.

This results in a smoky tea with an earthy aroma and a flavour of campfire smoke, which overlies the flavour of the black tea itself.

Ceylon black tea

This black tea, grown in Sri Lanka (formally Ceylon), has a citrus-like crisp aroma and is used in blends and unmixed. The production of black tea in Ceylon began after a deadly fungus destroyed most of the coffee crop on the island.

James Taylor, already experienced in tea cultivation in North India, became the father of ‘Ceylon Tea’ after the first tea crops were sown there in 1867 on 19 acres of land. He experimented with tea cultivation on his estate, rolling leaves by hand and firing them over charcoal fires.

Darjeeling

This tea is traditionally prized above all other black teas, especially in Britain and the former British Empire countries. It originates from Darjeeling in West Bengal, India.

When properly brewed, the product is a lightly coloured liquid with an aroma of flowers and possessing astringent, tannic characteristics with a certainly added spiciness.

Again though, what is ‘real’ Darjeeling is a problem. Worldwide sales greatly exceed the estimated production. To help matters, the Tea Board of India administers a ‘Darjeeling certification mark’ and logo.

Green tea

This is a tea that has undergone minimal oxidation during processing. Green tea is popular in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and the Middle East, but only recently has it become more widespread.

The West traditionally consumes black tea, such as some of the above, made from heavily oxidised leaves than the white and green varieties.

Enthusiasts of green tea promote its medicinal benefits, which have been described for over a thousand years. The ‘Book of Tea‘, written by Zen priest Eisai in 1191, describes how drinking green tea can positively affect.

He discusses tea’s medicinal qualities, which are said to include “easing the effects of alcohol, acting as a stimulant, curing blotchiness, quenching thirst, eliminating indigestion and improving urinary and brain function.

In more recent times, studies have investigated a link between the consumption of green tea and a lower incidence in a range of cancers – with mixed results. However, green tea enthusiasts believe it to be useful for many disorders and beneficial treatments, such as improved cognition, reducing certain neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, preventing and treating cancer, treating arthritis, treating multiple sclerosis, preventing the degradation of cell membranes by neutralizing the spread of free radicals, which occurs during the process of oxidation, increasing fat oxidation to help the body use fat as an energy source and to raise metabolism and lower LDL cholesterol.

It is also believed to prevent lowered T-Cells due to HIV. In lab tests, EGCG, found in green tea, prevented HIV from attacking T-Cells. However, it is not yet known if this has any effect on humans.

Oolong Tea

Oolong is a traditional Chinese type of tea between green and black, so far as oxidation is concerned. However, the flavour is more like green tea without the stridently grassy taste. Oolong should be brewed strong and is a little bitter but leaves a faintly sweet aftertaste.


White Tea

White tea is made from new growth and young leaves. The leaves are steamed or fried almost immediately after harvesting to de-activate oxidation. They are then dried to retain the high concentrations of catechins present in fresh tea leaves. White tea is a speciality of the Chinese province Fujian.

Pu-erh Tea

This tea is aged, post-fermented and usually compressed into shapes called ‘bricks’. Its name comes from Pu-erh in South West China. Pu-erhs have an earthy taste that becomes stronger and more complex with age. Some put-erh teas can be over fifty years old and are generally said to lower cholesterol, aid digestion and cure hangovers.

Herbal Infusions

Herbal infusions, or tisanes as they are also called, are not strictly teas in the normal sense. They are made from plants other than Camellia sinensis, and they do not contain caffeine.

Honeybush & Lemon

A refreshingly light infusion that provides antioxidants to help cleanse and protect the body. Soothing Honeybush combines perfectly with the delicate citrus tang of lemon to create a calming and revitalising infusion.

Camomile

The calming effect of Chamomile with its light, comforting taste is an ideal accompaniment to sleep preparation.

Ginger & Mandarin

A stimulating infusion, combining natural ginger and the complementary citrus flavour of mandarin. Ginger has been used in traditional remedies for thousands of years.

Blackcurrant Burst

A lively blend that brings out the full taste of ripe blackcurrants and is designed to uplift.

Blackcurrant, Ginseng & Vanilla

A reviving infusion with a lively taste. It is designed to give a boost and is recommended for the afternoon.

Camomile & Lime flowers

A relaxing floral blend with a delicate citrus taste that you might try in the evening to calm and soothe the body and soul.

Camomile & Spearmint

Another calming infusion with a refreshing taste is recommended in the mornings. The renowned digestive properties of spearmint perfectly complement the reputed soothing effects of camomile.

Camomile & Spiced Apple

This calming infusion, delicately spiced with cinnamon, can be enjoyed at any time of the day. Camomile brings serenity while the cinnamon is reputed to warm the body on a cold day.

Camomile, Honey & Vanilla

This soothing blend with its hint of honey and vanilla is recommended as a lunchtime drink. Something to calm you and get you ready for the afternoon.

Cranberry, Raspberry & Elderflower

A tasty and uplifting blend that is refreshing, elderflower is believed to help reduce the symptoms of colds and flu, while cranberry is reputed to have detoxifying properties.

Echinacea & Raspberry

An invigorating blend with a fruity twist is recommended for any time of day.

Elderflower, Strawberry & Rose

This is a delicate and fragrant blend that is refreshing at any time.

Lemon Burst

With its zesty lemon tang, this invigorating infusion is designed to give you a lift in the morning or afternoon.

Mandarin & Lychee

A delicately sweet infusion with a fruity flavour recommended refreshing whatever time of day you choose to drink it.

Orange, Mango & Cinnamon

A delicious blend of fruits with an exotic spice that combines the taste of the tropics with the renowned warming properties of cinnamon.

Peach & Passion fruit

A revitalising tropical mix with a fragrant and fruity taste. It is designed to put a spring in your step.

Pear & Guava

A deliciously exotic blend combining the flavours of two succulent fruits makes a luxuriously soothing drink recommended for the evenings.

Pink Grapefruit, Mandarin & Lime

This tea has a bright and refreshing citrus taste designed to perk you up in the morning.

Pure Peppermint

For centuries, the distinctive aromatic tang of peppermint has been renowned for its digestive properties and can be prepared hot or chilled with ice to revitalise and awaken the senses.

Raspberry, Strawberry & Loganberry

A blend of soft fruits that is stimulating at any time of day.

Strawberry & Mango

Recommended for the mornings. This tea has a fruity, exotic taste with a sweet, uplifting quality.

Blackberry & Nettle

A delicious and revitalising blend with a full flavour, making it an invigorating evening drink.

Nettle is also believed to have cleansing and detoxifying properties.

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