Many drinks go by the name of tea but only the leaves of the plant Camellia Sinensis are real tea. In addition to pure tea, there are a large variety of flavoured drinks in which flavor (sometimes artificial) is introduced into the tea or the leaves of another plant is mixed with the tea leaves to provide a unique flavor. For example "Orange Tea" is a mixture of dried orange peals and tea leaves. Herbal teas, although not without their benefits, are also not really teas at all, as they are produced from the leaves or stems of other plants.
Pure tea is marketed as either White, Green, Oulong or Black tea with the type indicating how the leaves have been processed. White Tea designates tea leaves that has been picked and dried before the leaves are fully developed. Green Tea refers to tea leaves that have been picked and dried when they are fully developed. Oulong Teas are partially fermented after picking and before drying while Black Teas are fully fermented before drying and packing. Finally Japanese tea is green tea whose leaves have been ground into a powder.
Over time, different varieties of tea have been cultivated and optimized for different types of processing. For example, the strain No. 8 (or Assam) has been specially bred to provide the best flavor after fermentation and thus is preferred when one is considering black tea. Although it is possible to ferment green tea to produce black tea (and many companies do this), the taste will be inferior to a tea bred especially for fermentation.
In considering fine tea, four key factors that need to be considered: pedigree of the variety, location and climate, skill of the grower, and season. A fifth factor, government regulations, needs also to be taken into consideration when one is looking to purchase tea.
Pedigree This is the breeding of the tea. For black tea, the top lines are No. 8, No. 18 and No. 28. Personally I find that No. 28 is too strong and thus we only sell No. 8 and No. 18
Location Both climate and geography are key factors in determining both where tea can be grown and the resulting taste. While tea can handle a light frost, it cannot handle prolonged exposures to cold whether. For black tea, in particular, cool and dry air (common at high altitudes) in warm countries is ideal for both the growth of the tea plant and the oxidation process. The mountains of central Taiwan provide the perfect combination of altitude and latitude for the growth and processing of black tea.
Skill The skill and training of the person who picks, processes and ferments the tea determines whether the tea can maintain its potential. Unlike in China where the communist government in the past frowned on the cultivation of tea, Taiwanese, many of whose ancestors had left China, have generations of experience growing and processing tea.
Season For black tea, summer and autumn crops are have superior flavour compared to the spring and winter crops. This is in contrast to green tea where the spring and winter crops have greater flavor.
Government Regulations/Certification Government regulations and their enforcement is key to ensure that the product you are receiving is the product that you order. Taiwan has some of the strictest regulations and certification in the world. For this reason, we export tea to China due to the lax enforcement of regulations in that country.
The final step is to brew a cup for yourself and a friend. Start with pure cold water. Heat until the temperature approaches boiling. Add the tea (2.5 g (one teabag) per 300 ml (one cup). For the first cup, brew for two minutes. (As our tea is 100% organic, it is not necessary to throw away the first cup of tea. You can rest assured there are no harmful pesticides on the leaves that need to be washed off). While you savor your first cup of tea, the same tea bag can be used to brew additional cups. For the second cup, brew for 3 minutes. For the third cup, brew for 5 minutes. If you are preparing for many people, we suggest: 2 tea bags for a 2 cup brown betty, 3 tea bags for 4 cup brown betty and 5 tea bags for a 6 cup brown betty. (Brewing times are the same as for single cups)
Lets conclude with a brief analogy: thoroughbred race horses. While any horse can run in the Kentucky Derby, the lineage of a horse provides a good guide to the maximum potential of the horse. The skill of the trainer and the jockey are key to getting the most out of the horse. Finally, government regulations and certification is vital in ensuring the horses have not been doped or subjected to hormone treatment or other illegal drugs.