Fully-trained tea tasters are few and far between, so we are super-proud to be able to say that teapigs teas have been tasted and selected by an expert with over 10 years’ experience. Louise has tasted thousands and thousands of cups of teas over the years. After starting her training, which involved slurping and spitting at a rate of over 200 cups a day, she then took off around the world visiting tea estates high and low.
Whether black, green, white or oolong, all tea comes from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant.
But that’s just the start. Like wine, tea is divided into regional varieties and manufacturing styles. For example you will only find the very best Darjeeling black tea growing in the foothills of the Himalayas. Alternatively, the traditional fermentation and drying methods uniquely used in Taiwan produces the special flavour of Tung Ting oolong.
Tea usually grows between the tropic of Cancer and the tropic of Capricorn, predominantly in warm, wet climates. The big players in the world of tea-growing are India, China, Sri Lanka and Kenya but this is by no means an exhaustive list: tea can be grown in any area with the right climate and conditions. There is even a tea-growing area in Cornwall – yes, Cornwall, England!
Good tea vs bad tea?
A good tea is a well-made tea – one that has been looked after and finely crafted. Generally tea estates have to choose between making large volumes of ok tea or a smaller amount of something really top-quality. If they choose the latter they will only pick the best leaves (the freshest shoots from the top of the bush) and process them very delicately ensuring that they don’t damage the leaf.
We always say, “The best tea is the one you love the best”. And if you’re anything like us, that will change depending on the time, the occasion, even your mood. We love all our teas, at different times – asking us to pick one would be like a parent choosing a favourite child! What you can be sure of is that teapigs teas will always be of the finest quality.
More about tea
We think it is amazing that one plant can produce so many unique flavours and tastes. The taste variation starts in the growing of the plant – the location, the soil, the altitude, the weather pattern. The way the leaves are treated after plucking changes the final flavour of the tea, we have tried to sum this up in non-tea-geek speak below.
Considered by some as the purest of tea, the leaf is picked in the spring, and the early morning shoots are plucked and left to dry in the fresh air. (buy our white tea here)
The leaf is plucked from the bush and then either roasted (in something resembling a giant wok) or steamed like your veggies (in a big cylinder.) The leaf is then dried, sealing in the greenness. Steamed green teas tend to have a more delicate taste than the roasted version. (buy our green tea here)
Oolong tea (sometimes called blue)
The leaf is plucked from the bush and allowed to wither. It’s then twisted and allowed to part-ferment; that is, it’s allowed to turn slightly from green to brown but not completely. The leaf is then dried in a giant oven. Oolong or blue tea is said to be between green and black – having the flavour of a green tea and some of the strength of a black tea. (buy our oolong here)
Black tea is plucked from the bush and withered in the open air. When the leaf becomes soft it is twisted and then fermented. The fermentation is the most important and skilled stage; this is when the leaf oxidizes. Finally the leaf is cooked in a giant oven to seal in the flavour.(buy our black tea here)
More about herbals
The rule is a simple one: if it’s tea, it must come from the camellia sinensis plant. So what of peppermint tea or chamomile tea? Well, strictly speaking, they’re not tea at all, but infusions or, for the truly pretentious, tisanes.
Our view is they make a great cuppa in their own right, and so are worthy of the tea title. They also have their own unique health boosting properties.
Chamomile is one of the old favourites amongst garden herbs and its reputation as a medicinal plant that makes you snooze is well known. The fresh plant has a lovely scent, with a distinct ‘appley’ smell – not lost on the Greeks, who named it ‘ground-apple’ ( Kamal-melon).
We all know a mug of peppermint tea helps digestion. Alternative therapies include gargling peppermint tea 3 times a day helps a sore throat. If you have dry or itchy skin, it is thought that adding peppermint tea to your bath will help. (buy our peppermint here)
Rooibos tea, (pronounced “roy boss”) which is also known as red tea or Redbush tea is a soothing drink, sweet and nutty in taste, naturally caffeine free and low in tannin. It comes from the leaves of the Rooibos plant, which only grows in the Cedar Valley, deep in the heart of South Africa.
Rooibos is not a true tea, as it comes from the plant aspalathus linearis. It’s a small shrubby bush that has very thin, needle-like green leaves that turn their characteristic red after fermentation.
Making rooibos your cuppa of choice is thought to ease headaches, nervous tension and insomnia. It acts as an anti-spasmodic agent to relieve stomach cramps and colic in infants, and can also be used to treat hay fever, asthma and eczema.
Ditch your nutritional supplements and have rooibos instead, as it contains : copper, iron, potassium, calcium, fluoride, zinc, manganese, alpha-hydroxy and magnesium.
Whilst a plateful of pontefract cakes or liquorice allsorts won’t cure the common cold, our liquorice and mint brew may well help. Pure liquorice root is thought to ease coughs and respiratory problems.