Written by JordanReading time 9 min
It’s not always easy to choose among the many different brands, flavours and types of tea on offer. That’s why in this guide, we’ll provide all the information you need to select the perfect tea for your tastes.
History of tea
Tea, whether green, black or oolong, comes from a tea leaf called ‘Camellia sinensis’. The Dutch imported this beverage from Japan to Europe in the 17th century. Today, it is one of the most popular drinks in the world, particularly in the form of black tea. Japan, meanwhile, is by far the biggest consumer of green tea – no surprise given the cultural importance of tea ceremony. Each type does not come from a different tree, as was long thought in the West, but from the tea plant. Indeed, it’s the treatment of the harvested leaves that makes the difference.
India is the world’s largest tea producer. They make up a third of world production! Three areas are particularly renowned for their tea: Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri. While India may be the largest producer, it’s not the largest exporter. Kenya takes the crown, even if they only account for a small fraction of production. China, considered the birthplace of tea, was the world’s leading producer until the 19th century. They’re now the world’s second-largest tea producer, with several tea-growing provinces (Yunnan, Anhui, and Fujian). Sri Lanka, better known in the tea world by its former name, Ceylon, is the world’s third-largest producer. Ceylon tea comes from 4 major areas, each with its own character. Lastly, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia are also notable producers, along with many other countries.
Types of tea
There are 3 main families of tea:
- White tea: the least processed tea after harvesting, white tea is dried, very lightly oxidised, and consumed plain. It is the most delicate and the freshest;
- Green tea: a tea with many therapeutic properties, it’s mainly obtained from young tea leaves. It releases vegetal notes with a slight astringency and is not oxidised;
- Black tea: consumed plain or sweetened, black tea is oxidised. It can be prepared with milk and is often used for flavoured teas. It generally delivers a very round infusion. Smoked tea, also known as ‘China tea’, is a sub-category of black tea.
Aside from the three main families, other types of tea are also available:
- Yellow tea: very lightly oxidised, yellow tea is selected from the youngest leaves of the tea plant. This brings fruity and floral notes to the beverage;
- Oolong tea: semi-oxidised, oolong tea has low caffeine content. It can be consumed plain or slightly sweetened. On the palate, it has a lovely roundness and notes of chestnut;
- Pu-erh tea: post-fermented, pu-erh tea can also be found compressed in the form of cakes or bricks. It’s a dark drink that improves with age, becoming more mellow and less bitter. Its notes are also very distinctive.
Last but not least, we have rooibos, or red bush. This caffeine-free herbal variety from South Africa does not come from the tea plant, but its preparation method makes it similar to the other types of tea. It can be consumed hot or cold, and can be either fermented or unfermented. When not fermented, it is called ‘green rooibos’.
Unflavoured vs flavoured tea
Unflavoured tea is 100% leaf and nothing else. In general, the tasting notes of these teas are very distinctive. This is because their aromatic power, body and significant tannins are linked to several factors. These include terroir, altitude, soil, climate, country, and oxidation method.
Flavoured tea, on the other hand, is made from leaves to which natural or synthetic flavouring agents are added. This includes pieces of fruit, flower petals, essential oils, leaves, spices, etc. It’s the process used that distinguishes both types, but they are based on the same principle. Flavoured teas can also be grouped into main families:
- Gourmet teas: with notes of vanilla, caramel, chocolate, etc. The term ‘gourmet’ is used when the notes are sweet;
- Fruity teas: with aromas of red fruit, exotic fruit, orchard fruits, etc. This is where pieces of fruit and/or natural or artificial flavourings are added to the mix;
- Flowering teas: with flavours of jasmine, rose, lavender, etc. This denotes teas whose fresh leaves are blended with blooming flowers;
- Spicy teas: with flavours of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, etc. Here the beverage releases notes of spices.
Where the leaves come from can make a real difference. For example, black teas from Assam or Kenya grown at low altitudes are the most full-bodied. They typically have powerful aromas that will envelop your palate, while retaining a certain roundness. Conversely, Darjeeling black tea, grown in the foothills of the Himalayas, is more subtle and delicate. Green teas from China and Japan are finer on the palate, but still a little bitter. What’s more, there are blends of unflavoured teas that’ll either balance the flavours or offer a smoother, cleaner taste. English Breakfast, originally a blend of Assam (strength), Ceylon (roundness) and Darjeeling (delicacy), is perfect for those who love strong teas thanks to its well-developed tannins. It goes perfectly with a dash of milk. The same is true of English Blend or African Breakfast.
There are different grades of tea to indicate the quality of the tea based on the fineness of the picking and the shape of the leaves. They do not release the same properties when infused. They can also be used to indicate the size of the leaf to determine whether it is whole, broken or crushed.
The art of drinking tea
When to enjoy it
Tea can be enjoyed at any time of day, but certain times of day are better suited to certain types. For breakfast Assam is perfect for waking up refreshed! Its natural strength and full body help you get up in the morning. Other strong blends are also recommended, such as English Breakfast. This tea combines the strength of Assam with the roundness of Ceylon and the softness of Darjeeling. Gourmet teas meanwhile are the ideal substitute for that morning hot chocolate. At lunch Smoked teas are great for brunch. Pu-erh teas can complement sweet and even savoury dishes. For a more traditional lunch, green teas with vegetal notes and a slight astringency go perfectly with your dishes. After a heavy meal, why not try mint tea? It’s rich in antioxidants and will help with digestion (provided you drink it without sugar). In the afternoon White teas with subtle, refreshing notes can work perfectly. Floral or fruity teas are also a good alternative if you’re feeling a little tired. For an afternoon snack, gourmet teas are delicious with tasty treats. Ceylon and Oolong can also be enjoyed with chocolate or butter biscuits, thanks to their natural sweetness and roundness. In the evening Rooibos is the perfect evening beverage if you want to avoid insomnia and sleeping difficulties. It won’t have any effect on your sleep quality and will even help you to relax.
How to best enjoy your tea
We recommend that you:
- use high-quality water
- respect the water temperature indicated on the packet and the quantity
- use the right container.
For purists, drinking tea involves a certain ritual, beyond simple daily consumption. There is a whole art to tasting.
Do tea and milk go well together?
It’s certainly a yes for the taste, but perhaps a no in terms of positive vascular effects. A study was carried out on sixteen women over the age of fifty. The test consisted of drinking 500 ml of black tea, with (up to 10%) or without milk. The vascular effects of these two drinks were measured by ultrasound. The study showed that drinking tea significantly increased the dilation capacity of arteries and vessels. This made them more adaptable to variations in blood flow. With milk, however, no dilation of the arteries was observed. So, it seems that adding milk cancels out the cardiovascular benefits of tea. A simple solution? Replace cow’s milk with soya milk.
How to buy your tea
You should be prepared to pay a little bit extra if you like your rarer varieties. Darjeeling First Flush for example will cost more because it is finer and of higher quality. Teas grown at high altitudes are also more delicate and rarer (such as teas from Taiwan), and therefore more expensive. If you want to be sure of buying a quality drink, we recommend you go for whole leaves (except for broken leaves). Although less expensive, avoid choosing teas crushed in tea bags: they’re often of poorer quality. For those on a budget, China tea is a good compromise. Flavoured teas are also cheaper, as the base is often a blend. Note that the leaves are never rinsed (from growth to tasting), as this would alter the flavours. As a result, if the field was treated with pesticides they will likely end up in your tea. There are several ways to get around this:
- go organic
- opt for small farms
- look for batch information
Indeed, some tea shops offer information on each batch.
Our tea tips and selections
In addition to its delicious, fresh or comforting notes, tea is a beverage with many health benefits. That’s why, at MaxiCoffee, we often prepare selections by season. What better way to find the right tea for your needs? With autumn and winter approaching, gourmet tea is the perfect drink for your afternoon snacks. Here’s an assortment with notes of chestnut and pecan, to reinvigorate your taste buds and get you ready for the season.
COMPTOIR FRANÇAIS DU THÉ Salted Caramel Oolong – 100 g Loose Leaf Tea
A real comfort no matter the time of day. The brand is in close contact with producers and ensures total transparency of its products, from garden to cup.
Loose leaf tea – Oolong Caramel Beurre Salé – COMPTOIR FRANÇAIS DU THÉ
– Notes: caramel pieces, sugar butterflies
– Origin: China
– Packaging: 100g loose leaf tea in sachet
DAMMANN FRÈRES Rooibos Carrot Cake – 100 g A round drink with warm, spicy, woody notes.
Loose leaf tea – Rooibos Carrot Cake – DAMMANN FRÈRES
– Notes: cinnamon, almond, pecan nut
– Type of tea: gourmet rooibos
– Packaging: 100g loose leaf
Finally, don’t hesitate to visit our website. Here you’ll find all our tea selections. Whether loose leaf, tins, sachets or selection boxes, there’s something for everyone!
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