Good tea is a great bargain. At some 200 cups to the pound,
a $20.00 per pound tea costs only 10 cents per cup. Many cost less.
Compare this to even an inexpensive glass of wine and the point
is obvious: you can experience the finest tea in the world for a
Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world. In the U.S. very
little is known about it and many of the best and most interesting
varieties await discovery. A considerable range of tastes is available
to the tea drinker, due not only to natural conditions, but also
to regional preferences. To start you will need to understand some
There is but one tea plant, camellia sinensis, a member of the
floral camellia family. As soil and climatic conditions change the
taste qualities of the tea vary. The bushes are grown in tended
plantations or gardens and pruned to a height of about
4 feet so they can be easily plucked; if left to grow wild they
could reach a height of 30 feet. Beginning with the first mature
growths, the bush is harvested every few weeks when the picker takes
two leafs and a bud from each of the newly sprouted
shoots. These recurring harvests are called flushes.
A wooden tea chest arriving
at our plant.
What is done with the tea leaves after harvesting is critical to
the category of tea being produced and the qualities it will possess.
There are three main categories of tea manufactured:
BLACK TEA - The originally green leaves are made to turn
black by withering (wilting), rolling (to release enzymes), fermenting
(to turn dark and develop taste characteristics) and firing (to
end fermentation). Black tea is fully fermented. The resulting liquors
vary from red-orange to red-brown and many can be had with milk,
especially those with the most body. 97% of all tea imported into
the U.S. is black tea. Black teas are produced throughout the world
lead by India, China and Sri Lanka (Ceylon).
GREEN TEA - No fermentation, hence no chemical change takes
place. Withering may or may not be done based on the producer's
preference; panfrying or steaming is done to prevent fermentation,
with the former being the dominant method. Then rolling and firing
are alternated until drying is complete. The liquor is light, pale
greenish-yellow and often possesses considerable body. Green tea
is widely consumed in the Orient and produced notably by Japan and
China. Recent health claims have stimulated the sale of green tea.
OOLONG - A partially fermented tea. The process includes
withering, basket shaking to bruise leaf edges, a brief fermentating
cycle and firing. The leaves are greenish-brown and produce an amber
colored brew. Oolong is often called the champagne of tea. Though
produced in quantity in China, the best varieties are said to come
from Taiwan (Formosa).
Other, scarcer types such as White and Yellow teas are variations
of Green tea. Fruit Teas (Tisanes) are not really tea at all but
are beverages made from dried fruit, flowers and flavors. Herbal
tea, likewise, are not true tea. You can make new and interesting
combinations to your liking using any of the above.
Done mainly by size rather than quality. Grading terminology can
be, at best, confusing. There are varying whole leaf sizes and as
the leaves are handled (as in black tea manufacture) they break
into various sizes. In order to have consistent brewing properties,
the leaves and fragments need to be sorted. Though biggest does
not mean best, there is an implication that better handling and
care may have been given. While there is no international standard,
the following grading terms apply to most countries and black tea
In addition, letter abbreviations are often used to help describe
and embellish better grades of tea. Teas are said to be Fancy (F),
indicating excellent appearance, or Tippy (T), if they show a lot
of yellow-gold particles among the black; this latter is the evidence
of newly formed leaf buds. Sometimes Golden (G) is used to describe
a leaf color quality. In short, it can be a challenge to decipher
the meaning of some of the more elaborate letter designations. For
example, FTGFOP1 denotes Fancy Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
grade number 1.
At Willoughbys Coffee & Tea, we have brought together
an exemplary assortment of fine teas to satisfy both the serious
tea fancier and the casual sipper. Our search for tea is ongoing,
as is our pursuit of the best coffee to roast. At all times we seek
to have a broad representation of Chinese, Indian and Ceylonese
teas. Some of the more famous examples are discussed herein, though
this is not intended to suggest our complete tea offering.
Willoughby's Own Tea Blends:
English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast and Russian Caravan are blended
on the premises. We use our premium teas to interpret these classic
favorites. Breakfast teas are heavily bodied and can stand up to
the addition of milk. Our Russian Caravan is a touch more delicate
and floral, but milk can be added.
Willoughbys selection includes numerous flavored teas such
as Earl Grey, scented with bergamot oil (an Oriental citrus fruit),
as well as sought after tastes such as Black Currant, Apricot, Vanilla
Tea Storage & Brewing
Tea, when properly stored, can last a long time. The best way to
keep it is at room temperature, in a dark, sealed container such
as a tin. Tea is very susceptible to absorbing the strong odors
of some foods; it is more a case of letting other taste elements
in than losing tea's own to the air.
The starting point for brewing is one level teaspoon per 6 ounces
of water. 200 cups per pound equals 2.3 grams per cup, but not all
teas require exactly the same strength. Start with the one teaspoon
method and vary to taste. Let cold water run so it is not flat,
bring it to a rolling boil and pour immediately over the leaves.
Ideal steeping time is 3 minutes; beyond that more caffeine and
tannin are released. If the strength is not correct at 3 minutes
adjust the amount of tea used the next time you brew. Dont
judge correct strength by the color of the brew but rather by proper
measurement and time.
Glazed and other non porous tea pots are best. Willoughbys
carries a full line of domestic and imported ceramic tea pots in
a variety of sizes. Preheat the tea pot and mugs with hot water
just prior to brewing. Any infusers or strainers should be large
enough so that the leaves may fully expand for complete extraction.
And most importantly, enjoy yourself.
Leaf grades (from largest to smallest):
Souchong - Bold round leaves yield pale liquor
Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP) - some countries only, good liquor color
Pekoe - Short, wide leaf. Liquor has much color
Orange Pekoe (OP) - Thin, wiry. Paler brew than Pekoe
Broken Pekoe Souchong (BPS) - Pale, often used as filler
Broken Pekoe (BP) - More color than BPS; also filler
Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP) - Often contains tip and yields liquors
with good color; in much demand in blends
Fannings - for quick infusion. Used in tea bags
Dust (D) - The smallest grade produced; used in inexpensive tea