Tea, one of the world’s most popular beverages, has recently undergone a makeover that has changed what scientists understand about tea. Chinese researchers determined the genetic makeup of tea tree leaves or the leaves of an evergreen shrub known as Camellia sinensis. The new information has impacted how scientists determine if other species of the Camellia family are suitable to be processed into tea.
Previously, research suggested that tea’s flavor came equally from caffeine, theanine (an amino acid), and catechin (a flavonoid), but this understanding was not completely correct. It turns out that the levels of caffeine and catechin in the tea leaves are more important than the level of theanine when determining tea leaf suitability and potential flavor.
While all tea is from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, the specific variety of tea plant and how its leaves are processed are what determines if it is black tea or green tea. The Camellia sinensis assamica, a specific variety, is a large-leafed variety of the tea plant that is native to India. It grows in warm, moist climates and is often used to create black tea. Camellia sinensis sinensis, a small-leafed variety from China, grows in dry, cool climates and is often used to create green and white teas.
In addition to where each tea plant variety is grown, each type of tea goes through different degrees of oxidation to create a unique flavor with varying amounts of caffeine.
- leaves fully oxidized before they are heat processed and dried; oxidation causes leaves to turn dark brown to black
- flavor is bold and robust
- high levels of caffeine
- leaves are quickly heated and dried; less oxidation allows leaves to remain green
- a fresh-picked flavor that can have grassy or seaweed notes
- medium levels of caffeine
- leaves are harvested before tea leaves fully open and are quickly dried with minimal oxidation
- flavor is delicate, light, and fresh
- low levels of caffeine
- oxidation levels fall between green tea and black tea (depending on production style, oxidation varies between 8% and 80%)
- leaves are rolled, twisted or curled into tight balls or thin strands to alter the appearance, color, and aroma of the final tea leaves
- medium levels of caffeine
Which tea in your Chicago office break room is most sought after? If you aren’t certain, Commercial Food Systems can help. First, try polling your employees about their favorite type. Then consider adding those flavors or upgrading your coffee and tea service. Commercial Food Systems can help you design the perfect coffee and tea service, as well as help create the ultimate break room with pantry service or a micro-market. For more information, contact us at 708.430.1500.