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Tea; Types: As well as it's area of production, tea comes in four main types -
1. Black:this is what most of us in Britain would regard as a cup of tea. The picked leaves going through a complicated process of fermentation before being dried. This is often labelled with its region of production. (See Below).
2. Oolong: only lightly fermented before drying; tea of this type retains much of it's localised character, so much so that a lifetime could be spent in it's discovery. Sometimes called 'Blue Tea'
3. Green; natural dried tea leaves - a light refreshing drink.
4.Flavoured: Earl Grey is an example of this style; this can be an invitation for unscrupulous manufacturers to use inferior leaves, the flavour - bergamot, in the case of Earl Grey - is simply sprayed on to black tea leaves. Lapsang Souchong can be included in this category, although it is smoked rather than spray-flavoured.
5.White Tea:The rarest of all teas, with a very delicate flavour, and suitably expensive. Authentic white tea is only produced in the Fujian province of China. After picking, the leaves are slightly withered with great care and left to dry the exact process is a closely guarded secret, but raises small white/silver 'hairs' on the leaves and buds.
It is considered to have excellent anti-oxidant and detoxifying benefits, and largely because of this it has recently become very sort after in the West.
Only a few shops and Mail Order outlets offer white tea varieties (see our Mail Order & Shop sections) the price is such, that you might need professional advice.
6. Yellow Tea: Made in a similar process to green tea, but this variety is fermented for a very short period, giving it a golden colour. It has a delicate flavour.
A mild type of tea, made from branches of certain tea plants, is popular in Japan and marketed as bancha twig tea or kukicha.
Most tea is still picked by hand, as only the top few leaves of each branch are ideal at any one time. In the best quality tea, these tips are clearly visible.