‘Post-fermented tea can cost up to hundreds of euros’

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Richard Schukkink is the CEO and founder of the International Tea Academy and travels the world searching for exquisite teas. We asked him to explain the six different types of tea.

“All teas are made from the leaves of the same tree, called the Camellia sinensis. It’s the way that we process those leaves that makes the different teas. Here on the table we have six different classes of tea.”  

1. White tea

“The first tea on the table is a white tea. It’s made from a special varietal from the Camellia sinensis that has big large buds and on those buds you see very small white hairs. This is a very flowery tea.”

2. Yellow tea

“The second tea is a yellow tea. It actually is green tea with an extra step in the process called sweating. We put the leaves in a bag and put the bag on top of an oven. The sweating process gives extra sweetness and that’s what most of us like in tea.”

3. Green tea

“The third tea is called green tea. This is a Gyokuro Japanese green tea. A very important step in the process of making green tea is the heating part. This tea was heated with steam and that is to prevent the tea from turning brown.”

4. Oolong tea

“The fourth tea is called Oolong tea, it’s a half-oxidized tea. It’s made from varietals that give a very flowery or very fruity aroma.”

5. Black tea

“Tea number five is called black tea in the West and red tea in the East. It’s an oxidized tea, and oxidation is a process like taking a bite from an apple; If you leave an apple on the table for a couple of minutes you will see that it turns brown. The same thing goes for tea. if you take the tea leaves and you leave them out for a while they will turn brown and if you dry it you’ll end up with a black leaf.”

6. Post-fermented tea

“Tea number six is called post-fermented tea. The Chinese call it black tea. It also starts with a green leaf and there are two ways of making post-fermented tea. One of the ways is just to pick the leaf and make a green tea out of it, steam the leaf to make it a bit more pliable and then shape it in a cake like this, and leave the cake on the shelf for many years. The fermentation process will make it turn brown. There’s also another way to process post-fermented tea which is called the cooked varietal. You start with the same green tea but you wet it and you keep it under cover for a couple of weeks. That will speed up the process of fermentation and you’ll end up with a black tea like this. This will cost you about 20 cents and this can cost you a couple of hundred of euros, a big difference.”

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