The leaves have not yet opened fully, and are referred to as, buds. They have a slight velvety “down-like” appearance, silver in colour, and these are tiny hairs. These leaves are allowed to dry in the sun or at very low temperatures.
No processing is done; therefore, no oxidation occurs. The leaves remain whole, intact, and green to silver in colour. The infusion (the liquid) after steeping is very light in colour, to almost no colour, with a hint of natural sweetness, producing a delicate and delightful flavor.
Similar to green tea visually, but the taste is less “grassy” and mellower than green tea; the leaves are more aromatic, as well.
A whisk is needed to properly dissolve the powder. The infusion is dark green froth on the surface. Matcha green tea powder has many grades, too. The top grade is referred to as “ceremonial matcha,” and it is very expensive.
It is becoming very popular to bake with matcha and add it to muffins, cakes, ice cream and just about anything. Entire shops are opening that just serve matcha in myriad ways.
Withered tea leaves are rolled lightly to bruise and crush the cell walls inside the leaf. The longer the bruised leaves are exposed to the air, the browner the leaf turns. A true tea master is in control of this process and has the timing down to an art as well as a science.
Oolong tea leaves can be steeped 3 to 5 times. Not all of those tightly rolled leaves are going to open in the first or second steeping. Some of the greener versions may have a slight teal color to them, hence occasionally referred to as, Blue Tea.
Bruising the leaf releases the enzymes and essential oils that alter and enhance the flavor of the tea. Slicing an apple damages and opens the cells of the apple which when exposed to the air, turn brown; it is the same for tea leaves.
It is an aged tea, and like an aged wine develops different characteristics as it ages. The reason we thoroughly dry tea leaves is to prevent them from molding and spoiling.
Pu-erh Tea, however, retains enough moisture to create controlled microbial activity as it ages. It is a fermented tea with probiotic benefits. It is pressed into solid cakes and sold as hard round discs wrapped in paper. Also referred to as “dark tea.” Pieces are broken off the cake, rinsed, then infused many times.