From Green Tea to Earl Grey, from Breakfast Tea to Chamomile, teas are full of antioxidants and all sorts of other healthy goodies. However, during our research to source our range of leaf and pyramid teas, we found a lot of similarities to coffee, in its growth, processing and grading.This month we explore everything from tea varieties, grading and the added health benefits.
Did you know tea has been around considerably longer than coffee, in fact people were using ceramic teapots 11,000 ago in Asia and the Middle East. However, despite producing a vastly different drink at the end, the story of tea is as complex as its darker, stronger friend.
Uncultivated the evergreen tea shrub resembles a medium sized gangly tree, although most people envision terraces of neatly pruned bushes. First discovered in China, it was spread through Asia by Buddhist monks who drank it for medicinal and spiritual purposes. Like coffee, there are two main varieties cultivated for drinking; Camellia sinensis var. Assamica and Camellia sinensis var. Sinensis, both of which produce fruit and small white flowers. Camellia sinensis prefer cooler higher terrains, where the changing seasons produce small, lush, sweet leaves perfect for green, white and oolong teas. Assamica thrive in hotter, tropical climates where the climate promotes repeated harvests throughout the year. These robust plants are perfect for creating black teas as well as the more processed pu’erh, oolong or smoked teas.
Once harvested the tea leaves are processed in different ways to produce different ‘varieties’ of tea.
The least processed tea variety; the very top leaves of the first harvest of the year are hand picked and gently dried to produce delicate, fragrant teas with low caffeine, such as Silver Needle.
Historically produced in China or Japan green tea goes through a further drying stage which halts oxidation and preserves its green colour. Low it caffeine and with high antioxidants, green tea has always been hailed as the healthy tea.
Allowed to oxidise and often rolled, oolong teas share characteristics of both green and black tea. More complex than green tea but not as strong as black, oolong teas have a distinctive twisted appearance that is greeny blue in colour.
The most common variety of tea, making up 90% of the tea consumed in the western world, black teas are fully oxidised so are dark brown, almost black, in colour and higher in caffeine. Black teas have a great depth of flavour and colour.
Considered the whiskey of teas, pu’erh is aged and matured over time to produce a complex tea with flavours and aromas of malt, chocolate and coffee. Pu’erh is packed in cakes or bricks which can be crumbled into each cup.
Teas are graded, not based so much on quality, but the leaf size. Tea grades can be helpful in the market with higher grades being an indicator of quality, although this isn’t always the case. The older producing countries, such as China and Japan, use numbers like coffee but British run plantations in India, Africa and Sri Lanka use a confusing system of letters known as the British system. These fall into three overarching categories of whole leaf, broken leaf and CTC (crush, tear, curl). Once processed tea leaves are described as ‘orthodox’ referring to the whole leaf or the particles of the whole leaf. Tea can also be cut and rolled, which is helpful if you want to produce strong, malty black teas. Once cut the tea is referred to as CTC.
The following abbreviations are commonly used along side to grade to denote quality.
T – Tippy: Leaves picked from the very tips of the plant, indicates high quality
GF – Golden Flowery: Indicates a golden hue on the leaves only found on young shoots from the first flushes of the season.
F – Finest: The highest level of the grade.
Higher graded teas tend to make light fragrant teas whereas lower graded teas, that may be considered low-quality, can actually make the more desired strong, dark teas favoured by European countries.
Tea Grades (from highest)
OP – Orange Pekoe: full, whole leaves
FBOP – Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe: broken whole leaves consisting of large particles and tips
BOP1 – Broken Orange Pekoe 1: broken whole leaves of medium particle size, often twisted in appearance
Pekoe – Broken, curled leaf of medium particle.
BOP – Broken Orange Pekoe: small leaf particles
BOPF – Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings: smaller particles still than BOP
Dust 1 – fine particles, almost dust-like in appearance.
CTC Tea Grades (from highest)
BP1 – Broken Pekoe: the largest CTC particles, great flavour
PF1 – Pekoe Fanning: darker, grainy particles, slightly smaller than BP1
PD – Pekoe Dust: fine particles with body
D1 – Dust: very small particles, the most strength
D – Dust: very small particles made from broken leaves
BMF – Broken Mixed Fannings: high content of fibre, little tea leaf present.
Health Benefits of Tea
Did you know tea is the most consumed beverage in the world after water. It has been drunk in the UK for over 350 years and in Asia for more than 4000 years. However, today us Brits consume around 165 million cups of tea per day – now thats a lot of tea! But with the health benefits associated with drinking tea it seems we should be bathing in it.
1. Tea can boost exercise endurance.
Research has found that antioxidants in green tea extract increase the body’s ability to burn fat as fuel, which accounts for improved muscle endurance.
2. It can help those with Type II diabetes.
A Japanese study that found that people who drank six or more cups of green tea a day were thirty-three percent less likely to develop type II diabetes than were people who drank less than a cup of green tea a week. However, it has also been found that compounds in green tea may help people who already have diabetes, by allowing them to process more efficiently.
3. Tea strengthens your bones.
Green tea has been found to increase bone mineral density and strength. Meaning that osteoporosis and all of the fractures, pain and other problems that come with it are much less likely.
4. Regularly drinking tea can help with weight loss.
Scientists have discovered that tea contains high levels of compounds that help to reduce the amount of fat absorbed by the gut and can cut cholesterol. However proteins found in cows’ milk neutralise this fat fighting ability. Therefore, if you want to see the full effects of teas weight busting power we recommend opting for a green tea.
5. Drinking tea could help prevent cancer.
It has been found that the antioxidants in tea can protect against a variety of cancers, including breast, skin, lung, ovarian, liver and more. However, it’s not a miracle drink and there are many other factors that contribute to cancer.
6. It might reduce your risk of heart attack.
It has been suggested that those of us who drink three or more cups of tea per day, are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease that those who consume less than one a day. This is sure to the antioxidants found in tea, as just two cups of tea will provide as many antioxidants as eating five portions of vegetables.
7. It could reduce your risk of Parkinson’s.
When considered with other factors such as smoking, physical activity, age and body mass index, studies have found that regular tea drinking was associated with a lowered risk of Parkinson’s disease in both men and women.
8. Tea makes us happy!
Similar to the effects of meditation, tea also stimulates alpha brainwaves naturally associated with deep states of relaxation and enhanced mental clarity, making us calm, relaxed and happy.
From classic favourites to emerging tea trends, Bristol Twenty has researched tea markets across the world and created unique blends for every tea lover to enjoy!
Bristol Twenty Peppermint Tea Bags
Peppermint tea is often referred to at the ‘stomach healer’ as it is known to sooth many stomach problems from aches and pains, to heartburn and indigestion. These cool and refreshing Bristol Twenty peppermint tea bags, made with fresh leaves, are no exception. So next time you’re suffering in silence, make yourself a soothing Bristol Twenty peppermint brew.
Rory’s Tasting Notes:
Smooth and buttery while still possessing subtle, minty qualities and characteristics.
Steep for 3-5 minutes, 98°C
Bristol Twenty Chai Tea Bags
The ginger in Chai tea is well known for its ability to reduce nausea and has been commonly used to treat seasickness or nausea during pregnancy. Made with finest Assam F.O.P. tea blended with premium whole spices, these Bristol Twenty Indian Spiced Chai Tea Bags are vibrant, aromatic and refreshing. Try them black, perhaps sweetened with a little honey, or for real indulgence infuse a bag in a small amount of hot water for 5 minutes and serve with hot milk for the ultimate chai lattè.
Rory’s Tasting Notes:
Bold in flavor and rich in heritage. Ginger, cinnamon, black peppercorn, cloves, and nutmeg harmoniously balance with sweet notes of pineapple, papaya, and star anise.
Steep for 3 minutes, 98°C
Explore our full specialty tea range.
These are just two of our fabulous specialty teas. Our full range, including further exciting flavours and classics, can be found in our online shop. All teas listed are available as packs of 25 tea bags or 100 tea bags.
If you have any questions, queries or comments about our speciality teas range, we love to chat! Please call us on 0843 557 4669 or if email is more your thing, we can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org