I have to admit that my knowledge about tea before Renegade-time mostly consisted of the fact that there is hot water involved and something soaked in it. Now that I have made some research I must admit that the tea world is much more exciting (and a lot more complicated) than it seems.
Do we grow black or green tea?
The first surprise for me was that in principle, it does not matter which kind of tea is produced- you grow the same thing. I used to imagine that the distinction between black and green tea is about the same as with wine. In the case of red wine, you grow red grapes, for white wine, you need white grapes. Actually, there is only one tea plant (camellia sinesis in Latin). It also appears that, for example, the beloved peppermint infusion is technically not even a tea. Tea leaves can be turned into white, green or black tea (in Asia known as red tea), as well as more exotic varieties such as matcha, oolong, pu erh and hei cha. In order to start with the basics, I'll give a little explanation on how white, green and black tea are generally produced.
White tea has undergone the smallest possible processing and due to that, it has a very soft and subtle taste. In most cases, only the most advanced tea-lovers can truly appreciate those delicate notes, but hopefully, we'll all get to that level once :). In the case of white tea, the natural characteristics of tea leaves play the most important role. Picking starts in early spring and only the youngest buds and leaves of the tea plant are chosen. If the selection of leaves is difficult and the harvesting time is limited, then the process itself is fairly easy - after picking, the tea leaves should only be dried and in some cases rolled.
Pan-frying process for making pu-erh tea in Yunnan.
Green tea is also prepared with only a few steps and in theory, it's possible to turn tea leaves that are picked in the morning into a cup of tea in the afternoon. In practice, of course, this rarely happens, as the tea often goes through a number of middlemen, but this is another story. In the beginning the soon-to-be, green tea goes through a heating process which is done either by hot steam or "frying". Then, depending on the producer, the leaves are either rolled or crushed to bring out the taste and production finished by drying.
Black tea (known as red tea in China) needs a bit more care in the production process. After harvesting, the leaves are withered- left to stand for a few hours or even for the day. Then depending on the producer rolled or crushed, to bring out maximum taste and then left to oxidize. If you didn't pay attention in chemistry class like me, then oxidation is everything that happens to the tea leaf if you leave it to a warm and humid place. During this process tea gets its characteristic black colour. The entire process ends with frying to stop all chemical processes and to give the finishing touches to the tea.
Tea from Renegade Tea Estate
From all this talk you might have a very justified fear that the first teas from Renegade Tea Estate will be put together by a person who just a few months ago had seen a tea plant for the first time with her own eyes and thought that black tea is only made from black teaplants. Luckily, I can say that there are Renegades who have been studying the subject for a longer time.