As many tea drinkers in the West, my entry point into the world of Camellia sinensis was a tea bag. I began my tea drinking routine by vigorously bouncing the tea bag up and down in my mug of hot microwaved water, splish splashing the tea over whatever surface it sat. Once the color was dark enough to my liking, I would slowly pour in the cream and watch it billow up and cloud the dark liquor like a volcano erupting. Once the dramatic plumes blended into that milky tea color - I would deliver heaping spoonfuls of sugar into the mix and spin the liquid vigorously until I had a vortex, and presumably all the sugar had dissolved. The result - a sweet and creamy beverage that was delicious… and only sort of, faintly, tasted like tea.
As fond as I am of those childhood tea-making escapades, I have been delighted to expand my taste buds over the years In high school I cut down on the sugar, and in college I ventured beyond the Lipton tea bags to the Asian grocery store on campus buying whatever teas had no English on the packaging.
I found myself straying away from black teas favoring the oolongs, greens and whites as they were more exotic than what I had been raised on. It was not until much later, while working for Young Mountain Tea, that I experienced the depth and interest in the world of black teas.
The Tea Association of the USA estimates that Americans drank over 84 billion servings of tea in 2018. Overwhelmingly, most of the tea consumed was black tea, about 84%. Green tea made up about 15% of those cups, and the last 1 percent was white and oolong tea. This is quite the opposite from Japan where over 70% of the population drinks green tea daily.Black teas come from the same plants as white, green and oolong teas. The major difference being that black teas go through a longer oxidation process (commonly mis-referenced as fermentation). The oxidation process happens after the leaves are rolled and the cell wall is broken. The oxidation process can last anywhere from minutes to several hours and can only be stopped when the tea is heated and dried. Adjusting the time on the oxidizing process can create the different flavor profiles tea makers are looking for.
India was colonized largely in order to maximize tea production. The British botanist Robert Fortune collected the secrets of tea making while living 3 years undercover in Chinese territory. Tea was so valuable in England that at one point tea was worth 10% of the British crown.
Today India is the second largest producer of tea after China and mostly exports black teas. And while historically most of India’s teas have ended up in conventional tea bags that have become the generic taste of “English Breakfast” across the market, smaller batch teas are now emerging from India’s landscape.
Young Mountain Tea is excited to showcase these small producers and give tea drinkers the opportunity to enjoy the plethora of tea experiences from South Asia.