Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at news-sentinel.com.
Q. Karen, what is the difference between the different types of tea and do they require different brewing times?
A. Drinking tea has a very long history. In fact, legend suggests the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung discovered the wild tea plant Camellia sinensis almost 4,000 years ago.
Centuries later, in 1678, tea was introduced in England when the East India Company began to import tea commercially. The ceremony of afternoon tea in England is credited to Anna, Seventh Duchess of Bedford, to remedy her “sinking spells.” In those days dinner was served much later than today and afternoon tea helped tide people over until their evening meal.
There are several types of tea, and each has distinctive differences based on how it is processed.
•Black tea is fermented and would include Assam, Darjeeling, Earl Grey, English Breakfast and Keemun, to name a few.
•Oolong tea is semi-fermented and includes Formosa Oolong and Black Dragon.
•Green tea is not fermented and includes Gunpowder, Hyson and Sencha.
•White tea is rare and the least processed between green and oolong. Silvery Tip Pekoe and Pai Mu Tan are white teas. White tea is considered the “veal” of tea.
•Flavored teas are produced by blending black tea with natural ingredients such as mint leaves.
•Tisanes are teas made with leaves coming from plants other than Camellia sinensis
Steeping time for tea depends on the size of the leaf. Any black tea should steep at least three minutes; very few require more than six. Formosa oolong calls for seven minutes and most green teas about one minute. White tea may take five to eight minutes, requiring twice as much tea and water that is around 170 to 185 degrees instead of a rolling boil. To make stronger tea, add more to the pot. Brewing longer than the suggested time will make your tea bitter.
Next to water, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world.