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Tea Classification - Tea belongs to the camellia family, a perennial plant. Its academic name is Camellia Sinensis, a shrub native to the mountainous southwest region of China. Tea does not pollinate itself.
It spread to the east and south by human cultivation rather than through natural means. They were cultivated differently depending on the climate, geographical conditions, and cultivation methods used. Teas cultivated in eastern regions are short bushes with small leaves, whereas those grown in southern regions are tall trees with large leaves. Layering and cutting are the normal modes of cultivation. Layering is more efficient and is the most common method used today. Teas are usually categorized into two types: Chinese (Variety Sinensis) and Assam (Variety Assamica). All teas come from tea leaves that are picked and processed from the same type of tree. The specific method of processing differentiates the various types of teas into green, black, and oolong tea.

Tea Classification - By Type

Tea can be classified by form and shape into two categories: Loose tea and Brick tea. Loose teas are categorized by production methods which creates differences in the colors of leaves. These colors offer a further classification by type.

Tea Classification: by Processing Method
Tea processing is divided into three categories: non-fermented, semi-fermented and fully fermented. Japanese green tea processing is non-fermented. After going through the aracha (crude tea) process with moisture extracted, the rest of the solid portion is ready for transformation into final shiagecha (refined) tea products.
The plants are cut to about 30 cm (1 foot) from the ground at harvest time and begin another major growth cycle the following spring. The harvested rooibos is processed two different ways, producing two types of tea. The green leaves and stems are either bruised and fermented or immediately dried to prevent oxidation. The traditional fermented tea is processed today in much the same way as the indigenous people processed it hundreds of years ago, including the sun-drying step, but the tools are more sophisticated now.

The fermented type is called red tea because fermentation turns the leaves and the resulting tea a rich orange/red color; this distinctive color led to the Afrikaans name rooibos, which means "red bush." The unfermented type, often called green rooibos, contains higher levels of polyphenol antioxidants because fermented rooibos loses some antioxidants during the fermentation process. The unfermented type was developed to maximize antioxidant levels in response to recent interest in the health benefits associated with the antioxidants found in C. sinensis teas. Unfermented rooibos tea is a tan/yellow color rather than the rich reddish color of fermented rooibos.

Both types of rooibos tea are available plain or flavored, loose or in tea bags, organic or conventionally grown. Rooibos is graded according to color, flavor, and cut length, with the highest grade labeled "supergrade." The tea has a smooth, non-bitter flavor that is pleasant hot or chilled. The unfermented variety has a very mild "green" taste reminiscent of green tea but without the astringency; the fermented type is quite different, with a stronger sweet and fruity taste. The mild flavor of rooibos has made it popular in multi-ingredient herbal tea blends.

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