While I was looking for a distributor of organic black tea, I realized I had a lot to learn about tea itself. Even though all the tea basically comes from the same plant, camellia sinensis, there is more to tea than I had thought.
First, there are 5 major types of tea – White, Green, Oolong, Pu-erh and Black. The type of tea is determined by various factors – the region, time of harvest and how the leaves are picked and processed are some of the major factors. White tea has the least amounts of caffeine while black tea has the most (but still less coffee). Then there are other classifications, such as Full or Broken leaf, CTC (cut, tear, curl) or Orthodox picking methods, Bagged or Loose and finally, Vintage (all from same estate and season) or Blend (blend of different tea leaves and other ingredients such as spices, flowers, etc). All of these contribute to the taste of the tea that is packaged and sold.
Black CTC tea
Chai is made from black tea and I typically like Chai made from black Assam tea (Assam is a region in north-east India). And that was pretty much all I could tell any distributor. I was referred to contact Assam Tea Company , distributor of a family owned tea garden in Assam. Saunam, the president of Assam Tea, talked about his 2 tea estates in Assam (one of them is organic) and explained why it was difficult to find economical organic black Assam tea. The organic certification process is fairly expensive and to get large tea farms certified is pretty costly. Only small farms that serve a niche market undergo the certification process. He went on to assure me that since he sells his tea in Europe, he doesn’t use harmful chemicals in order to comply with the European regulations (Europe has strict regulations on what food is sold, organic or not).
I am getting samples of 4 different kinds of black tea from one of Saunam’s estates. It would be up to me to either use the blends he has created or create my own blend from them. I can’t say I have a very refined tea palette, but am excited to start experimenting. I've been warned that it, sometimes, take years to find that perfect blend for that perfect cup of tea. If I create something I like, you can be sure, I will be out sampling it on the streets, looking for feedback. Stay tuned.