With April Fool’s Day just behind us, I started thinking about common tea confusions I have seen, and about some teas that have fooled me before.Phoenix Mountain Oolong — This oolong tea, grown in the Guangdong province of China, consists of long dark leaves—a good reminder of why these teas are called “black dragon.” This dark appearance is due to the roasting that the leaves undergo in the processing of the tea (unroasted oolongs tend to be greener in appearance than roasted oolongs). Phoenix Mountain was the first roasted oolong that I tried, but at the time I was unaware that it had been roasted. Unprepared for the earthy, woody taste, I was completely thrown because for a few seconds I was convinced I was drinking hojicha, a Japanese roasted green tea. I have since developed my ability to distinguish between different roasted teas (and even different roasted oolongs!), but that first experience of confusion is one I’ll always remember.
Rooibos and herbals — Those who know their tea will know that herbal and rooibos “teas” are, in fact, not teas; they do not contain the tea leaf, Camellia Sinensis. But even well versed tea drinkers could be forgiven for thinking otherwise since they are often marketed as such, with rooibos commonly referred to as “red tea” at tea houses, or on tea menus and herbal infusions listed as teas. But despite their lack of real tea status, rooibos and herbal infusions can be absolutely delicious.
Matcha — This powdered green tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony may fool you into thinking it is not a tea because it doesn’t look like one. Where, you might ask, are the tea leaves? The apparent lack of leaves is due to the processing of the tea where the stems and veins of the green tea leaves are completely removed, leaving nothing but pure leaf which is then ground into a fine green powder. It may look a little like one of those horrible instant ice tea powders, but in fact, it is one of the most sought after Japanese teas available!
Russian Caravan Tea — Most people think of this delicious, smoky tea as a black tea—I know I certainly treat it as such, often drinking it in the morning with milk—but is this entirely accurate? Each brand of Russian Caravan seems to differ slightly in its make-up, but the traditional composition of this popular tea consists of lapsang souchong (which is responsible for the signature smoky taste), another black tea such as assam or keemun, and oolong. So this seemingly black tea blend actually includes oolong—what a welcome surprise! However, many versions of Russian Caravan seem to omit the oolong (or at least they do not list it in the tea description), so maybe that Russian Caravan you’ve been enjoying is a pure black tea blend after all…
Perhaps you have experienced some of these muddles, or have had your own tea confusions. But if that is the case, hopefully being fooled by a tea has not lessened your ability to enjoy it!
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