All tea is made from the processed leaves and buds of the evergreen ‘Camellia sinensis’ bush. There are a huge variety of teas, however, generally classified by the size of the leaves and the way in which they’re treated. The flavour will vary according to the conditions in which the tea is grown, the soil and climate, the way the leaves are harvested and the manner in which they’re processed after picking.
The tea most widely drunk in the UK is ‘black’ tea. Its characteristic colour and powerful flavour come from the fermentation or oxidation process by which it’s produced. The majority of black tea goes into blends such as English breakfast tea; commercial blends can contain up to 30 different teas. A few varieties are famous in their own right, such as Assam and Darjeeling. Flavoured teas - black tea flavoured with ingredients such as jasmine, chrysanthemum, dried fruit or fruit oils – are also available.
Tea is grown in India, Sri Lanka, East Africa and China. The teas produced by each country have unique properties: Kenya, for example, produces excellent, bold-flavoured black tea that is much used in blends, while well-flavoured, bright and strongly coloured Malawi tea is popular for blending.
Tea can be used in cooking to soak dried fruit, make syrups for poaching fruit or to smoke fish and poultry.