Four Things Color Can Tell You About The Tea In Your Cup

Three teas, each a different color, tell their own story
A Green, Wulong, And Black Tea

Did you ever look at a dark color tea and think, “It has to be a black tea”? Before I entered into my tea nerd life-style, I never focused on the details. The color of your tea can reveal a lot to you, but it can also be tricky. 4 points color can tell us:

The Type Of Tea You Are Drinking

There are six primary groups of tea: Green, White, Yellow, Wulong, Black, and Pu-erh. Lighter colors tend to swing towards your greens, whites, and yellows. However, this can be tricky. A tea style, such as wulongs, can have a range of oxidization. A less oxidized percentage may yield lighter colors and take on the look of a yellow or even green tea. 

The Level of Oxidation That Occurred

A darker tea can suggest longer oxidation. This usually occurs in black teas, darker wulongs, or pu-erh’s. Oxidation is a step in tea processing where leaves will darken during an enzymatic process and develop flavor. Oxidation can occur in green and white teas as well, however it is usually for a very short amount of time or not at all.

Ruby Oolong. A highly oxidized and then baked Oolong.

The Type Of Firing Process That Occurred

Firing is a tea processing technique to halt oxidization. When the tea is in the oxidization phase, it is going through an enzymatic process that can be stopped with high temperatures. This occurs when the producer achieves the outcome they are looking for. There are different types of firing, such as baking, roasting, and steaming. These can all have an effect on color. For example, hojicha is a roasted sencha green tea, so the liquor of the tea can actually be quite dark.

Not All Colors Match The Exact Tea You Think It Is

Taking all of the above points into account, you can summarize there is a lot that goes into producing tea and how it translates to the color of the liquor. A tea that has higher oxidation and is roasted to halt that process usually has a darker color liquor. A green tea that goes through withering and immediately steamed will produce a light liquor color because there was little oxidation.

When has a cup of tea you drank surprised you? Let me know in the comments below!

(Some information for this article, particularly on tea processing was borrowed from “Tea, A User’s Guide”. )
Gebely, T. (2016). Tea: a users guide. Place of publication not identified: Eggs and Toast Media, LLC.

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