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Tea Collection

Martha Stewart Living, March 1995

The second most popular beverage in the world after water, tea has been cultivated for more than 4,000 years. Tea comes from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, a tropical evergreen plant native to China, and falls into four distinct categories, according to how the leaves are processed: black, green, oolong, and the very rare white. The pale and fuzzy buds of the plant are called "tips"; a high proportion of tips to leaves indicates high-quality tea. Silver tips are younger and impart a fresh taste, while golden tips are more mature, with a richer flavor.

Like wine, the quality of tea varies greatly depending on where and how it is grown, selected, and produced. This tea is from Harney and Sons, a small family-run business that searches worldwide to find the finest teas with the purest flavors. Our collection includes a sampling of five black and two green teas, and one herbal infusion, verveine. These loose-leaf teas are composed of carefully selected, hand-picked whole leaves, which have a more complex flavor than tea that is picked, shredded, and bagged by machine.

Tea Glossary
Black Tea
To make black tea, the leaves are oxidized, or exposed to the air for a precise length of time, then heated and dried. This fermenting process changes their color from green to copper or mahogany, and intensifies their complex flavors.

Towkok Garden Assam
This very special tea consists of leaf buds from India's Assam region, famous for its strong teas. Punctuated with golden tips, this pretty tea has a smooth, deeply aromatic flavor.

Earl Grey Supreme
A blend of teas from China and India, with Ceylon silver tips. Aged in barrels with oil of bergamot, a type of citrus, the tea takes on a wonderful aroma and taste. It is named for the early-nineteenth-century British Prime Minister, Charles Grey, who reportedly obtained the recipe from a Chinese friend.

Russian Country
A mix of Lapsang Souchong, Formosa Oolong, Ceylon, Assam, and Keemun teas. It is smooth, with a rich, smoky scent and flavor.

Smoky Lapsang Souchong
An ancient tea from China's Fujian province. Large leaves are dried over smoky pine fires, imbuing the tea with a distinctive flavor.

Panyang Congou
A traditional Chinese tea produced for more than 200 years. A perfect breakfast tea, it has a subtle peppery flavor.

Green Tea
Favored in Japan and China, green teas aren't oxidized and fermented like black teas, but steamed and dried to retain a raw, grassy flavor. Green tea is abundant with natural antioxidants; two cups have nearly the same amount of vitamin C as a glass of orange juice. And green tea has about one-third less caffeine than black tea.

Sencha
Made from flat leaves that have been steamed, this traditional green tea has a soft, sweet flavor and a light-yellow color when brewed. This beverage is served at any time of day in Japan.

Genmaicha
In this Japanese tea, kernels of rice are added to the leaves. As the tea is dried, some of the kernels burst open like popcorn, giving the tea a toasted flavor.

Herbal Tea
Herbal and fruit teas are often called "infusions," or "tisanes," so as not to confuse them with tea from the leaves of Camellia sinensis.