An Introduction to Tea
Beyond our daily ritual, we believe tea is an ephemeral art form relished by all the senses. Discover more about teas of unmatched quality.
Under the guidance of our long-time tea buyer Doug Palas, Kilogram Tea seeks to source fresh, compelling teas that reflect pristine conditions of the land and our careful methodology. Because tea is such an incredibly nuanced beverage, we apply meticulous attention to detail when sourcing, processing and serving tea. However, the precursor to fully appreciating tea lies in understanding the tea plant.
Though all teas are processed differently to attain varying levels of oxidization, we source white, green, oolong and black teas from two primary varieties of the Camellia sinensis shrub. Only varietals of this plant can yield complex aromas, pristine leaf appearance, caffeine content, and tastes unrivaled by anything else available.
Camellia sinensis var. assamica
First cultivated in the mecca of artisan tea, Central Asia is home to the most common varietal, the assamica (otherwise known as Assam tea or Indian tea), which is responsible for the majority of the world’s tea production. This varietal is often grown in 3 foot tall bushes to aid in harvest, though they can reach heights up to 50 feet in the wild. Because they can thrive in warm, tropical climates, today’s assamica shrubs grow in India, Western China, Africa, Vietnam, Thailand, Turkey, Sri Lanka, and South America.
An extremely affordable and productive plant, assamica is mostly used for black tea when processed with the CTC (Cut Tear Curl) method. At low elevations, assamica plants can be harvested every 10 days year round. However, high-quality Kilogram teas are grown at higher altitudes, as the plants grow more slowly and acquire more flavor. Typically, assamica plants contain more caffeine and polyphenols than other tea varietals. If processed incorrectly or picked too early, Assamica teas can be very bitter and astringent.
Camellia sinensis var. sinensis
The second most common varieta of tea is Camellia sinensis var. Sinensis (Chinese tea), which grows throughout Central and Eastern China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. In the wild, sinensis plants can grow to be 30 feet tall, though they grow at a more moderate pace at higher altitudes. The slow growth cycle means that they are harvested only 4 or 5 times a year, unlike their extremely productive assamica counterparts. Some sinensis plants can handle frost, though warmer weather is more favorable for these plants. The highest quality sinensis plants can absorb massive amounts of nitrogen from the soil and produce teas with substantial amounts of amino acids. These teas are unmatched in body and mouthfeel.