What’s the difference between green and black tea? And who is the “Earl” in “Earl Grey?”

Black tea and green - what's the difference? Whether you start your morning with coffee or tea — it’s part of who you are, but how much do you know about either caffeinated beverage?

If you want to learn the mysterious origin of coffee’s name and more, click here. This is about the drink that comes from leaves, not beans.

Tea” comes from the Chinese d’a, and transformed into tea or ch’a depending on where the drink migrated. All tea comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant and the six basic varieties are white, yellow, green, black, oolong, and pu-erh. The differences are determined by how they are processed.

Green tea, for example is dried, but not wilted, and it doesn’t go through enzymatic oxidation, which the tea industry calls fermentation. Black tea is wilted and also fully oxidized. The process to make oolong tea is somewhere between the two. It is wilted, bruised, and partially oxidized. The taste of green tea is often described as light and grassy, while black tea usually has a stronger, sweeter taste. Oolong tastes more similar to green tea with a sweet aftertaste.

Many Americans may not have heard of oolong. The Earl Grey tea blend, though is far more familiar. Its distinct flavor and aroma comes the addition of an oil that has been extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange.

(Do you know how Starbucks got its name? It has to do with a nasty whale. The amusing story is here.)

The tea is named after the second Earl Grey, who was the British Prime Minister in the 1830s. One disputed, though charming, legend behind the tea says that one of Lord Grey’s men rescued the son of a Chinese mandarin from drowning. In a gesture of gratitude, the man presented Lord Grey with a scented tea.

Are there other food or beverage questions you would like us to explore, like what is “soft” about a soft drink? Let us know.

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