The Different Types of Tea
Check out online stores and tea shops, and you will find a wide variety of tea options. In fact, there are more than a thousand choices to pick from, and they will all offer different tastes and benefits.
How can this be, when all tea (technically speaking), comes from the Camelia Sinensis plant? The differences are mainly due to where the particular tea comes from. The type of soil, the elevation, and other environmental factors all make the differences.
Now when you consider the fact that various tea leaves can be blended, and you end up with thousands of different varieties. Then you also have herbal tea, which doesn’t come from the Camelia Sinensis plant at all.
It also matters how the leaves are prepared after harvesting. The degrees of processing and the level of oxidation also matters. After the tea leaves are withered and rolled, they go through natural chemical reactions that lead to various colors and tastes.
Here’s a closer look at some of the more popular types of tea:
Usually, the tea leaves are fine-grained, and they’re fully oxidized leading to the black color. It’s then fired or dried, giving you a strong and full-bodied flavor. You may even get a hint of malt in the taste.
This is one of the most popular types of tea. If you’ve ever tried a tea bag, you’ll most likely find black tea inside. Popular tea varieties that belong to the black tea category include:
- Earl Grey tea
- English Breakfast tea
- Assam tea
- Darjeeling tea
Don’t be confused when it’s sometimes called “red tea”, especially in countries like China. The East has its own way of categorizing tea, and it’s somewhat different from the West. Black tea, as we call it, does turn somewhat orange when you add milk to it.
The leaves of white tea only come from China, or more specifically from the Fujian province. In stark contrast to black tea, white tea undergoes the least amount of processing. Sometimes it’s simply air dried.
This is why its taste and aroma are all very delicate. The taste is quite fruity and floral. This tea also contains very little caffeine, so it’s a great alternative for those who become jittery when drinking caffeinated beverages.
Popular white tea options include:
- White Peony (Bai Mudan)
- Silver Needle (Baihao Yinzhen)
Green tea is extremely popular as well, and some say it’s more popular than even black tea. It doesn’t undergo oxidation, and it contains less caffeine than black tea.
For green tea, the leaves are picked and then dried. Then they’re treated with heat to prevent oxidation.
Japanese growers of green tea usually use steam to treat the tea, and this leads to a bright green color. In China, they pan-fire the tea leaves which is the green color of the leaves are somewhat duller.
This is the tea you’ll want to try if you’re mainly into the health benefits of tea. Its flavor does have its own set of fans who like the bright and earthy taste, with a greasy hint. Popular options include:
- Dragonwell (Longjing) green tea
- Gunpowder green tea
This is also sometimes called wolong tea. The leaves are picked later in the season compared to green tea, and the leaves are partially oxidized.
Once the leaves are taken from the tea plant, they’re shaken and tossed in baskets. This results in bruising that affects the oxidation process. Then the leaves are heat-treated to stop the oxidation.
The many types of oolong tea offer a wide range of tastes, as the taste will depend on the oxidation level and where the tea leaves come from. Some oolong tea types may be light and fragrant. Others may be dark and full-bodied.
Popular oolong tea options include:
- Phoenix tea (Dan Cong)
- Iron Goddess of Mercy (Ti Kuan Yin)
Now we come to a type of tea that, strictly speaking, isn’t really “tea” at all. That’s because the leaves don’t come from the Camelia Sinensis plant. Instead, herbal tea is an infusion that uses dried herbs, flowers, and fruits.
You can try tea using:
- Other dried fruits
Since the tea comes from fruits, herbs, and flowers, this tea doesn’t usually contain any caffeine at all. This makes it an ideal drink in the evening, when you don’t want caffeine to mess with your sleep. The taste can vary greatly, though it is usually delicate and sweet.
This is also known as red tea, but it’s actually a type of herbal tea. The leaves come from the Aspalathus linearis shrub, which usually grows in western South Africa.
The traditional preparation involves fermenting the leaves, which is why the leaves are reddish brown in color. But there’s also a green rooibos tea variant, which isn’t fermented.
Now that you have a better idea of the various types of tea available, why not try each one to find your favorite tea?