If you’re wanting to get into the world of tea but don’t know where to start, we have a guide for you. Today we’re going to be diving into the world of tea, including everything you need to know about it.
We’ll also look at six different teas that you need to taste for yourself.
Tea is a versatile drink that can come in many forms. One of the best things about being a tea drinker is how many types of the drink you can try, with different methods of making and serving them.
Let’s get right into the article so you can make your first cup of tea already!
Fun Facts About Tea
Let’s quickly list some fun facts about tea to get us in the mood for reading all about it.
- All tea is made from leaves from the Camellia Sinensis plant. These types of tea are called ‘true teas’.
- There are six main types of tea – white, black, green, yellow, oolong, and pu-erh. While they all come from the same plant, the way the leaves are processed divides them into these six categories.
- Herbal teas are otherwise known as tisanes and are not considered ‘true teas’, as they are made of different plants and extracts.
- Flavored teas can be made from the Camellia Sinensis plant, but others are made of other things. They might even be made of both.
Tea – What Is It?
Tea is made from the leaves off of Camellia Sinensis, an evergreen shrub. There are two varieties of this plant – Camellia Sinensis var.
Sinensis and Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica. The former is otherwise known as Chinese tea and the latter is Assam or Indian tea. All types of true tea come from the same plant.
We couldn’t believe that with the sheer variety there is when it comes to tea, they all come from one plant. That’s one of the reasons why tea lovers are so passionate about it. Imagine being able to make hundreds of varieties just from one single plant!
The way the plant is grown, as well as its geographical location, is what gives it a distinctively different flavor.
Tea plants are grown in places named ‘tea estates’. There are thousands of these all over the world, producing tea with their own spin on it. The processes used on the tea leaves once they’ve been picked will determine the type of tea they are.
So, the leaves all come from the same plant but go through different drying processes to make them completely different from one another. That never fails to amaze us!
The Six Types Of Tea Explained
Let’s take a look at the six types of ‘true tea’ you can get from the single Camellia Sinensis plant.
White tea is somewhat oxidized, but barely. It offers a sweet flavor that is subtle and therefore pairs with any food. White tea is most commonly processed from the bud of the plant, although it is sometimes made with the first or second leaf, too.
Black teas are fully oxidized which gives them a deep flavor that gets richer with every sip. The tea will be amber-colored when steeped and is most likely the type (see also: Tea – A Complete List Of Tea Names And Types)of tea you picture when you think of the drink.
Black tea is the most popular type of tea in the western world, being used in many popular blends like Chai, Earl Gray, and English Breakfast.
Green tea is made without oxidation. The leaves are roasted, rolled, and dried with the help of steam. Alternative methods to roasting are with an oven or pan frying. These methods are used as they can prevent oxidation, otherwise known as fixing.
Green tea is a fresh beverage that offers a lovely sweet aroma. The flavor is also lighter than that of black tea, and green tea can be served with almost any food. It’s also a great palette cleanser.
You’ll find green tea almost everywhere in eastern countries, although it is still very popular in the west.
Yellow tea isn’t oxidized, much like green tea. Once the leaves have been fixed, the yellow leaves are placed together and wrapped in a damp cloth. They are then left in this enclosure for a period of rest.
The humidity that rises within the damp cloth turns the leaves yellow in color.
Yellow tea is not very well-known in other countries other than China, as this is one of the only places where it is produced. Even here it is scarcely produced, and very rarely imported. Wanting to try yellow tea is an excellent excuse to plan a trip to China!
Oolong tea is half oxidized between 12 and 80 percent. These are some of the most desirable teas since they are made with intricate processing, giving them a unique flavor.
None of these teas taste the same, and that’s why they’re so popular. They taste like a work of art on your tastebuds, and the taste will be entirely dependent on the teamaker.
Finally, this tea is otherwise known as fermented tea and originates from China. The leaves are fermented twice before being compressed into bricks. This makes them easily transportable and is one of the most common ways to exchange tea in ancient China.
Pu-Erh tea is still produced today but is not often seen exported out of the country. It is considered one of the most exotic teas out there, particularly in China.
The goal for any tea lover is to try all of these teas at some point in their lives. A specialty tea shop is an ideal trip out for them, as here you’ll find most of these teas to try. Actually trying the tea in person is much different than reading about it on the internet!
You can also buy specialty teas online, but this can be rather daunting considering the fact that there are more than 700 online tea shops. Some of the rarer teas might even be advertised on sketchy websites, so be careful when ordering consumables online.
Types Of White Tea
White tea is the smoothest out of all of the ‘true teas’ and is often described as delicate. This makes it perfect for any occasion.
White tea is made from the new leaf bud of spring, and this type is called Silver Needle tea. White tea is made with minimal processing without oxidation, making it different from both black and oolong tea. Most white teas will be made with the bud of the plant only.
The emerging leaves and buds seen in springtime contain the most nutrients and volatile oils, making this the sweetest-tasting tea. This is perhaps one of the reasons why it is commonly sought out.
White tea traditionally comes from Fujian, China, with both Silver Needle and White Peony being the most popular type of white tea. However, white tea is now produced in many other areas of the world including South Asia, Sri Lanka, and Rwanda.
Types Of Black Tea
Black tea is one of the most popularly consumed teas in the world and therefore is produced in plenty of tea estates across the globe. The countries that produce the most black tea are India and China.
India’s Black Tea
There are three major regions of India that are responsible for the majority of the country’s tea. These are Assam, Darjeeling, and Nilgiri. Indian tea is often named after the region responsible for growing it.
The region the tea comes from is a massive influence on its taste, and the ability to note the region from this sense is called terroir. This is the idea that the weather, climate, soil, and moon can all impact the final tea.
Indian tea is most commonly used by both varieties of the Camellia Sinensis plant. With Var. Sinensis coming from China and Var. Assamica comes from Assam, India. These are both used to use black tea, and India doesn’t often produce other types of tea.
Some tea estates will produce green, white, and oolong tea, but these are much less common.
China’s Black Tea
China makes black tea completely from oxidized tea leaves. However, this process isn’t sped up as they prefer the taste of the slower process.
Instead of using heat, Chinese tea estates leave the leaves to slowly wither and oxidize on their own. This offers a more fragrant and gentle-tasting tea.
This is what makes Chinese black tea taste so different from black tea made around the world. Chinese black tea is also often unblended whole-leaf tea rather than ground tea leaves.
Southern provinces of China are mostly responsible for black tea, including Fijian, Anhui, and Yunnan.
Chinese black tea tastes much different from Indian black tea, with a mellower taste that doesn’t require the use of milk or sugar. You might otherwise know Chinese black tea as red tea.
Types Of Green Tea
Green tea is actually not a specific type of tea, but an umbrella term for an entire category of tea.
It’s similar to how you might order a white wine without actually reading the wine list. Like there are plenty of white wines you could be drinking, there are also hundreds of green teas.
Despite this, all green tea comes from the same plant as the other ‘true teas’.
Camellia Sinensis and Camellia Assamica are the two main varieties of the tea plant, and these both come with their own subvarieties. In fact, there are over one thousand varieties of the Camellia Sinensis plant alone.
These subvarieties allow there to be so many types of green tea out there. You might not be able to try them all, but you can appreciate the different tastes and fragrances from any that you try.
For example, Chinese green tea is different from Japanese green tea. The latter is steamed as its main form of processing, and you can choose between its classification of either sun-grown or shade-grown.
Types Of Oolong Tea
Oolong tea is one of the most sought-after teas because of its coveted nature. It is made with intricate processing and offers a unique set of flavors with every taste.
Most Oolong teas are made in the Wuyi Mountains of Southern China, and the mountains of Taiwan.
Oolong tea is partially oxidized with a range between 12 to 80 percent. The variety in oxidation can produce different types of oolong tea, often called either green oolong or black oolong.
The large spectrum of oxidation offers plenty of room for variety in the flavor, scent, and notes in this type of tea.
How Tea Is Made
Tea leaves from the Camellia Sinensis plant are taken from the plant almost as soon as they grow. Only the first two leaves and the bud are needed for making tea since these leaves are what make the sweetest tea.
Tea is categorized in many different terms, one of which is the manufacturing process. This details the length of oxidation, the color of the leaves, and the color of the steeped tea.
Since ‘true teas’ all come from the same plant, the way it is made is the most important factor in determining their variety.
Once the leaves have been picked, they’re all left to wither on their own. This reduces the amount of moisture in them.
As soon as the leaves are picked from the plant, they begin to oxidize. This changes the enzymes, which will then alter the taste of the final tea. Applying heat to the leaves will slow down the oxidation process.
Both green and yellow teas are heated (otherwise known as fixed) as soon as they get to the processing stage. This prevents oxidation which is essential for making these types of tea. The heat might be added by steaming, oven, or pan-firing.
Black and oolong teas need to be either partially or completely oxidized. Once the leaves are withered and then left to oxidize on their own.
Since oolong only needs to be partially oxidized, firing will be conducted once the leaves have reached the optimal degree of oxidation.
Let’s take a quick look at the processes the tea leaves have to go through to be made into the different types of teas. Remember that all of the leaves come from the same plant.
- Green Tea – withered, heated, dried.
- Yellow Tea – withered, heated, wrapped, dried.
- White Tea – withered, dried.
- Black Tea – withered, rolled, oxidized, dried.
- Oolong Tea – withered, rolled, oxidized, heated, dried.
- Pu-Erh Tea – withered, heated, rolled, fermented.
Let’s Talk About Herbal Tea – What Is It?
Herbs have long since been used for their medicinal and aromatic properties in both foods and medicines. Herbs have been used throughout history thanks to their therapeutic benefits.
It makes sense that herbs would now be used in teas as a soothing and delicate way of benefitting from them. Enter herbal teas.
Herbal teas are made from all different parts of plants, such as the stem, leaves, bark, berries, seeds, roots, and flowers. These parts are infused with boiling water to extract the goodness into the water, which you will then drink.
This herbal tea is otherwise known as tisane. This type of tea has been made for centuries, using hundreds of herbs and experimenting with blends.
Some of the most popular herbs used within tisanes are chamomile, rooibos, hibiscus, mint, yerba mate, and tulsi. They’re often used for their benefits such as better sleep, improved mood, clearer skin, and more.
Are Herbal Teas The Same As Flavored Teas?
Flavored teas are different from herbal teas as the former will still use the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant, whereas the latter will use herbs.
Dried teas are very susceptible to flavors around them and will absorb the flavor of anything around them. This can be a double-edged sword, as purposefully flavored tea can be nice, while accidentally flavored tea can be ruined.
This is the reason why you should always store your tea in an airtight container. The seal will prevent any unwanted flavors or smells from getting near the tea so the leaves shouldn’t absorb too much of it.
However, some tea estates purposefully flavor their tea to make them stand out even more. These are delicious and can offer another layer of flavor and enjoyment to your chosen tea.
Types Of Flavored Tea
Floral Flavored Tea
Have you ever heard of Jasmine teas? These are one of the most popular flavored teas, but other flowers are often used such as marigolds, roses, lilies, magnolia, and orchids.
Scented teas are made with fresh or dried flowers that are added to the dried tea leaves. This is most often done to green, black, and oolong teas.
The end result is lightly fragranced and very pleasant to drink. If you find the scent to be overpowering while drinking a flavored tea, there’s a good chance that it has been artificially flavored instead.
Some businesses spray the dried leaves with a liquid scent or flavor to speed up the process. This scent can be either artificial or natural, although the former is cheaper to produce.
You can flavor your own tea by sealing the leaves in a container with the desired ingredient for a specific period of time.
Fruit Flavored Tea
Flavoring tea with fruit can make it much more refreshing and enjoyable to drink. Popular fruits to flavor tea with include peaches, apples, berries, and apricots. You can use either dried or fresh fruit to do this.
Using dried fruit or fruit peel to flavor tea gives it the name fruit-infused tea while adding fruit juice to a brewed cup of tea makes a truly flavored tea.
Earl Gray is the most popular fruit-flavored tea, and it is a black tea scented with the oil from bergamot orange peel.
Smoke Flavored Tea
This is a less common type of flavored tea to find, but you might have heard of Lapsang Souchong before. This is a traditional Chinese black tea from Fujian. It is dried with smoke over a fire of pinewood, leaving it with an amazing smoky flavor.
Another example is Genmaicha, a Japanese green tea that has been blended with ruffed rice to leave it with a light nutty, and smoky flavor.
Thanks for reading our guide on all things tea! There are six main types of true teas, all using the leaves of the same plant – Camellia Sinensis. These are green, yellow, white, black, oolong, and pu-erh teas.
Each offers a different flavor thanks to their production process, and they can then be further altered with flavoring. Flavors come from things like smoke, fruit, and flowers.
With so many teas out there to try, you can’t just stick to one. Get out there and find your new favorite artisan tea blend! Enjoy!