5+ Types of Tea
Tea is healthy and delicious. Millions of people consume it every day! Learn all about tea and make it part of your life. Tea is more exciting than you think!
Tea is an ancient beverage. An herbal infusion with many attributed health benefits. It is also a thirst-quenching and relaxing drink. However, not all tea is created equal.
These are the most common types of tea and why they’re different. There’s a type of tea for every palate and occasion!
What Is Tea?
Tea might just be one of the oldest prepared beverages in the world; it goes back to at least 2737 BC. Legend says one of the first Chinese rulers discovered tea accidentally when a few tea leaves fell into his pot of warm water. Of course, chances are people knew about and consumed tea thousands of years before that.
When we talk about tea, we’re not talking about any herbal or floral infusion, but the one made exclusively with the leaves of the tea shrub family. The leaves are unique for having noticeable caffeine contents along with a distinctive herbal scent.
What Are The Different Types of Tea and How To Use Them?
All tea is made with the same leaves from the Camellia sinensis evergreen shrub (and related varieties). Still, people found ways of transforming such leaves into new types of tea, mainly for preservation purposes. The result was a massive tea variety, many only found in small parts of India and China.
Of course, the most popular types of tea are now enjoyed worldwide, which are the ones we’re discussing below: black tea, green tea, white tea, oolong tea and pu-erh tea.
5+ Types of Tea
The difference between the types of tea below is all about the types of leaves picked, how they are preserved, and how they are aged or matured.
The result is a wide array of teas with incredibly different organoleptic properties — they taste different. And although you’ll surely find one type of tea more enjoyable than others, all tea is a healthy and tasty addition to your morning or dinner routines.
Before we get started, know that whole-leaf tea is always better than processed (torn) tea, with rare exceptions (such as matcha). When it comes to tea, quality is paramount, so always source yours from a reputable source.
1. Black Tea
Black tea is, for many, the king of teas, as it’s undoubtedly the most popular. This tea variety is made with leaves from the tea shrub, picked and allowed to oxidize, encouraging the leaves to brown. Oxidation, also called fermentation when it comes to tea, adds layers of flavor and aroma to the tea, which is also often very concentrated.
Expect earthy, malty and wood aromas in black tea. This variety is sometimes blended with other types of tea or ingredients with exciting results (like bitter orange peels to make Earl Gray tea.) The finest black tea comes from Sri Lanka and India, although China also has its own set of dark teas.
2. Green Tea
Green tea is one of the most popular types of tea, and for good reason. This herbal infusion is leafy and refreshing but has relatively high amounts of caffeine and antioxidants.
To make green tea, producers pick the most tender tea leaves and process them immediately to preserve their green color. In China, the leaves are often pan-fried. In Japan, they’re steamed and ground into a fine powder known as matcha.
Green tea is the opposite of black tea — it doesn’t undergo oxidation or fermentation. Instead, you get the purest tea flavors, making green tea the most honest way of experiencing the leaves’ authentic taste.
3. White Tea
White tea is a delicate tea, generally associated with low caffeine levels and floral notes. The tea is made with the buds of tea shrubs and not whole leaves, meaning each bud is hand-harvested and carefully procured. The leaves are dried without encouraging oxidation or fermentation.
White tea is very subtle and mild, so it’s best made with hot but not boiling water. The Chinese delicacy is often served on special occasions, especially the rarest varieties, such as the expensive Silver Needle Tea. Interestingly, tea labeled as “monkey tea” is the highest quality white tea — monkeys once picked the leaves for this one!
4. Oolong Tea
Oolong tea leaves are also partially oxidized, so the resulting tea is never as “strong” as black tea, but it is undoubtedly more complex than green tea.
The thing with oolong tea is that the term means something different for every producer. Some oolongs are more oxidized, while others are fresher. Think of oolong tea as a specialty between black and green teas, and it can be closer to one or the other. Expect anything, from herbal to floral and earthy aromas, and a palate that can be mild or full-bodied. No oolong tea is created equal.
5. Pu-erh Tea
Pu-erh, like several other types of tea on this list, is a Chinese specialty and an odd one at that. This tea comes from Yunnan, and it’s made by pressing tea leaves into cakes, which are tightly packed and aged, sometimes for decades, to gain complexity and a distinctive (and very attractive) funk.
Producers can fast-track pu-erh production by increasing the humidity in their storage rooms, where the tea gets its “ripe” flavor profile. Temperature and moisture allow the leaves to be transformed by bacteria and oxygen, similar to how tobacco leaves are matured, for a tea with the most interesting, earthy flavor.
6. Yellow Tea
Yellow tea is extremely rare, but it’s still popular. This tea is a typical Chinese variety, but this one is scarce, even in China. To make yellow tea, once reserved exclusively for the country’s emperors, producers harvest the leaves in high altitudes and preserve them similarly to how they do with green tea leaves. The leaves’ yellow color is “sealed” by steaming them, promoting slow oxidation.
Yellow tea has oxidative notes; although it’s not as herbal as green tea, it doesn’t have the fermented notes found in black tea. Making yellow tea takes time and patience, and it can be expensive.
Tea is Healthy and Thirst-Quenching.
Tea is more than a tasty thirst-quencher that can be enjoyed hot or cold — it’s healthy too, thanks to its antioxidants. There are many health properties associated with tea, and many of them are now backed by modern science. Still, tea is an excellent addition to your diet for its flavor purity alone. The fact that many tea varieties are available makes things more interesting.
There’s a type of tea for everyone, and everyone likes theirs differently; that’s the beauty of it. What is your favorite kind of tea?
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