There are so many types of Tea in the market. Brimming with antioxidants, tea has been shown to help fight heart disease, aid weight loss, protect your bones, prevent cavities, boost the immune system, and even fight cancer. But how much do you really know about this leafy elixir?
With over 3,000 varieties of tea in existence, it may surprise you to learn that all true tea comes from the very same plant — the camellia sinensis. The flavour, health benefits, color, and fragrance of teas, however, can be incredibly disparate.
Types of TEA
All types of tea come from the same basic plant, the Camellia Sinensis plant. The differences between teas arise from processing, growing conditions, and geography.
The Camellia Sinensis plant is native to Asia but is currently cultivated around the world in tropical and subtropical areas. With over 3,000 varieties, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world after water.
Tea can be divided into six basic categories: black, dark (including puer), oolong, yellow, green, and white.
Black tea is allowed to wither, which precedes a process called oxidation (sometimes incorrectly referred to as fermentation) during which water evaporates out of the leaf and the leaf absorbs more oxygen from the air. Black teas usually undergo full oxidation, and the results are the characteristic dark brown and black leaf, the typically more robust and pronounced flavours of black teas, and when brewed appropriately, a higher caffeine content compared to other teas (50-65% of coffee, depending on the type and brewing technique).
Dark tea is from Hunan and Sichuan provinces of China and is a flavorful aged probiotic tea that steeps up very smooth with a natural slightly sweet note.
Oolong tea (also known as Wulong tea) is allowed to undergo partial oxidation. These teas have a caffeine content between that of green teas and black teas. The flavour of oolong (wulong) teas is typically not as robust as blacks or as subtle as greens but has its own extremely fragrant and intriguing tones. Oolongs (wulongs) are often compared to the taste and aroma of fresh flowers or fresh fruit.
Green tea is allowed to wither only slightly after being picked. Then the oxidation process is stopped very quickly by firing (rapidly heating) the leaves. Therefore, when brewed at lower temperatures and for less time, green teas tend to have less caffeine (10-30% of coffee). Greens also tend to produce more subtle flavors with many undertones and accents that connoisseurs treasure.
White tea is the most delicate of all teas. They are appreciated for their subtlety, complexity, and natural sweetness. They are hand-processed using the youngest shoots of the tea plant, with no oxidation. When brewed correctly, with a very low temperature and a short steeping time, white teas can produce low amounts of caffeine. Of course, steeping with hotter temperature and longer time will extract more caffeine. But by definition, white tea does not have less caffeine than other teas.
Puer tea is an aged black tea from China prized for its medicinal properties and earthy flavour. It is perhaps the most mysterious of all tea. Until 1995 it was illegal to import it into the U.S., and the process of its production is a closely guarded state secret in China. It is very strong with an incredibly deep and rich flavour, and no bitterness, and an element that could best be described as almost peaty in flavour.
Yellow is a rare category of tea that is similar to green tea in appearance and flavour. Yellow tea, however, typically does not have the grassiness of some green teas. Yellow teas typically go through more oxidation than green teas and a longer, slower drying period. All yellow teas come from China.