Tea is often known for its versatility and variety and that is extremely visible when we take a look at the different types of tea that are available. All the types of tea (apart from 1) that we are going to tell you about, surprisingly come from the same plant! What sets them apart from each other and makes them different is the amount of processing and oxidation the tea leaves are made to undergo.
Oxidation is a natural process of decomposition that takes place once the tea leaves (or any fruit/ vegetable) is plucked and then is left to react with environmental oxygen. Tea processing techniques such as cutting, rolling and crushing help speed up the oxidation process too.
Let’s dive straight into the types of one of the world’s most favorite beverage.
Black tea is arguably the most well-known and common type of tea that is consumed all over the world. The dark color of the tea leaves is due to the oxidation process. These tea leaves are usually about 90-95% oxidized which gives them the distinct smoky flavor of black tea. Tea leaves undergo a five-step process to reach the end result that is black tea, this process includes picking of the leaves, and either hand rolling or by mechanical means bruising the leaf entirely, which releases the enzymes and helps in the oxidation process. These essential oils thus react with the air to oxidize allowing tannins to develop and the tea becomes richer, fuller and more robust. It is also important to note that it is the most highly caffeinated tea (even though the amount in one cup of black tea is much lesser than the amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee and thus is much healthier)
Depending upon the process, there is Orthodox black tea and CTC black tea. Check out the difference between them here
Green tea is a beverage that gained popularity as a weight loss or health drink and is now religiously consumed by many as a part of their morning or exercise routine. Green tea is much lighter in comparison to black tea has a light greenish- yellow color in the cup. This tea has a low caffeine content. The tea leaves undergo a slightly different process than what it takes to make black tea. To make green tea leaves, the leaves are plucked, withered and rolled but the difference is that these leaves are not oxidized thus preserving the green color and fresh taste of the leaves. The oxidation process is halted by applying heat to the leaves in the form of either boiling or pan-firing. It is of interest to take note that often the bud and the first two leaves are handpicked for this type of tea.
White tea is simply, tea that has not been processed. Tea leaves are freshly plucked and carefully handled so as to not bruise the leaves. They are then left to wither naturally under the sun. This process might cause a little bit (5-10%) of natural oxidation. White tea is thus extremely delicate and forms a pale green or yellow liquid when brewed. It does not have robust flavors that we generally might associate with tea, rather, the flavor and aroma are both soft and delicate.
Oolong tea is a little less common than its black or green counterparts however, is fascinatingly right in between the two. Oolong tea is oxidized somewhere between 15-80% and hence falls right in between green tea and black tea. This level of oxidation makes sure that oolong tea is more complex and richer than green tea but not as robust as black tea. To make oolong tea, the same five-step process as is used while making black tea is followed however, it is oxidized less which leads to its unique flavor.
Pu’erh tea is very different from the rest, it is a completely separate type of tea where the tea leaves are aged and then fermented. This makes it a post-ferment tea. This is a unique type of tea made in the Yunan province of China where the tea plants have grown rather large over the years and thus have larger leaves. The leaves are plucked, processed and then set in cakes and left to ferment. This type of tea is an acquired taste but do give it a try when you have the opportunity!
Yellow tea is the least common tea of them all. It also is produced in extremely less quantities as it is rare and unique to China. The tea leaves are processed in the same way as it is done with green tea however, a sweltering process is added. This sweltering process reduces the green color and brings out the yellow compounds.
Lastly, we have herbal tea which, funnily enough, has no tea leaves in it at all. Herbal teas are a tea made from the infusion of herbs, spices and other plant materials in hot water. Turmeric tea or chamomile tea are common examples of a concoction of herbs and spices and water. Herbal teas are known mainly for their health benefits and are a wonderful way to add nutrition and vitamins to one’s body.
What is your favorite type of tea?
Tell us in the comments below!