An Overview of the Types of Tea

The Camellia Sinensis

So maybe you don't know which type of tea you like best, or that there even are different types, each with their own specific properties and flavours. Here, we're going to go through the different types of tea, and give a brief overview of what makes each of them unique. Hopefully by the end, you'll have a better idea of what to look out for when discovering new teas, and for when you want to learn how to make tea perfectly. Every type of tea comes from the leaves of a plant called the Camellia Sinensis, however they're all prepared differently, giving them unique properties and flavours. The preparation of tea occurs in five main steps, they are plucking, withering, rolling, oxidizing, and drying. Not all teas go through all the steps, and some teas even go through each step multiple times. The various combinations of these steps result in the different types of tea we see today, those are White, Green, Oolong, Black, and Pu Erh. Other 'teas' are created with herbal or fruit infusions to create interesting flavours.

White Tea

The least processed type of tea, White tea is plucked from the youngest buds of the Camellia Sinensis, and then allowed to dry. No rolling or shaping occurs, and there is no specific oxidation period, however some level of natural oxidation may occurs. White tea is generally very delicate in flavour and aroma, and produces very pale green or yellow tea. As White tea is quite delicate, care should be taken when steeping White tea, as a lower than usual temperature is often required. For tips on how to make White Tea, check out our guide on how to make the perfect cup.

Green Tea

Characterised by its pale colour, and light, astringent taste, Green Tea is often the first thing to come to mind when mentioning tea. After being plucked, the tea leaves are either steamed or pan-fried, which stops the enzymes from browning the leaf, and prevents oxidation. At the same time, the leaves are rolled, curled, and shaped with the fingers, creating an untold number of shapes, each with a unique flavour. The health benefits of Green Tea are also worth noting, as more of its beneficial properties are preserved during the preparation process. Similar to White Tea, Green Tea is more delicate, and should be brewed with care. See how to make Green Tea.

Oolong Tea

Utilizing all the steps in the tea forming process, some even many times, Oolong Tea requires a time consuming process to create. Oolong Tea is often ideal for those new to the art of tea, as they generally have smoother, richer flavour profiles, which are more complex than Green or White teas. After the rolling process, the leaves are allowed to oxidize, before repeating this process many times over, producing unique and interesting flavours. Oolong tea is quite forgiving, and can withstand higher temperatures for longer periods during steeping. Find out how to make Oolong Tea.

Black Tea

Generally offering the greatest astringencies and strongest flavours, Black Tea, similar to Oolong Tea, utilises all the steps in the preparation process, however Black Tea is allowed to oxidize more completely, and is formulated with less repetition, and in a more linear fashion. Because of its strength, Black Tea is often drunk with milk and/or sugar, and are used more commonly than other types of teas as the base of Iced Teas. Black Tea, like Oolong Tea, is tougher and more durable than other weaker teas such as White and Green Tea, and is able to withstand higher temperatures, and longer steeping times. See how to make Black Tea.

Pu Erh Tea

Unlike other types of teas, Pu Erh Tea is unique in that it is aged from anywhere between a few months to a few years. This process is similar to that of wine, and is done before the leaves are dried, after having gone a process similar to Green Tea. Pu Erh teas are often prized for their rich, smooth taste, and can attract high prices based on their year and region of production. Learn how to make Pu Erh Tea.

Other Teas (Matcha, Herbal, Fruit, Iced)

You've probably come across a wide range of other 'teas', such as Herbal and Fruit Tea, Iced Tea, Matcha Tea, and Tea Infusions. These other types of tea are either combinations of other teas, or such as in the case of herbal teas, aren't actually formed from the Camellia Sinensis, but rather from various herbs, spices, and fruits. Matcha tea is produced from specially grown and processed Green Tea leaves, and results in a finely ground powder which contains more theanine and caffeine than other more traditional teas. Iced Tea, on the other hand, is simply tea that is served chilled, often with ice, and mixed with flavoured syrup - however, Iced Tea can also be made from herbal tea. If you'd like to brew some Iced Tea, check out our guide on how to make Iced Tea. Each of these types of tea have unique health properties, and can allow for new and interesting flavours.

Time to Explore

Now that you know about all the different types of tea, it's time to explore. The best way to find out which tea you like best is to try them all and have a cup each day! If you'd like to explore the world of tea, try our Tea Discovery subscription box if you haven't already, and we'll try our best to get you hooked on unique flavours.