In this article we will take a closer look at the types of teas that exist, the basis of division between different types and the specifics of each type.
Tea is a commodity, an element of culture and an everyday necessity — which makes for an incredible array of variations of this product. All existing types of tea are obtained from the leaves of one plant - Camellia Sinensis. There are different types and variations of the tea plant in existence today. The division into different types of tea is based on what kind of processing the tea leaf undergoes during production and not the actual type of bush from which the leaf was collected (although that is also an important factor). To be more precise the main basis for tea type division is the degree of oxidation (or fermentation) of a certain tea. Generally speaking the degree of oxidation is reflected in the darkness of the liquor colour: the more oxidized tea gets, the darker its liquor.
In China it is currently customary to distinguish the following types of tea:
The tea types above are arranged in ascending order of their fermentation degree.
Green tea is unfermented tea. Almost unfermented to be exact — the processes of oxidation begin immediately after the leaves have been collected. As soon as they are harvested, the leaves are heated (this process stops oxidation), then they are twisted (folded, flattened, tied) and dried. This means that Green tea is pretty much fresh tea that has been dried and shaped.
Such processing is what gives Green tea its quality, taste and aroma. Almost all the substances that are contained in a fresh tea leaf are preserved in this tea. Good Green tea has an incredibly fresh and “wholesome” aroma — moreover, the aroma very much depends on how the tea is brewed — boiling water will “heat it up” and kill it; water which is not hot enough will not allow the tea to open up; but water with a temperature of about 80 degrees Celsius will fill the room with a beautiful fresh Green tea aroma.
The taste of good Green tea is very delicate, almost always sweet, and with proper brewing (with the right water temperature and without overexposure) - almost without astringency. Green tea is the most “invigorating” of all teas and is also considered to be one of the most healthiest. Green tea is also the perfect summer drink - it quenches thirst and helps endure the heat.
White tea is very delicate. Special attention should be paid to the selection of raw material (tea-buds and young leaves with silky white hair), as well as to the processing it undergoes.
Leaves (or buds) for white tea are collected and withered (the fermentation process is a short one) and dried immediately without being shaped in any way. White tea is brewed to have an almost transparent, slightly yellowish liquor. Under good lighting you can sometimes notice the luster of silky tea leaf hairs.
White tea has a very bright and pleasant aroma (it is not as fresh as compared to a Green tea - it is slightly thicker). This tea is very tasty but mostly due to the hints of flavour and the aftertaste rather than the flavour itself. From the first sips the flavour seems to be very translucent but by the time the cup is done, one notices that there is in fact a distinct flavour that makes its way into the sensory system. Then comes the aftertaste that reaches the brain to make you realize that there was definitely a flavour to the tea, and what a flavour! This taste perception cycle repeats over and over again with every subsequent cup accounting for a thrilling pleasurable tea experience.
Yellow tea isn’t always viewed as a separate type of tea. Sometimes slightly over-withered Green teas or slightly under-fermented Oolongs are labeled as Yellow teas. Yellow tea is a legend. It was this tea that was not exported from China for a very long time and only Russia, in exchange for furs, was able to get a certain amount of this drink. The liquor colour of Yellow tea is in fact yellow. The taste and aroma are difficult to describe — each type of tea, which can be labeled as yellow, is exclusive. But there are some common features true to all Yellow teas. Yellow tea has an explosive aroma: inhaling this tea is on par with getting a light punch to the nose - but a very pleasant one. The taste of this tea opens up more and more with each cup and the more you drink it, the more you like it.
Oolongs tea (Black Dragon, or also referred to as Turquoise tea) are the most diverse and mysterious teas of all.
Oolongs are semi-fermented teas. The different degrees of “semi-fermentation” make it possible to obtain an incredible variety of Oolongs, each one with its own taste and aroma. This tea has a remarkable complexity to it and what makes it truly stand out is its ability to change with every steep: each infusion has something new to offer to those patient and attentive enough.
Black tea (Hong Cha or also called Red tea in China) undergoes as much fermentation as possible. Black tea is the most widespread and popular type of tea, this is what the rest of the world refers to when talking about “regular tea”. It has a deep, dark colour with a rich and malty flavour.
Dark tea is a re-fermented tea that is aged in piles. Dark Chinese tea (also known as Puerh tea) has a peculiar dusty flavour and may even seem a bit unpleasant at first. However, with time one can acquire a taste for it and come to really like it. Additionally, Puerh teas are also considered to have a lot of health benefits.
We hope this short introduction to the different types of teas has helped to gain a better understanding of the enormous world of tea. In future articles we will take a closer look at each of the six types mentioned above. If you have any questions or comments about this article or about any aspects of tea please feel free to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org