Tea Types

12 08 2008

It’s always good to know some basics of tea, so for starters I thought I would introduce different tea types. Generally we can divide tea types into two groups – tea that contains tea plant leaves and tea that does not.

Tea with tea leaves

These tea types are a result of how the leaves of the tea plant (camellia sinensis) have been processed. This process is called oxidation (sometimes refered to as fermentation) which is a chemical reaction that occurred then the tea leaves are picked and start to wither. Depending on how long the leaves have been exposed to it we can classify the following

White Tea – fast-dried and does not undergo oxidation, made of young tea leaves (often contains young tea buds and which are covered by fine, silky, white hairs) and has a low caffeine content, because the leaves have been dried quickly the chlorophyll in them was not broken down, thus the green color and grassy flavour of the infusion

Yellow Tea – does not undergo oxidation, but unlike green tea the chlorophyll in the leaves is broken down during processing, so the color becomes yellow and the flavor less grassy, usually harvested before green teas and always sold as whole leaf tea, yellow tea is quite rare in comparison to the other tea types

Green tea – goes through a minimal oxidation process and is quickly dried, the leaves are often cut and ground, the infusion has a mild flavor and is rich in antioxidants

Oolong Tea – semi-oxidized, exposed to different levels of oxidation (ranging between 10 – 70%), usually falls between black and green teas

Black tea – undergoes the oxidation process that changes the leaves’ color from green to black, thus has stronger and richer flavour, higher caffeine content and lower antioxidant content

Post-fermented tea – green tea which is allowed to age for several months to several years and exposed to humidity and oxygen, the ageing process alters the taste and smell of the infusion to a large degree, most recognized class of post-fermented teas is Pu-erh

Tea without tea leaves

Red tea (aka. rooibos tea) – tea of South African origin, made of a plant in the aspalathus genus, the specific red-brown color is acquired in the process of oxidation, since rooibos is a herbal tea it contains no caffeine

Herbal tea (aka. tisane) – made of anything other then tea leaves, with no caffeine, often contains a mix of dried flowers, seeds, berries, roots and other herbs (like rose petals, peppermint etc.)

Other types we can come across are Flavored Teas which are often a mix between tea leaves and herbal additives or tea leaves that have been soaked in natural or artificial flavors/oils

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