Types of Tea
Learn About All Types of Tea
This tea article is dedicated to teaching you to draw basic distinctions between the types of tea. We are dealing only with actual tea, not herbal tea in this tea article.
All 4 types of tea are made from the leaves of same plant: camellia sinensis. The difference in taste is all in the way that it is processed. For more in depth information on each type of tea, you will need to read: white tea article, green tea article, black tea article, oolong tea article (to be written).
If white tea were a girl, she would have just turned 18 and become legal. It is the youngest, freshest type of tea you could tap, uncorrupted by the oxidization and fermentation of older, more experienced teas. Therefore, white teas taste and smell the freshest, the cleanest, and the most like fresh leaves or grass.
To make white tea, harvesters generally pluck the youngest leaves and buds from the camellia sinensis. To process the white tea, it is simply air dried or steamed and left intact. Crushing, rolling, or breaking it apart in any way would expose the leaves to more oxygen in a process called oxidization. White tea is not oxidized at all.
If white tea is your uncorrupted virgin, then green tea is your twenty-something with a mild level of experience. Likely religious, she’s mostly been a good girl but there were a few times in college when she did some things her father wouldn’t be proud of.
One of those things is to undergo more processing than white tea. Like white tea, green tea is allowed to wither and dry but for a longer period of time (8 to 24 hours). Rolling is avoided to prevent breaking cell membranes which helps the leaves avoid oxidization. Green tea generally tastes sweet and grassy, but not as grassy as white tea.
Continuing with our metaphor, Oolong tea is in her late 20s and is settling down. She watches a lot of Sex and the City and considers the characters her role models.
Oolong Tea is kind of a combination of black and green tea. Oolong tea is withered, rolled and oxidized to the point where the outer edges of the leaves begin to turn reddish brown. The oxidation process is one half that of black tea. Further oxidation is then prevented by firing the tea. No, not by Donald Trump. Firing is the process of drying tea leaves at high temperatures without setting them on fire.
The taste reflects the process: Oolong tea tastes like black tea that retained some of the grassiness of its green tea days.
In our metaphor, black tea is 44, has been married 3 times, and has 4 kids. In the 80s, she was a groupie for Motley Crue, White Snake, and Journey. Enough said.
Black tea is the most popular tea in the west. It undergoes the full array of stages in its processing: withering, rolling, oxidation, firing. In the firing process, the tea leaves are removed from the oven once they are 80% dry. They are then placed over a wood fire to complete the drying. This is what gives black tea a sort of “Southwest, mesquite, hickory-smoked” taste that you can sometimes sense if you pay extremely close attention to a breakfast tea. Black tea is the most full-bodied in taste.
Stay tuned for tea articles that will highlight just one type of tea.