Types of Tea

Cuz everyone has a type… of Tea.

You can never have too much of a good thing. Probably why there’s a whopping 1,500 different types of tea in the world.

Different soils, climates, altitudes, drying and processing methods can all affect the flavour and look of a tea. What most companies do is blend teas and produce ones that suit the palate of the people that inhabit certain regions. For instance, the milky Chai is popular in India and hence most widely produced and sold.

Teas can be categorized many different ways. By size, quality and the elevation they are grown in. Tea particle sizes range from dust, to fannings and broken grades to leaf tea.

And again Leaf teas can be categorized into four types - Green, White, Black & Oolong. While all these teas are obtained from a single plant, Camellia Sinensis, the differences in treatment make them evolve into different teas.

They are also categorized into four types based on the methods of processing:

1) Unfermented

2) Slightly fermented

3) Semi-fermented

4) Fermented

It’s funny that it is called Fermentation, when actually what the tealeaves go through is Oxidization. But on the other hand, it’s understandable that the tea that undergoes the longest process of oxidation is called Black Tea and the one that undergoes the least is called White tea.

While all teas need to grow at an altitude, there are differences in how they taste based on high or low they are grown. Low grown teas are grown under 600 meters, are full bodied but lack flavour. High grown teas that are grown above 1200 metres, grow more slowly and are known for their subtle flavours. Mid-grown teas are grown between the two altitudes.

Most commercial teas are blends with some high-grown leaves for flavour and low-grown, for body.

Types of Tea based on fermentation

Green Teas

Green teas are the least processed of all teas and are popular in Asian regions. They are steamed, rolled and dried or pan dried soon after picking, to kill the enzymes and prevent oxidation before drying. Green tea has a slightly bitter, grassy flavour. The fragrance at first is grassy but later becomes sweet. The taste is usually described as "fresh, energetic and sweet."

Green Tea is allowed to wither only slightly after being picked. The oxidation process is stopped very quickly by firing or rapidly heating the leaves. Therefore, when brewed at lower temperatures and for less time, green teas tend to have less caffeine (10-30% of coffee). Greens also tend to produce more subtle flavors with many undertones and accents that connoisseurs delight in.

Black Teas

Black teas are highly processed and oxidized. They are called Red teas in China not for any other reason but that the actual hue is more red than black. After picking, the leaves are exposed to air, then crushed and stored in a temperature and moisture controlled room, where they are oxidized, to turn them a deep brown and intensify their flavour. Grown primarily in India and Sri Lanka, these are the teas that are most familiar to Westerners and are the mostly widely consumed in Europe, North America, Russia and the Middle East.

Black tea is allowed to wither before oxidation during which water evaporates out of the leaf and the leaf absorbs more oxygen from the air. They usually undergo full oxidation, and the results are the characteristic dark brown and black leaf, the typically more robust and pronounced flavors of black teas, and when brewed appropriately, have a higher caffeine content compared to other teas depending on their type and brewing techniques.

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea, also known as Wulong tea depending on which part of the world you hail from, is only partially oxidized in the manufacturing process. Because of this, the colour, flavour and aroma of Oolongs range widely between that of green and black teas.

These teas have caffeine content that ranges between that of green teas and black teas. The flavour of is typically not as robust as blacks or as subtle as greens, but have fragrant and intriguing tones. Oolongs are often compared to the taste and aroma of fresh flowers or fresh fruit.

White Teas

After harvesting, White tea is simply withered and dried like a herb. As a result, White teas offer the most exquisitely subtle tea drinking experience.

White teas are the most delicate of all teas. They are appreciated for their subtlety, complexity and natural sweetness. They are made from the youngest shoots of the tea plant, hand- processed and not oxidized at all. When brewed correctly, at low temperatures and a short steeping time, White teas produce low amounts of caffeine. Of course, steeping in hotter temperatures and for longer times extract more caffeine. But by definition, white tea has a lot less caffeine than other teas.