Oolongs and Jin Fo and Chai – Oh My!
Whether you’re new to tea or not, staring at a long list of exotic but unfamiliar tea choices can feel a bit intimidating. If your search for the perfect cup has ever been stalled as you agonize over names like Lavender Dreams White, Dragonwell or Golden Monkey, our Beginner’s Guide to Tea Types is the perfect place to start your tea adventure.
The names of teas are usually related to either the region in which they were grown, or in the case of blends, the name is meant to describe the overall taste experience. The good news is, it’s easy to get a sense of any tea- regardless of its name- once you understand the 5 types of tea.
All tea comes from one plant- Camellia sinensis. Put simply, if it’s not Camellia sinensis, then it’s not tea!
There are only 5 main types of tea– all others are just variations
The level of oxidation determines tea type
All tea is made from Camellia sinensis, an evergreen plant that is indigenous to China and India, but is cultivated throughout the world. So whether you’re sipping a black, green, white, oolong or pu-her, each is made from the same leaves.
Infusions made from other types of plants are called tisanes (herbal teas); they have very different chemical components, flavors, uses and health benefits- so they’re not considered true teas.
THE 5 TYPES OF TEA
There are only 5 main types of teas, classified by oxidation levels. Oxidation is a chemical reaction. Oxidation takes place when tea leaves react with oxygen in the air, changing the taste, aroma and appearance of the leaves . White and green teas are unoxidized, oolongs are partially oxidized, and black and pu-ehr’s are fully oxidized. As a rule of thumb, less oxidized teas are lighter in color and flavor, whereas highly oxidized teas are darker in color and bolder in flavor.
White Tea- White tea is made from unoxidized leaf buds, and is the least processed of all teas.
Green Tea- Green tea is made from leaves that have been allowed to wither slightly after being picked. Oxidation is then stopped very quickly through rapid heating.
Oolong Tea- Oolong tea is made from partially oxidized leaves. The leaves are tossed in bamboo baskets to lightly bruise the edges so that the outer part of the leaf is oxidized while the center is left green.
Black Tea- Black tea is made from fully oxidized tea leaves. The leaves are first withered, then rolled to expose the leaf’s oils and maximize oxidation.
Pu-ehr Tea- Pu-ehr tea made from fully oxidized leaves that are then aged, sometimes for 50 years or more.
So that’s the basics. To be sure, there are thousands of other things that effect the flavors, aromas, health benefits, caffeine levels and quality of each variety, but all teas fall into one of the 5 categories. Choosing your perfect cup begins with knowing the 5 types of tea. Once you do, you’ll enjoy delving into each category and discovering the thousands of amazing varieties within each.
By: The Daily Tea Team –