Types of Tea

77% of people drink tea for the taste, 68% for refreshment and 42% because it is healthy for them. We all have our own reasons for loving a cuppa tea anytime, anywhere. Here are the main categories of tea that make the seemingly endless varieties of tea we love.

tea leaf 225x300 Types of TeaGreen tea makes up about 10% of world-tea production and is a milder brew with a mild, appealing taste and understandably green appearance. There is no oxidation during processing. Rather, the leaves are simply withered and then roasted or dried. The human health benefits of green tea are widely known now but it can also be used to water your plants or keep your cat’s litter box fresh!

Black tea, the most popular variety, offers a hearty flavour and deep reddish color that results from an extensive fermentation process that includes exposing crushed tea leaves to the air for a set amount of time until they are fully oxidized and dried. India and Sri Lanka produce the largest quantities of black tea but the British top the consumption of this tea.

Oolong tea is a cross between black and green tea, which can be detected in both taste and colour. Recognized for its distinctive fruity flavour, oolong leaves undergo a moderated fermentation process where they are withered, partially fermented and then dried. Oxidation can be in the 12-80% range, giving a wide variety of flavours and aromas. They say the first cup of oolong is to savour the aroma; the second cup is to savour the flavour. In China, it is known as “wulong” or “black dragon” tea.

White tea, the rarest type of tea, come from young tea leaves that are picked before the buds have fully opened. The tea features a delicate, soft taste and light colouration. With a minimalist approach to processing, white tea leaves are simply steamed and dried, which keeps them closer to their natural state. China’s Fujian Province is the home of authentic white tea.

Yellow teas are unique to the high mountain regions of the Chinese provinces of Anhui, Hunan and Sichuan. Not well known in North America, it can be mistaken for green tea. It is processed like green tea, but an extra processing step mellows and softens the tea.

Pu-erh tea, exotic and inticing, is only produced in China in the Yunnan Province. One can usually find pu-erh tea in fancy compressed shapes with colourful wrappings but it is most commonly shaped and sold as a compressed, flat disc. It is also sold as loose tea. It is a fermented tea but differs in that simple organisms of bacteria, funghi and molds that live in the air and on the fresh leaf, transform the tea into magical pu-erh tea.

Rooibos is grown only in a small area in the region of the Western Cape province of South Africa. Generally, the leaves are oxidized, not fermented. This process produces the distinctive reddish-brown colour of rooibos and enhances the flavour. Unoxidized “green” rooibos is also produced, but the more demanding production process for green rooibos (similar to the method by which green tea is produced) makes it more expensive than traditional rooibos. It carries a malty and slightly grassy flavour somewhat different from its red counterpart. Research has shown that it contains polyphenols, iron, zinc, fluorided, calcium and magnesium. It was first made available to the West in 1904 by a Russian immigrant named Benjamin Ginsberg.