Green, Oolong, Black, White – Tea Education 101
In the world of tea, there are so many varieties to choose from – and so little of the wisdom of teas is known by the public.
For example, Chamomile and Mint, although delicious, are not actually tea. Technically tea only comes from the camellia sinensis plant, so chamomile and mint would technically be herbal teas, or tisanes, which we commonly use to mean any plant that is boiled in water and then consumed.
This may seem like nitpicking here, but hey, we’re trying to turn you into a tea connoisseur, right?
So let’s take a brief journey into the various kinds of teas and their attributes.
Tea 101: The Main Tea Types
Tea is classified into six distinct types, although generally most people are only familiar with four: Green, Oolong, Black, and White. The classifications of tea are derived from the oxidation process they go through, and the degree of wilting they are subject to. For example, tea leaves begin to rapidly oxidize if they are not dried quickly after harvesting, this fermentation process occurs as the chlorophyll in the leaves begin to break down and tannins are released, giving rise to the darker color.
Types of Tea
So how about some examples of teas you may know, so you get a better feel for the different qualities of teas?
Green teas generally have minimal oxidation which has been accomplished by exposing the tea leaves to heat very soon after they are harvested.
Green Tea examples:
White teas are withered for a short period after harvesting and have low levels of oxidation.
White Tea examples:
Black teas are on the opposite side of the oxidation/fermentation spectrum from green and white teas. Black tea will be bruised or allowed to wither first which maximizes the amount of oxidation that occurs, and has maximal levels of oxidation.
Black Tea examples:
Oolong falls between a green and black tea regarding oxidation levels, while yellow and post-fermented teas are a special case.
Oolong Tea examples:
Yellow teas are produced in a manner similar to green teas, but instead of completely stopping the oxidation process right after harvesting, the leaves are gently covered to induce oxidation in a different manner.
- Yin zhen (silver needle)
Post-fermented teas are oxidized and then placed in open air to ferment for an extended period of time, essentially being aged like wine.
As you can see, one could spend a lifetime trying to differentiate between varying kinds of teas. But for the novice, the above mentioned information is a great, simple introduction to the ins and outs of tea.
If you want to read more about the wonderful world of tea, visit our blogs:
More information on specific tea types: