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.

Chamomile and Mint for example, although delicious, are not actually tea.

Technically tea only comes from the camellia sinensis plant, so chamomile and mint would technically be herbal teas, 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, their attributes, and health benefits.

Tea, Tea, Tea!

Arogya GT_0027

Just some of the green tea family.

Tea is classified into six distinct types, although generally most people are only familiar with four (the ones in bold):

  • White
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Oolong
  • Black
  • Post-fermented

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.

A green tea has minimal oxidation which has been accomplished by exposing the tea leaves to heat very soon after they are harvested.

White teas are withered for a short period after harvesting and have low levels of oxidation.

A black tea (on the opposite side of the oxidation/fermentation spectrum) will be bruised or allowed to wither first which maximizes the amount of oxidation that occurs, and has maximal levels of oxidation.

Oolong falls between a green and black tea regarding oxidation levels, while yellow and post-fermented teas are a special case.

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.

Post-fermented teas are oxidized and then placed in open air to ferment for an extended period of time, essentially being aged like wine.

So how about some examples of teas you may know, so you get a better feel for the different qualities of teas?

Green Teas

  • Dragonwell (longjing)
  • Gunpowder
  • Bi luo chun
  • Gyokuro
  • Sencha
  • Matcha

    Tie Guan Yin OOLONG Side edited

    Tie Guan Yin Oolong tea

White Teas

  • Silver needle tea

Black Teas

  •  Assam
  • Darjeeling
  • Ceylon

Oolong Teas

  • Da hong pao
  • Tie guan yin

Yellow Teas

  • Yin zhen (silver needle)

Post-Fermented Teas

  • Pu-erh

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.

Stay tuned for more information regarding the benefits, qualities, and nutrients found in the wonderful world of tea!