5 Types Of Tea – A Guide For Beginners
For some of us, enjoying a cup of tea is an essential part of daily life, and being able to try new types and flavours of tea is an exciting and delicious adventure. But if you’re not totally into your teas, it can be confusing: what’s the difference between an oolong and a green tea? Here’s our simple guide to 5 types of tea.
Why are there so many different types of tea?
All tea is made from the same original plant, the camellia sinensis. The way that different teas are made depends on where the plant is grown, the growing conditions of the plant, and how the tea leaves are eventually processed.
To create tea, there are several stages which the camellia sinensis plant has to go through.
Firstly, the leaves are plucked, then withered, where they are left to wilt. However from there on the process varies for each different type of tea, which we’ll learn more about later! Although there are thousands of individual tea types, they all fall under five general tea families: black tea, white tea, green tea, oolong tea, and Pu-erh tea.
Black teas are allowed to wither and oxidise fully, which gives them a complex flavour: they range in colour from dark brown to deep red and are the type of tea most often enjoyed with milk. Your classic breakfast tea is part of the black tea family.
White tea has a delicate flavour, due to experiencing virtually no oxidation during processing. White tea is harvested in the spring, and is simply plucked and left to dry. It tends to have a sweeter and lighter flavour than other tea types.
Green tea is made by steaming or firing the withered leaves, which prevents oxidation, and helps the tea leaves to retain their green colour instead of turning black or brown.
Once brewed, green tea is usually light in colour and can vary in flavour depending on whether it was fried or steamed - pan fired green tea tends to have a sweeter, mildly roasted flavour, whereas steamed green tea can have a similar taste to steamed vegetables. Green tea is also reported to have health benefits such as increasing cognitive function, and containing antioxidants.
Oolong tea is a partially oxidised tea, and is sometimes described as halfway between a green and black tea. The partial oxidation process means that oolong tea can vary depending on how much it is allowed to oxidise. Oolong teas are also rolled and shaped, which defines the appearance and flavour of the tea. This means there is a huge variety in oolong teas, from light floral tastes to stronger, aromatic flavours, and can also be any colour from light green, to golden, to brown.
Pu-erh tea is a post-fermented tea, meaning after the leaves have been plucked, dried, and rolled, they are exposed to heat and left to ferment. The fermentation process of pu-erh tea can vary from several months to years - even decades - and actually improves with age, similarly to wine, making them a very sought-after and valuable tea. Pu-erh teas have an earthy aroma, and often a rich, smooth flavour.
These are our top tea facts for beginners. If you’d like to find out more about tea, such as how to brew it and store it, or to learn some fun facts, take a look around our blog.