An easy guide to types of tea
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The truth about types of tea is that tea is like life. It’s not just black and white. There are also green, oolong, rooibos, and pu-erh in full spectrum of flavors.
Did you know?
It is a noteworthy fact that all major types of loose leaf tea are produced from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis. Yes, there are different cultivars of the tea plant, but they are all very close genetic “relatives” and the difference between them does not have a major impact on the tea taste in your cup. The method of tea production does.
So, how is the loose leaf tea made?
After the tea leaves are harvested, they got to be processed. There are several steps in loose leaf tea production. First, the tea leaves are getting dried and withered in temperature controlled environment. Then, they are rolled into strips either mechanically or by hand for high-quality teas. Next step for some tea types is fermenting, or oxidizing. The type of the loose leaf tea, its “color”, depends on the level of oxidation.
The longer the oxidation process lasts, the darker the tea gets. Black tea types represent the final stage in the oxidation process. In order to get green tea, oxidation must be stopped while the tea leaves still retain their fresh, vegetal scents. The oxidative process stops once the heat is applied. There are different ways to do this; the Japanese, for instance, steam the freshly picked tea leaves, while the Chinese go for pan-firing or oven roasting. In the case of oolong, oxidation has to be haltered half way in the processing.
What are the main types of tea?
Here are the main tea types, classified by the degree of oxidation.
- Black Tea is fully oxidized, with distinctive color and robust flavor.
- Pu-erh Tea is fermented and aged type. Its production involves living bacteria, similar to yogurt ferments.
- Oolong Tea is partially oxidized and often intricately processed. In China, processing of some oolongs involves up to dozen steps.
- In Green Tea production, the oxidation process is prevented by applying heat – by oven-roasting, steaming, or pan-firing.
- White Tea is produced from young leaves and buds of the tea plant. It is only minimally processed, usually just dried in the natural sun.
- Rooibos Tea, also called Red Tea, does not originate from Camellia Sinensis. It is made of another plant, Aspalathus Linearis, grown in the Cederberg region of South Africa.