Camellia sinensis or what we commonly call tea (or rosy lee if you’re into your rhyming slang), originated from Asia and has been drank in China for centuries. It rose to popularity in the 17th Century by the British and we haven’t stopped drinking it since! Now, be honest, have you ever been in a tea shop and looked at the different names of tea completely bewildered? Well I have, so look no further! I’m here to help. Let’s start with the basics: What are the main types of tea, what makes them different and what do they taste like?
First the one we all know and love, black tea. To get those beautiful dark leaves it is withered, rolled and oxidized. Now, I’m not going to go into these processes in detail but it basically means it is dried, left in a climate controlled room and then rolled to get what you seen in your tea bags. There are many different types of black tea but the most popular are those produced in India and Sri Lanka the most well known being Darjeeling, Assam and Ceylon. These teas tend to be full bodied, strong and have great aromas.
A tea that has an ever growing popularity due to its health benefit is green tea. Modern methods steam the leaves then they are rolled and dried. Green tea has a fresh flavor and often is combined with different fruits and flowers. If steeped too long green tea can become very bitter, usually the higher quality green teas need less steeping time.
White teas are produced by baking, lightly rolling and drying the leaves and buds of the tea plant giving it a white appearance. It has a milder and delicate flavor compared to black tea. The most well known white tea is the Silver Needle tea, which is a more rare tea. To get an idea of price I compared Assam with Silver Needle on a reputable tea website. Assam sells for $3.14/oz and Silver Needle sells for a whopping $12.86/oz. Wow.
Now we get into the names of tea which aren’t self explanatory. Oolong tea takes the longest of all the teas to be processed. It is bruised, partially oxidized, baked, rolling (sometimes into little balls) and dried. They are lighter, smooth and depending on their variety they have fruity, woody or floral aromas. The most well known oolong tea is the monkey picked oolong tea. Nowadays it just means it is high quality oolong tea but legend says that Buddhist Monks trained monkeys to pick the most quality leaves from the top of the tea trees.
Pu-erh tea is sometimes confused for black tea. The difference being it is not fully oxidized and is fermented for many years instead. The Yunnan province in China produces the majority of pu-erh tea. They have more mellow and earthy tones. It is claimed to be good for weight loss but I am not a nutritionist so I’m not going to comment on this.
Well there you go five of the more popular categories of tea that you may encounter when you walk into those tea shops. So, instead of trying all the samples and running out, now you’ll have more of an idea of what you’re drinking. Now, some of you well versed tea drinkers might be saying what about herbal or rooibos teas? Well these teas aren’t from the camellia sinensis family so I haven’t included them in the post. Wait! I hear someone cry, what about yellow or blooming teas. Well these teas are more rare and that’s for another time.