All types of tea come from the same plant, the Camellia Sinensis plant. The differences between teas arise from the processing, growing conditions, and geography of the region in which the plants are grown.
The Camellia Sinensis plant is native to Asia, but is currently cultivated around the world in a variety of regions. With over 3,000 varieties, tea is actually the 2nd most consumed beverage in the world after water.
There are considered six different types of tea – Green tea, Yellow tea, White tea, Oolong tea, Black tea and Post-fermented tea – are all technically made from the same tea plant. It is the kind of processing a tea leaf is subjected to that ultimately defines the type of tea.
Green tea is one of the least oxidized teas. To prevent oxidization, the leaves are heat processed to eliminate the enzyme responsible for oxidization. Because the leaves experience minimal withering and very little natural oxidation, they retain much of their natural green color. The Chinese style of processing Green Tea tends to bring out a large range of flavors from citrus to smoky notes with a lighter body.
Yellow tea is processed in much the same way as green tea. However, once the leaves are fixed, the damp leaves are lightly sweltered for up to eight hours in a closed environment, which brings about a yellow color. Yellow teas typically taste similar to black teas although they are milder. Yellow tea is the rarest of the different classes of tea that are available as it is only produced in the more mountainous regions of China.
White tea is made from younger leaves that are simply dried. White tea gets its name from the presence of white hairs on the surface of the young tea buds and. It’s has notes of floral and tastes very light. Many tea drinkers consider this a smooth-tasting tea.
Oolong tea is made from semi-oxidized tea leaves. Due to the partial oxidation, the leaves tend to develop rich flavors but with very little briskness. Oolong Teas are made in a variety of styles and varieties, including semi-ball rolled, and strip and leafy styles. Oolong teas have historically been cultivated in mainland China and Taiwan.
Well rolled, high fired and fully oxidized, black teas are distinct for their briskness and bold taste. Black Tea is the most widely consumed type of tea in the world. Younger leaves are picked before being withered, rolled, fully oxidized, and fired. While first introduced in China, Black Teas are now produced in many different regions around the world.
Pu-erh teas are post fermented, which makes them very unique in both the process and taste, compared to other Teas. During the aging process, Pu-erh teas are exposed to bacteria that ferment the tea over time. This process can take some time, and the tea’s flavor profile can change drastically and increase in depth over many years of aging.
Herbal Tisanes are commonly referred to as Tea, while technically they are plant and floral infusions that can offer an enticing tastes, aromas and health benefits. Tisanes can have some advantages over other Teas in that they are generally caffeine-free and can offer different benefits to the body. Some examples of tisanes include Rooibos Tea, Yerba Mate and Peppermint Tea.
Tea is grown all around the world including the United States, but the main tea producing countries that consistently produce the highest quality and volume of tea include China, India, Japan, Taiwan, and Sri Lanka. China is known to be the birthplace of tea, but Britain is know to have established tea plantations in different regions and countries.