There are hundreds of tea varieties and cultivars but teas are typically grouped into one of five basic types: black tea, oolong tea, green tea, white tea, or pu-erh tea – based on the amount of oxidation in the processing after the leaves are picked.
Black tea is made from fully oxidized tea leaves. Black tea is commonly used in North American tea bags. Black tea is generally stronger in flavor than the less oxidized teas, such as white tea, green tea, and oolong tea. Black teas produce a hearty, deep, rich flavor in an amber-colored beverage.
Unblended black teas are often named after the region in which they are grown, which convey distinctive flavor characteristics that are unique to their region or farm. Assam, Ceylon, and Darjeeling are well known teas associated with their tea growing region.
Black tea is often blended and mixed with various other plants in order to obtain a beverage. Popular black tea blends include: Earl Grey tea, English Breakfast tea, English Afternoon tea, Irish Breakfast, and Massala chai.
Oolong Tea is very popular in China. The word “oolong” means “Black Dragon.” Oolong teas feature partly oxidized leaves and combine the taste and color qualities of black and green tea. Oolong tea is typically very flavorful and highly aromatic. Oolong teas are normally consumed without milk and sugar. Varieties of oolong tea include: Formosa Oolong, Ti Kuan Yin, Formosa Pouchong, and Black Dragon.
Green Tea is particularly popular in Asia. Green tea is not oxidized. It is withered, immediately steamed or heated to prevent oxidation and then rolled and dried. It has a delicate taste, light green color, and refreshing character. Varieties of green tea include: Gunpowder, Dragon Well, Jasmine, Sencha Dancha, Hojicha, Genmaicha, Gyokuro, Spider Leg, Matcha, and Tencha.
White Tea is made entirely from leaf buds that are plucked before they open. They are withered then dried slowly at low temperatures. Unlike other tea processing methods, the leaf buds are not rolled and only slightly oxidized. Unlike green tea, white tea is not heated to kill the enzymes that cause oxidation. This means that white tea is less processed than green tea, allowing some oxidation to occur, creating a slightly darker color than most green teas. The brewed tea has a clean, mild flavor and natural sweetness.
Pu-erh Tea is produced in the Yunnan province of China. It is buried after oxidization. It is the only tea that is aged. The resulting brewed tea is full bodied with distinctively pungent and earthy notes.
Herbal and Flavored Tea may contain Camellia sinensis tea leaves but they also contain other flavorings and botanicals such as flowers, fruits, leaves, bark, herbs, roots, and/or seeds.