Wanting to start drinking tea but feeling a little lost as to where to start?
We admit, the lingo surrounding tea can be pretty prohibitive at first--green, oolong, rooibos, white.. black... what's the difference? Doesn't it all just taste the same?
Nope! It sure doesn't taste the same. Which is the best for your needs? Never fear--we're here to decipher some of the most common types of tea for you! Let's start with some basics.
So, what exactly is tea?
What we know and consider to be "tea" is actually the leaves of an evergreen shrub or small tree called Camellia sinensis, a plant native to Asia. These leaves contain flavonoids, which are antioxidants, and have been shown to have several health benefits.
The different tea "types" result from how the tea is harvested and processed--that is, how and when the leaves are picked and how the leaves are dried!
Green tea is widely touted for its health benefits--in fact, it was first used medicinally in China around 4000 years ago. The reason green tea typically contains so many more antioxidants than other types of tea is due to the way it is harvested and processed.
Harvested in many different ways, green tea typically has a fresher, brighter, more delicate flavor compared to black teas. Green tea is dried using a variety of methods, and depending on where your tea is from, it may be dried a different way, but whatever the method, green tea does not oxidize, which is why it retains its fresh, bright flavor and color.
Compared with black tea, green tea typically contains less caffeine.
Japanese and Chinese green teas are the most common, and there are hundreds of varieties of them, each with their own special flavor characteristics.
We mentioned the health benefits of green tea earlier--recent studies have shown a lower risk of skin, breast, lung, color, esophageal, and bladder cancers in green tea drinkers.
Want to try green tea? We love:
Like all types of tea, black teas vary in flavor depending on the species of tea plant they derive from and where they're grown. However, it's safe to say that black tea is usually grown in China, Sri Lanka, India, and Kenya.
Black tea, unlike green tea, is oxidized after harvesting. These harvested leaves may be crushed, torn, or curled and rolled before they are allowed to oxidize and dry. This oxidation gives black tea a stronger, darker flavor and aroma than other teas.
Some of the more common types of black tea include:
- Darjeeling: grown in special estates in India's Himalayas region, this tea has a delicate, floral, fruity flavor and is often called the "champagne of teas"
- Lapsang Souchong: grown in the Fujian province of China, this tea has a robust and deep smoky flavor, thanks to its being roasted over pine or spruce wood
- Assam: a full-bodied Indian tea used in many tea blends. You may encounter Assam black tea in English breakfast blends, Irish Breakfast, or masala chai.
Want to try black tea? We recommend:
White tea is the least processed of all the tea types we'll discuss here, and thus is minimally oxidized. It gets its name from when it's harvested--the first tender buds of the tea plant, covered in silvery hairs, look almost "white." White teas are often rarer and more prized than others.
White teas are often described as "delicate" and "light." When brewed, their color is not white but often light or pale yellow or orange.
Want to try a white tea? Try:
Primarily grown in China and Taiwan, oolong tea is a whole leaf tea. Its oxidation ranges anywhere from 10% to 80%, depending on the variety of the oolong tea, which will change the flavor and strength.
However, most oolong teas are fragrant, smooth, and sweet. Some say they even have a taste that reminds them of stone fruits like apricots!
You may have heard reports of oolong tea being used for weight loss, and there have been studies that show oolong tea may increase your energy levels and lower your blood sugar.
Want to try an oolong tea?