Types Of Tea

Uses for teas and tisanes Infographic

Most people think of tea as being an infusion of any plant. There are many common ones like chamomile tea, hibiscus tea, lemon grass tea, and the list goes on. These infusions of plant material are made in much the same way (called tisanes), however the true "tea" plant is actually just one plant, Camelia sinensis.  the actual "tea" plant is the Camelia sinensis plant in various forms. Commonly grown in China, Japan, India and South Korea. This plant has many varieties, and there are countless cultivation, and processing techniques which allow for a huge variety of different flavours, and medicinal qualities. Depending on how it is processed will determine what type of tea will be produced. The rawest form becomes white tea, the second green and yellow, then as it goes through more processing and oxidization it becomes oolong, black, and puerh.

Tea has been consumed by humans for thousands of years, likely starting in China. As the years went on, and people started to move around, companies like the East India trading company, and the Dutch trading company began to ship tea all over the world until present day where it is one of the most widly consumed beverages in the world. In th UK for example, it is estimated that 84% of the population drink tea on a daily basis. 

There are so many variables when it comes to tea, such as variety (sinensis, cambodiensis, assamica), level of processing (green, black, oolong, etc), how it is processed (steamed, pan fried, etc), and what it is mixed with (other herbs and spices), that there are virtually an unlimited number of teas available. This is what makes tea so great and why such a large amount of people are able to find their flavour. 

Click Here to learn more about the medicinal uses of tea

Click Here to learn more about the medicinal uses of tea

The benefits of tea includes its use as an antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiviral, and antitumor agent, as well as for reducing your chances of cardiovascular disease, and increasing longevity. The list goes on and on and tea is considered one of the best tonics in the world. For a much more detailed study of the benefits of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) check this out or click the button on the right.


How to Prepare Tea

How to prepare tea

Each type of tea requires slightly different brewing techniques in order to maintain the best flavor. The simplest way is to simply add a small amount of tea to a teapot, infuser, or in a tea bag, and pour hot water over them. Allow the tea to infuse for 2-5 minutes and then remove the tea and enjoy. In each section we will discuss the various different tweaks you can make to each kind of tea in order to achieve the best flavor of each.

For example green teas are much more delicate than black, and if brewed too hot or for too long, the bitter components will leach out into the tea, causing it to have an unfavorable bitter flavor, but if you keep the water temperature around 60-80 degrees celsius and only let it steep for 1-2 minutes, you will get a sweet, grassy, and delicious flavour out of your tea. Black teas and oolongs are much stronger and can be brewed for a longer period of time and maintain its characteristic flavor. Then their are teas like puerh where they can be brewed anywhere from a few seconds, to a few minutes and still have great taste and flavor.

Herbal teas and tisanes will also be discussed, and these teas need to be steeped for long peroids of time, especially if you wish to use them for their medicinal actions. 


Tea Species

Tea Species

Camellia sinensis comes in  a few different varieties, each with their own characteristic look and flavor. 

 

Camellia sinensis var. sinensis

This species is most common In China. This variety has smaller leaves, can live for hundreds or thousands of years, and produces a very delicate tea.

 

Camellia sinensis var. assamica

Most common in India and Sri Lanka. The assam variety produces a stronger flavor, more earthy tones, and has larger leaves. Its lifespan is around 4 decades or so. Assam is commonly seen in black teas, but can also be found in greens, oolongs, and white. 

 

Camellia sinensis var. cambodiensis

Most common in Cambodia. It is basically a hybrid of China and Assam varieties, and delivers qualities from both.

 

Camellia sinensis va Pubilimba/dehungensis

These varieties are found mainly in China. They are not very common, and are usually used to make high quality puerh. 

Green Tea

Japanese Sencha

Japanese Sencha

Green tea, are unfermented (oxidized) leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant. Once the leaves are plucked, they are heated, and then dried. This type of tea is dried quicker than yellow tea, and the reason for heating is to halt the oxidization process before it is allowed to change the chemistry of the plant through oxidization. This process will vary greatly, each method producing a different appearance, and flavour. The main difference between Japanese and Chines teas is in how they heat the leaves. In Japan, the leaves are steamed and dried with gentle heat. This effectively halts all oxidation and maintains the teas fresh herby flavor. In China, the process usually involves pan frying and then drying. This often leaves some oxidase enzyms viable, and imparts a slight-intense roasty, smoky flavor to the leaves, that may lessen the herby flavor. 

When brewing green tea, the generally agreed upon ratio is about 1:85, or in other words, 3g of tea for every 250 ml (1cup) of water. Temperature is also considered, because if the temperature is too high, the astringent, bitter tannins (polyphenols) are extracted in higher amounts, which will affect the teas flavour. Generally, about 70C is perfect. For finely ground tea, infusion times are about 1-2 minutes, and with coarser grinds about 2-4 minutes, however this can be shortened or lengthened according to preference. There are some exceptions to these guidelines (such as Gyokuro), and are listed in the descriptions below.

Jasmine Green Tea

Chinese. This tea is very labor intensive, and is generally quite expensive for high quality cuts. As the leaves are layed out to dry, fresh, handpicked jasmine flowers are scattered over the leaves to infuse their aroma, to then be hand picked off the next day. Low quality jasmine teas will have jasmine flowers still in the finished product, which will impart a bitter flavor to the tea. Only the aroma is desired when making quality jasmine green tea.

 

Kabusecha

Japanese. This tea is very similar to Gyokuro, however it is only shaded for one week before harvesting. It is a good mix between the rich flavor of gyokuro, and the refreshing taste of sencha. 

 

Kamairicha

Japanese. Pan fired. Not bitter.

 

Konacha

Japanese. Made from the dust, and smallest parts leftover from processing Gyokuro or Sencha.

 

Kukicha

Japanese. Also known as Stem and stalk tea or bocha. Made from the leftover stems, stalks, and twigs from Gyokuro or Sencha. This tea produces a creamy, nutty flavor, and makes a light colored liquor. Avoid brewing with too high of temperatures (keep around 85C), to avoid over brewing. This tea is great for calming the stomach after a meal, and is low in caffeine by nature. 

 

Longjing

Chinese. Originates from Hongzhou, and means "Dragon Well". This tea is pan fired, and is charicteristically flat in its appearence.

 

Matcha

Japanese. The fine ground tea made from Tencha. Similar cultivation process as Gyokuro. The stems and leaf veins are removed and the leaves are ground into a very fine powder (<10 microns). The entire leaf is consumed, so 100% of the leaves constituents are used as compared to <40% with most other teas. 

  1. Koicha

    • Koicha is the thickest, and most intense matcha, using about 1.5-2 tsp of matcha to 40 ml of water and is stirred slowly but thoroughly to avoid bubbles. 
  2. USucha

    • Usucha includes a krema (foam) at the top. 2 tsp to 50 ml of water. The matcha is stirred rigourously in order to achieve the krema on the top. 

 

Matcha iri genmaicha

Japanese. Genmaicha style tea with added matcha to improve color, and add extra green tea flavor.

 

Mau Feng Tea 

Chinese. Means "furry peak".

 

Mecha 

Japanese. Buds and tips of early crops. Graded between Gyokuro and Sencha.

 

Qing Ding 

Chinese. Also called green top. Comes from Tian Mu.

 

Sencha 

Japanese tea, most common tea drunk in Japan. It represents 80% of all tea produced in Japan. There are many different kinds and grades of Sencha, as talked about elsewhere on this page. This tea is grown from the same trees gyokuro comes from, but is not shaded in the final weeks before harvest, and therefore contain higher catechins, and lower amounts of l-theanine. The steaming of sencha only takes about 15-20 seconds in order to stop the oxidation process, while still maintaining the leaves fresh flavor. 

 

Shincha

Japanese. 1st flush tea. Made from either Sencha or Gyokuro.

 

Tamaryokucha 

Japanese.Also referred to as guricha, has tangy, berry-like, citrus undertones, almond aftertaste. Differs from sencha in how it is processed, which involves steam dehydration. It produces characteristically curly leaves, and different taste than other Japanese green teas. In fact the taste is suggested to be much closer to Chinese curly-leaf green teas. 

 

Tencha 

Japanese. Half finished products used for Matcha production.

 

Zucha

Chinese. Another name for the classic gunpowder tea.

 

ARACHA

Japanese. Raw green tea, Contains all parts of the tea plant. It is the half finished products used for Sencha and Gyokuro.

 

ASAMUSHI SENCHA

Japanese. The leaves in this style are steamed for the shortest time, which is considered more of the traditional technique. This process is much more gentle, and therefore commonly used on the higher grades of tea. The dry leaves appear large, and needle like with a golden-green liquor produced. 

 

Australian Sencha

Japanese style. Australian sencha is grown in the northern Daintree rainforests of Australia, then sent to Japan to be processed in the traditional style with steam processing. It produces a very green, vegetal, and sweet tea. The brewing time is similar to other green teas, except due to its delicate nature, should be brewed with slightly lower temperature, somewhere around 70 C.

 

BANCHA

Japanese. Lower grade Sencha. 3rd or 4th flush tea picked at the end of Summer or Autumn. This is the common tea drunk throughout the day and goes well with food. It is less aromatic, and more astringent than sencha. 

 

BI LUO CHUN

Chinese. Also know as "green snail spring".

 

FUKAMUSHI SENCHA

Japanese. This is a modern style of sencha. This tea is steamed for the longest amount of time (nearly double asamushi). This process is not as gentle as asamushi, and is more often used on leaves not suited for that style. This style produces less needle like tea, and more powder. It is generally less bitter, and due to the powder, more constituents are extracted, making the infusion darker, and contains more nutrients. 

 

FUNMATSUCHA

Japanese. Instant powdered tea. Milled green tea.

 

GENMAICHA  

Japanese. Brown rice tea. Roasted and popped brown rice, with green tea (usually Bancha or Sencha), and often mixed with Matcha (matcha iri genmaicha) to improve colour. Commonly served in sushi restaurants. Generally, a higher temperature is used to brew this type of tea in order to get the full flavour out of the rice.

 

GUNPOWDER

Chinese. Also known as zucha is an essential ingredient in Maghrebi mint tea. This tea is characteristically rolled into small round pellets. Doing this allows the inside of the leaves to remain protected, in order to release more flavor when it comes time to infuse. When added to water the balls unfurl and release their flavour slowly. Taste is very fresh, with mellow aftertaste.

 

GURICHA

Japanese. This rare tea (also known as tamaryokucha) is quite famousfor its rarity, and sweet taste. Guricha is pretty much exclusively produced in Ureshino, Kyusu. The sweetness found in this tea owes itself to its processing technique, skipping the final kneading process, which in turn leaves the dried tea in a unique comma shaped ball. 

 

Gyokuro

Japanese. Considered a very high grade tea in Japan. This is a Sencha tea that is grown in complete shade for the final 2 or more weeks of growth. This process increases the amino acid Theanine, as well as the alkaloid caffeine, while reducing catechin content (therefore reducing astringency and bitterness while revealing the sweet undertones that green tea has to offer). The brewing process of this tea is slightly different in order to achieve best results. A little more tea should be used as compared to Sencha, and water temperature should be maintained at 50-60C (slightly cooler than the 75C recommended for Sencha and other teas), and infusion time should be slightly shorter than sencha. It tends to have a very fine line between perfectly brewed and over brewed. Properly brewed gyokuro is heavenly and all should have a chance to taste this amazing tea. The price of this tea is usually much higher compared to Sencha.

 

Hojicha

Japanese. Green tea (usually Bancha), roasted over charcoal. This process leaves the tea with less caffeine, and tannin, and provides a nutty, toasty flavour, and produces a dark, brown color, which is uncommon for green teas in general. The pan frying (roasting) technique is similar to the method the Chinese usually use with their teas, except with a Japanese grown tea giving a completly different flavor. To brew, use a higher temperature (95C), and short brewing time (15-30 seconds), and can be reused a couple of times if brewed this way. This tea is commonly drunk before bed, or during a meal. 

 

Oolong Teas:

Oolong teas are partially fermented (oxidized) Camellia sinensis leaves. Their are green oolongs (about 20-30% oxidized), and black oolongs (about 65% oxidized), signifying how much or how little the oxidization process was allowed to affect the leaves. Due to this tea being a combination greens unfermented, and black teas fermented, it provides qualities of both. Oolong in Chinese, means "Black Dragon", possibly due to the appeaance of the leaves while infusing in water. This tea can be made from smaller young leaves, or larger mature leaves. 

Taiwan has become famous for the quality of many of their oolong teas. 


Taiwan Milk Oolong

Taiwan Milk Oolong

Huang Jin Gui

Means "Yellow golden flower". 

 

Shui Xian

Means "water sprite".

 

Taiwan Milk oolong

 

Tie Guan Yin

Named after the Iron godess of Mercy (Guanyin). This tea is produced in both China and taiwan, and is one of the famous of the oolong teas. The traditional brewing method it the gongfu style, using pottery teapots, and tiny cups that are sipped from. 

Black/Red Teas:

Black tea

Black tea

Black teas are produced from Camellia sinensis leaves, that are allowed to oxidize more than oolong teas or green teas. Once the tea is oxidized it is dried to stop the process of decomposition. The flavour is usually more intense with these oxidized teas, and their are generally two types of flavors with these teas, smoky, and plain. The difference is in how the leaves are dried in the final process (open flame or in the usual copper basins). Western culture refers to the tea as black due to the dark color of the leaves after oxidization, however in Asian cultures it is more commonly referred to red tea due to the colour of the infusion. 

This tea was created, as a way to transport the tea longer distances, while maintaining its aroma and flavour. Producers discovered that by fermenting (oxidizing) the leaves first, and often compressing them into "cakes", the tea would last much longer, and thus were suitable to transport long distances.

To brew, a higher heat is recommended, and boiling water is fine. Steep for about 2-5 minutes depending on desired flavour. Like green tea, a longer infusion will create a more bitter, astringent tea, but not to the same extent as with green or white teas.

India is the worlds leading producer of black tea. Other top producers are Sri Lanka, as well as various African, and South American countries. 


Assam

Indian. Commonly used in blends, and a lot of it is considered low grade and used in tea bags, however there exists some high quality Assam tea as well.

 

Ceylon Black Tea

Sri Lanka. Generally produces strong, bold, rich flavors.

 

Darjeeling Black Tea

Indian. Commonly referred to as the "champagne" of tea. Available in multiple flushes, whith the first flush holding the highest value.

 

Earl Grey

Flavored black tea. Uses bergamont essential oils to flavour the tea. One of the most popular black teas in the western world.

 

Keemun Black tea

Chinese. 

 

Lapsang Souchong

Chinese. Large, dark, rolled leaves. Considerably smoky qualities, due to different drying technique involving smoking the leaves over a fire (usually pine wood). This imparts characteristics from the burnt wood including terpenes, and longifolene which are not present in other teas. Souchong refers to the fourth and fifth leaves of the plant, meaning they are picked further away from the highly prized buds of the plant. Smoking these leaves adds flavor to a generally unvalued tea.

 

Yunnan Black Tea

Chinese. Grown in the Yunnan province. 

White Teas:

Silver Needle White Tea

Silver Needle White Tea

White teas are primarily grown in China, they are made from the buds of the Camelia sinensis plant. The buds and a few leaves are allowed to wither in natural sunlight, then they are lightly processed to avoid further oxidation. This type of tea is considered "slightly oxidized" or "unfermented". The reason it is called "white tea" is because of the silvery white hairs on the unopened buds of the plant. The infusion itself is more of a pale yellow colour. This style of tea provides the highest antioxidant content than the other Camelia sinensis preparations.

Only the finest buds with the most white hairs are picked in high quality white teas, therefore increasing the price as compared to other teas such as Sencha.

Optimal brewing techniques for most white teas include: 70-80C water (slightly colder than water used for black teas, and about the same as used for greens), 2-5 minutes brew time (the longer you brew it the more bitter it will become),  and a ratio of about 1:85 (for example 3g tea, to 250ml water)


Bai Mudan

Chinese. This white tea is made from plucks with one leaf shoot, 2 immediate young leaves. It has a fuller flavour and greater potency. 

 

Darjeeling (white)

India. Darjeeling is available in black, green, oolong, and white. Generally made from the small leaved Chines variety Camellia sinensis var. sinensis rather than most other indian teas (C. sinensis var. assamica). It has a delicate aroma, and brews to pale golden colour with a mellow taste and some sweetness. It is recommended to use a bit more tea leaves than usual when preparing this tea. It is generally grown at altitudes of about 2000 meters.

 

Pai Mu Tan

Means "white peony". Picked from the secondary bud, and two closest leaves. They are sun dried, and finished with gentle heating to dry. Light bouquet and gentle, delicate flavor. 

 

Shoumei Tea

China. Plucked later than Bai Mudan, causing the tea to be slightly darker in colour. 

 

Silver Needle Tea

China. Regarded as some of the highest quality white tea in China. This tea is hand harvested only 2 days a year. The flavour is very silky and smooth with some sweetness. Use 7-10ml per 250 ml water at 80C, steep for 4-5 minutes. If a stronger flavour is desired, use more leaves.

 

Yin Zhen

Meaning silver needles. For this tea, the top most bud is picked early before it has opened, and handeled cautiosly to avoid damaging the fine hairs under the buds. The buds are then sun dried, and finished by heat drying. Flavour is very similar to Pai Mu Tan tea. 

Puerh Teas (Hei Cha):

Puerh tea

Puerh tea

Puerh is a fermented dark tea produced mainly in Yunnan province (named after the town of Puerh), China. This tea is made by aging for upwards of 3 years, or by a relatively new process of speed fermenting. These processes could also be referred to as "raw" (natural), and "cooked" (cultured to quicken fermentation time). Generally, the natural method is preferred, though many can truthfully not tell the difference. Some evidence suggests that "cooked" puerh contains more medicinal value, however many tea connoisseurs prefer the flavour produced from "raw" puerh". Technically, only tea produced in this way (secondary fermentation), that is made in the Yunnan province can be called Puerh, however teas made using the same methods are produced all over, with the most famous being Xishuangbanna. 

The tea starts as a mostly unoxidized green tea, processed from a large leaf variety of Camellia sinensis (C. sinensis var. assamica), or a different large leafed cultivar known as Da Ye or Qimau (suggested to be a new species, C. taliensis). found growing in the mountains of Yunnan. In the highest quality puerh teas, the leaves of a very specific set of old trees (100+ years old) in the Yunnan province are used. The tea is then semi sun dried, and pan fried to arrest the enzyme activity and prevents oxidation. Once this is done the leaves are rolled, rubbed, and left in the sun to further dry. Then, the tea goes under a secondary oxidation process and fermentation caused both by organisms growing on the leaves (bacteria, and fungi), as well as some oxidation through enzymes. This can occur in both loose leaf form, or pressed form, though it ferments quicker as loose leaf tea. The pressed "cakes" last longer, and improve with age. Generally puerh is left to ferment for 10-25 years, while some are suggested to be 50 years old or older and can be worth tens of thousands of dollars. The concept of pressing teas into cakes is not exclusive for puerh, it was a way to make tea last longer wether it was oolong, black, or green, however it is common practice for most puerh to be found this way.

Colour in puerh teas varies greatly from green (younger teas), to dark brown or red (older teas). The flavour changes drastically as well, becoming smoother, more earthy, and mellow, as well as losing its astringent and grassy flavours as it ages. Chemical makeup changes over this process as well. Fermented teas contain different sets of polyphenols, as well as statin chemicals. 


Mao Cha

Chinese. Raw, un pressed puerh. Has not been secondarily fermented yet, though can be consumed as is but will not deliver the dark, earthy characteristics of puerh.

 

Sheng Cha

Chinese. This is basically raw, Mao Cha that has been pressed into cakes of various shapes. This has not been through the secondary fermentation yet, and thus is often bought, and stored for decades to be drunk later in life. It can however be drunk as is, but will resemble green tea more than it will the earthy, fermented puerh teas. This is a broad term to refer to all unfermented puerh cakes in pressed form.

 

Shou Cha

Chinese. This is Sheng Cha that has undergone the secondary fermentation process. These categories are a broad term to descripe a variety of puerh types. 

Yellow Tea:

Yellow Tea 

Yellow Tea 

This kind of tea is very rare, and is only produced in China. The bud and first leaf are plucked, heated, and wrapped in paper to allow a slow dry over the course of several days or more, before being heat dried in the final step. This tea will generally produce a yellow infusion, and provides a mild and sweet taste. Compared to green tea it has a lower caffeine content, and is sweeter in taste. 

 

Meng Ding Huanf Ya

This is one of most well known yellow teas in China. True Meng Ding Huang Ya leaves are picked from mount Meng, and only the most valuable leaf buds are chosen. 

 

Huo Shan

 

Huang Ya

 

Jun Shan Yin Zhen

 

Other Teas:

 

Flowering teas

These teas add extra visual enjoyment to the tea process. Different flowers, including amaranth, or jasmine, are bound together with tea buds (white or green), and dried. Once submerged in water, the flowers unravel, and rehydrate, revealing the beautiful flower and diffusing its flavour. 

 

Tisanes

Herbal teas are often referred to as tisanes and range drastically. Some use leaves, others flowers or fruit, and some even use barks or roots. Many provide flavour, as well as extra medicinal value. There is a lot of extra information on different herbal teas found elsewhere on this website. Some popular herbal tisanes include ginger, peppermint, lavender, and chamomile.