Tea 101: The Different Tea Types
There are 5 major types of tea, all from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. Most of the differences in flavor come from their processing. In order of most intense to most subtle:
Pu-erh Tea is most similar in taste to black tea, but the leaves undergo an additional processing step called fermentation, resulting in a bold and earthy taste.
Black Tea is fully oxidized. Oxidation is a chemical change that occurs when the enzymes in the leaf contact oxygen in the air. This process turns the leaves black and gives the tea a stronger flavor than oolong, green, or white teas. Examples of common black teas include English Breakfast and Earl Grey.
Oolong Tea is partially oxidized, although there is great variety within the oolong category. Generally speaking, lightly-oxidized oolongs (between 10-45% oxidized) somewhat resemble green teas and often have a delicate, floral aroma. Other, darker oolongs (up to 70% oxidized) are closer to black teas and have woody and fruity/sweet notes.
Green Tea is unoxidized. Tea processers use various methods (like steaming or pan-firing) to stop oxidation in the fresh-picked tea leaves. Perhaps you’ve heard of sencha, matcha, or dragonwell? Those are common types of green tea. Please note that most green teas are a little delicate. They taste best when you infuse them with hot water that is slightly cooler than a boil.
White Tea contains young leaves and often the tips (“buds”) of the tea plant. It undergoes the least amount of processing of all the tea types. Unlike green tea, tea processers do not heat white tea to stop oxidation. But like green tea, white tea tastes best when you infuse itwith water that is hot–but not boiling.
If you want to get technical, there is a 6th type of tea: yellow tea. It does exist! But it is rare, especially outside of China. Currently, we have no plans to carry any yellow tea varieties at CommuniTea Center.
Herbal Tea 101: Herbals, Tisanes, and Rooibos, Oh My!
Technically, “herbal teas” aren’t even teas, although we like to call them that! If you want to get precise, they are more properly called “infusions” or “tisanes.”
Rooibos is a red bush from South Africa. Tea blenders often use in herbal infusions because it, like true tea, is a great neutral base (plus, it contains lots of antioxidants!), but it doesn’t have any caffeine.
“Tisane“ is another way of saying “herbal blend” or “tea that does not contain actual tea.” Tisanes made of herbs and/or fruit are a great way to appeal to non-tea drinkers. Most herbal infusions (or tisanes) do not contain caffeine, although there are exceptions (like yerba mate).
Thera-TeasTM are exclusive to CommuniTea Center! These are wellness-inspired blends of herbs with no caffeine.
Tea 101: Steeping Notes for True Tea
- Each package of tea from CommuniTea Center has directions for steeping that particular blend.
- For true teas (black, green, etc), we don’t recommend that you steep tea longer than the recommended time, as that often results in a bitter brew (because it draws out more tannins).
- Also, we don’t suggest that you vary the water temperature greatly—too cold may not fully draw out the flavor; too hot, and you’ll have a bitter tea.
- Instead, if you like your tea stronger, we encourage you to simply add more tea leaves!
Herbal Tea 101: Steeping Notes for Herbals, Rooibos, Etc.
- Unlike true teas, which often get bitter you steep them too long or too hot, herbal “teas” can generally handle boiling water and longer steeping times.
- When in doubt, refer to the package of tea for instructions! 😉