Tea is one of the most popular beverages on the planet and one of the most varied. Read our article to learn about the different types of tea.
The list of different blends of tea readily available is never-ending. Thus, it’s unlikely that anyone out there likes the taste of every different type of tea. Similarly, most people can find a type of tea that suits their taste preferences.
Of course, navigating the world of tea can be a complex process. However, considering that over 295 billion liters of it are consumed yearly, it’s clear that this drink has more than just a few fans. It’s a fabulously versatile drink that can be enjoyed warm as a regular cup of tea, or cold, as an iced tea.
Despite its popularity, most people can’t explain the differences between black, green, and herbal tea. Luckily for you, we are here to answer those questions and more.
Common Types Of Tea
Virtually every culture throughout the globe drinks tea in some form. English Breakfast tea is popular in Europe, while chai tea is considered a national drink in India. The public generally enjoys various teas in China, while Rooibos teas are very popular in South Africa.
In contrast, mint tea is popular in West and North Africa.
Tea is a trendy drink almost everywhere. That is partially due to its versatility, with something available to suit most tastes. Let’s look at a few of the different types of tea and where they come from.
1. Black Tea
Black teas, such as English Breakfast and Earl Grey, are notoriously famous in Western societies. That is opposed to the popularity of green teas in Eastern culture. These differing trends are thought to be attributed to the trading of teas from East to West, where the more oxidized black tea would retain more flavor than minimally oxidized green tea when shipped.
Both green and black teas come from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis. In fact, any ‘true tea’—white, green, yellow, oolong, black, or white—can be made from the leaves of any Camellia sinensis plant. The key differences come from the oxidation process.
The tea leaves are allowed to oxidize with black tea before those leaves are dried and heat processed. This is opposed to green tea, where the tea leaves are processed before they can undergo oxidation.
The oxidation process sees the tea leaves turn dark brown and black (hence why it is called black tea, as opposed to green tea, where the leaves are still fresh and green). Black tea also has a stronger taste than its green cousin.
Black tea is produced throughout the globe, with India, Sri Lanka, and parts of Africa among its biggest exporters. Out of all the different types of teas, black teas also typically have the highest caffeine content, with about 60mg of caffeine per cup. Below are just a few of the most popular types of black tea.
English Breakfast Tea
A strong and bold tea designed to be enjoyed as part of a hearty breakfast. Its high caffeine content makes it a viable alternative to coffee for your morning pick-me-up. Read our guide explaining what is English breakfast tea.
Earl Grey’s taste profile is that of a floral sour-tasting drink. It goes brilliantly with a sweet snack, as the two tastes complement each other brilliantly.
Assam tea is produced in the Assam area of India. It’s a malty-tasting bold tea that has quite a distinct flavor.
Not quite as bold as the Assam, Darjeeling is another Indian tea, and it is often used as the base ingredient for Indian Chai.
This is Sri Lanka’s most exported tea. A strong and spicey tea, it goes brilliantly with a hint of cinnamon (which coincidentally is also a significant export of Sri Lanka).
2. Green Tea
As previously discussed, green tea leaves are preserved with heat almost immediately after they are harvested to prevent oxidization.
Generally speaking, green teas have a more mellow and floral taste profile than their black tea counterparts. The caffeine content in green tea isn’t as high as black tea either, containing just 30-50 mg per cup.
You generally don’t add dairy or sugar to green tea, either. Very often, a slice of lemon is added to a cup of green tea. The green color of the hot water mixed with the slice of fruit makes for an enticing-looking drink.
Green tea is often held up for its potential health benefits. These benefits include its potential to help brain function and increase fat burning, as well as the fact it contains antioxidants, which may lower the risk of some cancers. Below are a few of the popular green teas on the market.
Bi Luo Chun
This a popular tea in the Chinese market. It is generally sold as a loose-leaf tea with a sweet, vegetarian taste.
This is another Chinese tea where leaves are compressed into pellets before brewing. That process results in a grassy flavor that isn’t to everyone’s liking.
Matcha is a Japanese green tea. It is not only popular in its native Japan, now enjoyed in Western countries, often as part of a latte-type drink.
Sencha green tea offers a taste profile of ‘green flavors,’ such as grass, kale, Brussels sprouts, kiwi, and spinach.
This type of green tea sees green tea leaves blended with jasmine blossoms, producing a summery floral flavor that is incredibly refreshing.
3. White Tea
White tea comes from the same plant as black and green teas (Camellia Sinensis plant), but it’s made from the youngest growth on the plant – before the leaves have opened. The harvest for this tea is also dried straight away to prevent oxidization.
White tea is oxidized less than green, oolong, and black tea. Just like those other teas, white tea is also naturally caffeinated. It is also rich in antioxidants and contains polyphenols which may lower your risk of insulin resistance. Below are some of the popular types of white tea.
Silver Needle (Bai Hao Yin Zhen)
This is one of the original varieties of white tea from China. It has a silver color, and it has a beautifully sweet aroma.
White Peony (Bai Mudan)
This white tea variety usually includes buds and very young tea leaves and has a toasty floral flavor.
Legend once stated that Buddhist-trained monkeys picked this tea in the mountains of China. However, ‘monkey-picked’ has now just become a term to denote high-quality tea made from buds and young leaves from the tea plant.
4. Oolong Tea
You have probably figured out by now that the oxidization that occurs separates the different teas that come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Green and white teas undergo very little oxidization, whereas black tea is fully oxidized. When it comes to Oolong tea, it is made when the tea is wilted in the sun and bruised to create partial oxidization.
If you consider it a chart, white and green tea are the least oxidized, black tea is the most, and oolong tea lies in the middle. A cup of oolong tea contains around 38 mg of caffeine. Like other types of teas on our list, oolong contains antioxidants and small amounts of calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Below is a list of the most popular types of oolong tea.
Phoenix Tea (Dan Cong)
This tea is produced in the Guangdong province of China and is renowned for its full-bodied and rich flavors.
Iron Goddess of Mercy
Despite its intimidating name, this oolong tea which is produced in the Fujian Province in China is a real treat to taste. It’s light, with hints of apple and other fresh fruit.
Wuyi Oolong Tea
If the Iron Goddess of Mercy is the ‘light’ oolong tea, this is the ‘dark.’ It has an intense smoky flavor that’s not to everyone’s taste. However, those who like it won’t hear a bad word about it.
5. Herbal Teas
If you ever hear anyone talking about ‘true teas,’ they are referring to the teas that come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Whereas herbal teas (also known as tisanes) don’t come from that plant but are instead made using a variety of spices, flowers, and leaves from other plants.
Generally speaking, herbal teas are caffeine free. It should be noted that there are ‘herbal infusion’ teas made by mixing ‘true teas’ with ingredients used in herbal teas. Popular types of herbal teas include:
Chamomile has been used in tea for centuries, and if you have ever had a cup, you will know why. It has a tender sweet taste and is known for its relaxing aroma.
Peppermint herbal tea is a great option if you are looking for a pallet cleanser after a meal. It also has several health benefits, which is brilliant considering it tastes so terrific.
If you want a little spice in your drink, ginger tea is a great option. This is a soothing and aromatic herbal tea, often paired with lemon to help with sore throats.
6. Yellow Tea
Yellow tea is made similarly to green tea, with the key difference being the added step of encasing. This happens once the tea is half-dried over a strong heat.
The process is known as ‘menhuang’ or ‘yellowing.’ It involves a tea master wrapping the leaves in a paper, causing a micro-fermentation. The tea master then determines the time required for the wrapping process.
This fermented tea is one of the rarest and most expensive types, partially due to the intense work required to produce it. Below are two of the more popular yellow teas.
Huo Shan Huang Ya
This has been described as having an aroma of morning dew and fresh-cut grass, with a light and warming taste.
Jun Shan Yinzhen
This is a sweet and starchy yellow tea with an initial taste of peanuts and a delicious cider aftertaste.
7. Rooibos Tea
Rooibos tea, also known as redbush tea, or red tea, is a type of herbal tea. However, we thought it deserved its own individual place on this list as another tea with a color beside its name.
This tea has been consumed in Africa for generations and is becoming increasingly popular in other regions worldwide. That is largely due to its unique taste and perceived ability to protect against certain chronic conditions.
This caffeine-free option is made from the rooibos plant and is grown widely in the Western Cape province in South Africa. The tea production process sees the leaves undergo oxidization, which produces their distinct red color. It has a nutty, full-bodied flavor. You can also get rooibos green tea, which doesn’t undergo the same oxidization process.
Its flavor is more earthy than its red tea counterpart.
Choosing The Right Type Of Tea For You
Tea drinkers should try lots of different varieties of tea to see what they like. For instance, if you are in the United Kingdom, maybe it’s time to put down the English Breakfast tea and try a white tea variety. Likewise, if you’re in South Africa and only ever drink Rooibos redbush tea, maybe give an Earl Grey a shot.
Of course, we haven’t included every single type of tea (that would be a much longer article), but we hope we have given you an idea of the options that are out there. There is a world of tea exploration out there, so don’t miss out and give new kinds of tea a go today. It’s time to put on the kettle and put a different type of tea bag in your cup!