How Is Tea Made?

This article will walk you through how is tea made and what processes you can put in place to ensure you get the perfectly brewed cup of tea every time.

How is tea made
Tea-making process differs slightly depending on the making of green, black, or herbal tea

Tea is made by pouring hot water over loose tea leaves or a tea bag and allowing the drink to brew for a few minutes. Depending on the type of tea, you can add sweetener, milk, or even fruit.

The worldwide importance of tea cannot be overstated. It is the second most consumed beverage on the planet (after water), and in many cultures, making tea is much more than just simply brewing a drink; it’s an essential part of daily routines.

By the end of this article, you will know how tea is made and the processes you need to put in place to brew the perfect pot or cup of tea. We will also look into why the tea-making process differs slightly depending on whether you are making green, black, or herbal tea.

The number of varieties of tea available is endless. If you are new to this beverage and don’t find the traditional brews to your taste, check out our article Best Tea for non-tea drinkers to get you started.

True Teas And Herbal Tea

If you ever hear a tea aficionado describe brews as ‘true teas’ and ‘herbal teas,’ don’t worry; what they are talking about is less complex than you might think.

True tea is tea made from the leaves and buds of the Camellia sinensis plant. In contrast, herbal teas are made from other plants, spices, flowers, and infusions. True teas include black, yellow, green, and white tea, while herbal teas you may know include chamomile, peppermint, and rooibos tea.

Processing Tea

The following is an overview of the processing steps involved in bringing freshly harvested leaves from the tea plantation to the tea factory to your kitchen cabinet. Before you make your tea, you should know how the tea reaches you.

The following four steps are known as ‘The Orthodox Method.’ They are the steps most commonly associated with tea processing after the plucking of the leaves is complete.

Withering – This is the first step in orthodox tea processing. It happens after the fresh tea leaves are harvested. Here, the leaves are given time to wither, which lowers the moisture content.

Traditionally, the tea master would decide when the leaves from the tea garden had undergone enough withering and could move on to the next stage.

Rolling – Rolling involves breaking the tea leaves’ cell walls from the tea plant. This allows the cell sap of the broken leaves to be exposed to the oxygen in the atmosphere, where the process of oxidization begins. Although traditionally done by hand, a rolling machine is now commonly used at this stage of the process.

The crush-tear-curl method (CTC method), where the leaves go through the aforementioned three steps, is widely associated with mechanized rolling.

Oxidation – Tea leaves are laid out in a warm area and allowed to react to the oxygen in the atmosphere. This part of the process determines the tea’s color, strength, and taste. For instance, green tea leaves are dried almost immediately after rolling, whereas black tea leaves are left out to undergo oxidization for a much longer time span.

Drying – After oxidization, tea leaves are put through dryers, further reducing their water content. The drying process is the last step before the quality leaves are sorted and packaged.

Different Types of Tea

Black Tea

Hot steaming black tea in a cup on a rustic background
This type of tea with the highest caffeine content

One of the key areas that separate different types of teas is the oxidization process. For instance, black tea leaves are allowed to undergo a full oxidization process. This causes them to change color from the leaf’s original green hue to a more brown or black shade.

Because they go through the oxidization process, they no longer offer that fresh green taste but a maltier, savory flavor profile. Common black tea types include English Breakfast and Earl Grey. It is also the type of tea with the highest caffeine content.

Green Tea

Green tea is preserved almost immediately after harvesting to prevent the oxidization process. It has a floral and ‘grassier’ flavor than its black tea counterpart. It is sometimes put through pan firing immediately after rolling to prevent oxidation.

This type of tea is consumed more than black tea in Eastern countries. That is because the flavors of black tea would traditionally hold longer when traveling than the flavors of green tea. Thus, green tea would be popular in countries that grew the plant as it could be drunk while fresh, such as Japan and China.

Popular green teas include sencha and Japanese matcha.

White Tea

White tea comes from that particular plant, the Camellia sinensis plant. How it differs is that this tea is made from the youngest growth on the plant, before the leaves have even opened.

Like green tea, the unopened buds don’t go through oxidization. It is also rich in antioxidants and contains polyphenols that offer amazing health benefits. Silver Needle and White Peony are two of the most common types of white tea.

Yellow Tea

Yellow teas go through a slightly different process than green tea. They are first heated in a pan and then wrapped in cloth or paper and heaped for a few days. This results in a slight fermentation process.

Yellow tea has a sweeter taste than green tea due to the differences during tea production, which get rid of the tea’s ‘grassy’ feel. Jun Shan Yin Zhen and Meng Ding Huang Ya are two of the more well-known types of yellow tea.

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea is made through the bruising and partial oxidization of tea leaves from the (you guessed it!) Camellia sinensis plant. It has a more full-bodied flavor than green and white tea but isn’t quite as heavy as black tea. Oolong tea can have a smoky edge, so it’s not a tea that suits everyone’s taste. Phoenix Tea and Iron Goddess of Mercy are amongst the most frequently drank types of Oolong tea.

Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh tea goes through a controlled fermentation process after the leaves are dried and rolled. It most often has an earthy, nutty, and sweet flavor profile. There are two types of Pu-erh tea – ripe and raw.

Herbal Teas

Herbal teas (also known as tisanes) don’t come from Camellia sinensis but are made using various spices, flowers, and leaves from other plants. Generally speaking, they are caffeine-free and can be mixed and matched to create different blends, with ginger and lemon tea being excellent examples. Popular herbal teas include echinacea and rosehip.

The Art Of Brewing Tea

Tea can take on the flavor of the products that surround them, so to maintain the integrity of the flavor profile, the best solution is a canister or jar where you can store them separately and keep them safe.

Then, when making the tea, it’s essential to recognize the importance of the steeping process. Without it, you end up with a cup of warm water with a weak flavor profile, as the tea hasn’t had a chance to brew.

The following is a solid guide for brewing times.

  • Green tea: Brew for one to two minutes
  • Black tea: Brew for two to three minutes
  • Herbal, oolong, and white tea: Brew for three to five minutes

However, that is a guide, and tea can differ from product to product. Once you gain experience in this area, trust your gut and follow your instincts.

The Health Benefits of Drinking Tea

If you still need convincing that learning to make a great cup of tea is a brilliant skill, then look at a few of the drink’s health benefits.


Virtually all ‘real teas’ teas offer several antioxidants that can be beneficial to your overall well-being. Groups of polyphenols are the primary sources of antioxidants in black tea.

Lower Cholesterol

Some studies have shown that consuming tea can help reduce cholesterol. Green tea often gets the credit in this area, but black and white tea have also been shown to help.

Lower Blood Pressure has reported that regular tea intake helps lower systolic blood pressure. Of course, indicators such as this only apply if you take other steps to help your overall health.

Prevent Diabetes Complications

Chamomile tea has been shown to contain antioxidants that may help prevent complications associated with diabetes, like loss of vision and nerve and kidney damage.

Reduce the Risk of Stroke

Harvard University’s website states the following: “Observational research has found that tea consumption of 2-3 cups (of tea) daily is associated with a reduced risk of premature death, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.”

Incorporating Tea Into Your Diet

Flat lay composition with herbal diet tea and measuring tape
Tea can be an excellent addition to a healthy lifestyle

American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, LD, stated, “There doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea.”

She added that she thinks “it’s a great alternative to coffee drinking” because it has less caffeine and “the compounds in tea – their flavonoids – are good for the heart and may reduce cancer.”

As you can see, knowing how to make the perfect cup of tea and incorporate it into your diet can open up a world of taste and be an excellent addition to a healthy lifestyle. You are now ready to take the first step on your tea-making journey.

FAQ About How Is Tea Made

What are the ingredients in tea?

Tea can be made using loose tea leaves or tea bags. Recently boiled clean water is the only other vital ingredient. However, depending on the tea and your taste, you can add milk, sweeteners, or slices of citrus fruit.

Why is tea weighed?

Tea is weighed before brewing the drink, as teas come with different density levels. Thus, the same weight of loose tea leaves could look like a lot more or less to the brewer if they were judging by sight alone, which could result in an unbalanced brew.

Which country invented tea?

It is impossible to know which country invented tea, but the drink was popular in China for hundreds of years before it gained attention from Western countries.
Legend has it that in 2737 BC, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung had his servant serve him hot water when some leaves fell into it. According to the story, the emperor was pleasantly surprised at the flavor that then came from the drink. Whether that is true or not, it’s impossible to say.


  • Cian Murray

    Cian Murray is an experienced writer and editor, who graduated from Cardiff University’s esteemed School of Journalism, Media and Culture. His work has been featured in both local and national media, and he has also produced content for multinational brands and agencies. Find Cian on