Another week, another article! Today, we’re going into teas! Or more specifically, the major tea types. There are so many benefits to tea drinking – improves heart health, soothes the mind, relaxes the body, and so much more. Some of you may already be tea drinkers. Others may be curious about tea. Then there are those who don’t care. But the point is, there is a whole world of teas out there, ready for discovering. And discover we shall!

A photo of tea and French macarons

There are six main tea types out there, and we’re going to touch a little on each type. To be honest, there are five actual tea types, but you’ll see why I’m mentioning a sixth in a little bit. But before we delve into the kettle of the article, I’m going to give a small, super quick rundown of how to brew an amazing cup of tea (not iced tea, sorry folks), using loose leaf tea.

A quick reference to brewing a cup of tea

Requirements for tea:

  • Steeper
  • Teapot
  • Tea kettle/similar
  • Teacups

Leaf-to-water ratio:

1 teaspoon of tea leaves per 8 ounces of water

Infusion times:

  • One minute for light infusion
  • Two minutes for strong
  • Three minutes for very strong

The 5 Main Tea Types

White tea

Basic Summary: White tea, named for the white hairs that protrude from the buds once the tea is ready for harvest, is one of the least processed teas, as the leaves are disallowed from oxidizing for too long, unlike black or green tea leaves. As a result, white tea’s taste is delicate and incredibly fresh.

Origin: White tea originates from China’s Fujian province way back in the 1700s.

Popular Tea Varieties: Silver Needle, Monkey Picked White Tea, Darjeeling White Tea, White Peony Tea.

Taste: Because they are hand processed, white tea captures a unique flavor profile described as subtle with hints of fruit, honey, earthy, floral, sweet, etc.

Caffeination: 6 to 60 mg, or 1.5 to 33 cups of brewed coffee

Health Benefits: High in antioxidants, potentially reduces risks of heart disease, lowers risk of insulin resistance, helps decline rapid aging, weight loss, improves focus, soothing.

Black tea

Basic Summary: The most common drink among all types of teas – at least in the west. This type of tea is more oxidized than the oolong, white, and green teas, and as a result, carries a stronger flavor. Just like white tea, black tea is heavy in antioxidants.

Origin: Black tea originated in China in the mid-1600s. Apparently, an army from Jianxi camped at a nearby tea factory in the province of Fujian. This led to delayed tea production for the factory, causing tea leaves to be placed out into the sun for longer than intended. To not waste any of the tea, which turned into a dark red color, with prolonged oxidization, farmers rushed the drying process by placing the tea leaves over a fire. As a result, the tea emitted a smoky flavor. Hence, black tea.

Popular Varieties: Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling, Earl Grey, English Breakfast Tea, Keemun, Lapsang Souchong (one of the earliest teas), Masala Chai Tea

Taste: Vast array of flavors but generally stronger compared to green tea. Carries a rich flavor profile.

Caffeination: 14 – 61mg, or between 4 and 7 cups of brewed coffee

Health Benefits: High amounts of antioxidants, may benefit heart health, lowers LDL (the “bad” cholesterol), may improve gut health and focus, may lower blood pressure, risk of stroke, cancer, and blood sugar levels.

Green tea

Basic Summary: Green tea is a phenomenon that struck the west fairly recently, but it derives from the same plant species as black tea – Camellia Sinensis. The variety and the processing of the tea leaves are what differentiates the two. Green tea leaves are harvested from the Camellia Sinensis plant and quickly heated either by pan firing or steaming. They are then quickly oxidized, but not fully oxidized like black tea. Furthermore, black tea is fully oxidized before being heat-treated and dried.

Origin: Green tea originated in China, to the point that even the Chinese word for tea only refers to green tea. The Yunnan province is the “hometown” of the Camellia Sinensis tea. However, it was popularized in Japan in roughly the year 1190.

Popular Varieties: Sencha (seen below), Matcha (great for cookies!), Hojicha, Genmaicha, Longjing, Gunpowder, Kukicha, Bancha, Kabusecha, Tencha, Ichibancha

Taste: Green tea boasts a subtle, earthy taste that is often described as herbaceous, grassy, sweet, and vegetal.

Caffeine Amount: 24 to 40 mg, or roughly 4 to 5 cups of brewed coffee

Health Benefits: Decreases tumor growth and reduces mortality due to cardiovascular disease. Lowers cholesterol and risk of stroke. May promote (albeit minorly) weight loss in overweight and obese adults. Slows the growth of skin cells in inflammatory skin diseases (with overproduction of skin cells). Enhances the working memory.

Oolong Tea

Basic Summary: Oolong tea is its own category of tea, though it appears similar to some black teas. Oolong’s oxidation process is longer than green tea’s process but shorter than black tea’s process. Oxidation levels of oolong can be anywhere between 8 percent and 80 percent. Because of the vast differences in oxidation levels, oolong tea may taste closer to black tea (AKA black oolong tea) OR closer to green tea (AKA green oolong tea).

Origin: Oolong apparently originates in both China and Taiwan, but Taiwan’s oolong teas are lighter in flavor and appearance compared to the oolong teas of China.

Popular Varieties: Phoenix Tea, Wuyi Oolong, Iron Goddess of Mercy (that sounds vicious), High Mountain Oolong, Milk Oolong, Four Seasons

Taste: The taste of oolong tea really depends on the oxidation levels of the tea leaves, where the tea is grown, etc. The taste can range anywhere from light and subtle to strong and deep, often being described as sweet or toasty. Oolong is often compared to wine in terms of taste – varied and exquisitely described.

Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if “oolong tasting” events are a thing – and they are.

Caffeine Amount: The caffeine amount in oolong tea can range from 16 mg to 56 mg, which is anywhere between six cups and 13 cups of brewed coffee.

Health Benefits: Improves blood sugar control and lowers risk of developing type 2 diabetes. May also improve heart health, caloric and fat burning (speeding up weight loss), and brain function and mood. May protect against certain cancers, may increase bone mineral density, may strengthen enamel, may reduce dental plaque, and may relieve eczema.

Pu’erh tea

Basic Summary: Pu’erh tea is growing in popularity in the US, but many are still unaware of this unique type of tea. This type of tea comes from the leaves and stems of the Camellia Sinensis plant – the very same plant that oolong, green, and black teas are from. However, processing of Pu’erh tea is very different compared to the other teas and involves two stages: fermentation followed by long-time storage, or “aging”, in an area with high humidity.

Origin: Pu’erh tea was birthed thousands of years ago in the Yunnan Province of China (25 – 220 CE) thanks to the drying of large, soft leaves. However, Pu’erh tea didn’t become exported until the 7th century, when it was learned that the tea actually improved, not spoiled, with age.

Popular Varieties: Green (Sheng), Black (Shou)

Taste: Pu’erh tea’s taste is described as deep and bold, complete with an earthy, smooth taste – with hints of malt.

Caffeine Amount: Between 30 mg and 70 mg, or between 1 and 7 cups of brewed coffee.

Health Benefits: Can improve alertness and sharp thinking. Can also reduce high cholesterol. Carries lots of antioxidants and may also aid digestion.

Herbal teas (tisanes)

Basic Summary: Herbal teas aren’t exactly teas, as they aren’t made from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The teas from this particular tea type are instead called “tisanes” and are generally crafted with a blend of herbs, spices, and flowers. They usually contain no caffeine.

Origin: Acknowledgment of tisanes stem as far back as the Ancient Egyptian and Ancient Chinese eras – maybe even farther back.

Popular Varieties: Leaf tisanes (lemon, mint, lemongrass), flower tisanes (chamomile, lavender, hibiscus), bark tisanes (cinnamon), root tisanes (ginger, chicory), fruit tisanes (blueberry, raspberry, peach, cherry), spice tisanes (fennel, vanilla (check out this vanilla caramel tea), cardamom)

Taste: Oh geez, there’s no beginning or ending with the taste of tisanes. It vastly varies from variety to variety.

Caffeine Amount: Usually none.

Health Benefits: Varies from tisane to tisane, but generally these teas can help you relax, boost your immune system, relieve pain, stimulates the brain, and improve your digestive system.

Hopefully, you learned a thing or 100 with this article. Are you interested in trying any new teas? What about tea types? What tea types have you tried or what teas specifically? Do you have food with your tea? Let me know in the comments!

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