There are thousands of varieties of tea throughout the world, and even among these the tea can be processed in a unique and different way. India’s Assam region harvests the most tea, and second in total world production is Sri Lanka. Among the varieties of tea are oolongs, assam, darjeeling, silver needle, wuyi, gyokuro, sencha, dragon well, white peony, and ceylon. There are thousands of types of teas, and the choices can be overwhelming. Most of these different types fall under four main types. These four main ones are ones which you are probably familiar with if you are a regular tea drinker: green, black, oolong, and white teas.
Do the Different Types of Teas Come from Different Plants?
There is only one type of plant that tea comes from, which may surprise someone who is new to the world of tea. All tea comes from the Camellia sinesis plant. There are some teas, called tisanes, which don’t come from Camellia sinesis. These include chamomile and herbal teas. But a newcomer might wonder how the single plant produces so many different types of teas.
If Teas All Come from the Same Plant, What Makes Them Different?
Anything can change the outcome of a tea. And there is a lot that affects the Camellia sinesis plant. Changes in the weather or different altitudes can impact how a tea turns out. Different parts of the world have different climates and different compounds of soil. These account for very varied types of teas that exist in the world today. A look at the four main types of tea:
Green tea is pretty well known these days and it offers many health benefits. It’s harvested in the spring, and after harvesting the oxidation process is stopped. Green tea is fermented a little longer. Some types are grown in the shade, and some are grown in sunshine. It’s a common variety of tea and can be found in most grocery stores, but there are certain types of this tea which are incredibly expensive. Some types of green tea can cost hundreds for a few ounces.
Black tea is oxidized more than the other three types of teas. The leaves are left to dry until they turn dark. It is also known to have health benefits as the other types. Black tea has much more caffeine than the other types of tea, and is consumed more world wide than the other types of tea.
Oolong, also called wu long, has a longer oxidation process, like black tea. Oolong tea varies in taste, but can have a woody or flowery flavor. Oolong is similar to green and black teas, and is a cross between the two.
White tea is harvested in the spring, like green tea. It’s sweet in taste and has a delicious aroma. It is the least fermented type of tea and goes through a very simple process. It’s simply left out to be dried by the sun or in a room with specially controlled climate. It has health benefits that include its ability to fight cancer and fight off organisms that cause disease.
If you're new to the tea-drinking world, you'll want to have some fun experimenting with different flavors. However, at first you may feel overwhelmed. It helps to know something about how tea is grown and processed to start with. There are some similarities in the ways any tea is processed, and it's good when you're choosing a particular flavor to know what the process necessitates.
Tea Harvesting and Processing
First, the uppermost leaves of the plant are harvested and then they're left to wither for a day or so. There are chemicals inside these leaves that need to be released, so then the leaves are crushed. After that, the crushed leaves are rolled and left in the air to oxidize over a few hours. At the end, they're heated so that all dampness is removed. When the leaves have been completely oxidized, the result is black tea, which is probably the most commonly used in the world. Around seventy-five percent of people in the world regularly drink black tea.
Green tea, on the other hand, is heated before the leaves are rolled, so it is not oxidized and stays green. That green tea accounts for the other twenty-five percent of the tea that people drink. It's less common, but is becoming more popular as its health benefits are being realized and its taste is being appreciated. There's a vast array of tea flavors, so you'll probably want to focus on those within the category you prefer the most. If you like black, or green, or white teas, select from within that category to make it an easier choice.
A Question of Quality
Select loose tea that's been picked early in its growth to really get a great taste. You can go for cheaper teas, but you'll be glad if you don't stint on quality. It's always best to use teas that have been grown in gardens without chemicals and that have been processed manually over time without the aid of chemical additives that are meant to hurry the process along. Artificial flavors are also to be avoided as they take away from the tea's flavor, giving it a more harsh taste. If you like strong flavors, like licorice or blackberry, a black tea is your best bet. Its robust quality can withstand the addition of stronger flavors.
Flavors to Your Taste!
Coffee drinkers often take to black teas that are well flavored. Green and white teas are more delicate, so choose them if you enjoy more subtle flavors such as pear or mango. Green tea is so subtle and delicate that it really goes well with light fruits or herbs such as mint or ginger. That's especially true of white tea, also. It has an aura that you take in almost as if you're inhaling the sweetness of roses or strawberries as you drink. You can be sitting in your kitchen and feel as if you're lounging in a tropical garden. However, for total well-being, don't just opt for the flavors you like.
...But Remember to Try New Things Too!
Look into the health benefits of particular teas, also, and find those that help you deal with your own particular set of health issues. There are so many to choose from, and you can find out more online or at your local health food store. Green and white teas especially are filled with anti-oxidants that can prevent cancer and help lots of other physical issues you may have or want to prevent. If you haven't fully explored the world of flavored teas, this is the time to begin your adventure. Body and mind will be glad you did!