Understanding types of teas

Understanding types of teas

Tea is an infusion of the leaves of a bush called Camellia sinensis that grows in the subtropical and tropical region. 

Three aspects that determine the quality of the tea are

  • the variety of the tea plant
  • the environment in which it grows
  • and how the leaves were processed

Let us discuss the common six different types of teas, shall we? Before discussing the types - while the tea plant and environment characterize the types, the critical aspect that distinguishes the tea types is their processing. All six tea types were invented in China and had different varieties.



white teas

They are the least processed of the tea types. After the harvest, the leaves are withered for a long time. Sometimes for days, even under the sun or in the shadow. After the withering, the leaves are dried, naturally or artificially. The key element of white tea is the long slow withering. 


green teas

The leaves are cooked right after the harvesting to prevent oxidation. An enzyme that is responsible for oxidation is deactivated by early heating. So they remain green and hence are named green teas. The leaves are then shaped using different methods, like by shaping or rolling machines. Then they are dried.  


yellow teas

The processing of yellow tea is pretty much similar to green tea, where the leaves are heated and shaped. After that, when the leaves are still humid and warm, they are piled up, wrapped, and placed in a hot and humid room where they remain for days, we call this process yellowing. The leaves get yellowish color and then the leaves are dried. 


oolong teas

Arguably with the most complicated processing amongst the teas, Oolong teas start with the withering step, which is not as long as for the white teas. The leaves are then bruised by rubbing against each other and the left to rest, correctly alternating bruising and resting time results in controlled oxidation of the leaves. Once the desired level of oxidation is reached, then they are heated, shaped, and dried. Sometimes the oolong teas, after drying, are also roasted. 


black teas

A short withering followed by heavily rolling the leaves against each other to promote oxidation in dedicated hot rooms or greenhouses is how we begin processing the black teas. Once the oxidation is complete, and the leaves are brown, they are shaped and dried. The critical element is the complete oxidation of the leaves. The Europeans gave the name black tea because of the dark appearance of the teas that they were importing from China, but the Chinese called it red tea according to the color of the infusion. 


dark teas

It is also known as the post-fermented tea and the Chinese called it black tea.

The beginning of the processing is very similar to the green teas - heating and shaping. After shaping, the leaves are piled up and put in a hot and humid environment for several days. During this time, the leaves change entirely. They ferment and change their color from green to brown. Once the fermentation is completed, the leaves are dried and are ready.

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