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Know Your Teas (aka Tea 101)

This week PartySugar is planning a lovely tea party so I thought I'd take a minute to talk about the different kind of teas. If you don't count herbal teas, all tea surprisingly comes from the same plant (Camellia sinensi); the different types of tea are a result of how the leaves are processed once picked. Herbal teas come from an infusion of fruit and herbs (like chamomile, rose-hips, mint) and not the tea tree. So what are the different kinds of teas? Well, there are four basic types: black, green, oolong and white. However there are a few others as well. To learn how to tell them apart,

  • Black Tea - The tea leaves are allowed to fully oxidize, so the leaves of the tea are darker than others. It has been the most popular type of tea in western countries due to the fact that it has a longer storage life and was more suitable for transport in the early days of tea trade. Often referred to as "red tea" in many parts of Asia.
  • Green Tea - The leaves of green tea are un-oxidized or minimally oxidized by steam or dry cooking in hot pans. The steaming process allows the leaves to retain their green color. Due to the shorter shelf-life, green teas should be consumed as soon after production as possible.
  • Oolong Tea - The oxidation process is stopped somewhere between green and black tea, usually within 2-3 days. It generally has more flavor than green tea, but brews lighter than black.
  • White Tea - Made from the buds and young leaves of the tea plant. In order to stop the oxidation process, the leaves are fried or steamed immediately after picking. It is very delicate in taste and has a unique sweetness. In general, the price of white tea is usually more than the others.
  • Post-fermented Tea - These leaves undergo a second oxidation and are meant to be aged. It's also produced from the mature, larger leaves of older tea trees. It can take several years to age. Pu-erh is the most common type of post-fermented tea.
  • Yellow Tea - A special tea processed similarly to green tea, however the drying phase is much slower.
  • Herbal Tea - Made by infusing or boiling leaves, seeds, flowers, stems, roots, and bark of various plants. It is not a "true tea" since the leaves do not all come from the tea tree.
Join The Conversation
bengalspice bengalspice 9 years
What about red tea? I know that's what they use in Thai Iced Tea.
celebrity_soup celebrity_soup 10 years
know them all! :D
Food Food 10 years
Yep Jessness it does. In general, coffee has about twice the amount of caffeine than black tea.
JessNess JessNess 10 years
Doesn't tea still have less caffeine then coffee?
SU3 SU3 10 years
did NOT know about the caffeine content... THANKS :)
Food Food 10 years
JLew - Green tea does contain caffeine, however it is about 1/2 - 1/3 the amount of black tea. Pretty much the longer the leaves are fermented, the higher the caffeine content. Hope that helps!
JLew1982 JLew1982 10 years
Does green tea have caffeine? For some reason, I can't get a straight answer on it. I drink a bunch of it and am just wondering!
mandiesoh mandiesoh 10 years
JessNess, milk+sugar in tea is practically a staple here! LOL really nice n sweet but i love my teas as they are, no nothing added :)
kscincotta kscincotta 10 years
Thanks Jess!
JessNess JessNess 10 years
Ok I just read this about Early Grey. "It's actually plain black tea, infused with the citrus flavour of bergamot (similar to orange blossoms). This gives a bright, tart and refreshing tea that is unlike other black teas."
JessNess JessNess 10 years
Early Grey was first categorized with black tea. However now they group it with green and white tea. Im always on the fence with Earl Grey. I really want to like but I cant :(.
kscincotta kscincotta 10 years
So does that mean that Earl Grey is an herbal tea? Because that's the tea of choice for The Hubs and I, esp with a little honey.
SeptemberLights SeptemberLights 10 years
I like most kind of teas and drink tea daily. However, i have to say that I HATE GREEN TEA! I think it tastes like crap and is overrated. No green tea for me.
JessNess JessNess 10 years
divinedebris- you can still get healthy tea at the grocery store. Actually I have noticed that grocery stores are starting to carry more brands then ever before. Also if you find a brand of tea you like but cant find it in the store then just ask the place where you found it if you could buy a box or two. Most cafes/coffee houses sell the boxes of tea they serve
divinedebris divinedebris 10 years
i love tea. how do the brands that you can get at the grocery store stand up when drinking tea? do you still get the same health benefits?
JessNess JessNess 10 years
I love tea but my favorite is and always will be black tea with a little milk and sugar. Yes people think milk and sugar in tea sounds gross but it is great and very British
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