Enjoyed for centuries, tea is among the healthiest food or beverage options. While coffee is the beverage of choice in most of the western world, tea dominates the eastern part of the planet (and the UK).
This article discusses many types of tea and their health benefits. If you are looking for information on a specific tea, you can use the menu below. If you are just looking for new ideas, read on.
What is tea?
Good question! Tea is the 2nd most consumed drink in the world, second only to water. An often surprising fact for tea novices is that all teas (black, green, oolong, white, and pu’erh) come from the same plant.
The scientific name for this versatile plant is Camellia sinensis (it is actually related to the beautiful camellia flowers seen in botanical gardens and landscapes). Camellia sinensis is a subtropical evergreen plant native to Asia, but is now cultivated worldwide.
The tea plant grows best in loose, deep soils, at high altitudes, and in subtropical climates. In short, types of tea is anything derived from the Camellia sinensis plant.
Anything else, although sometimes called “tea,” is more precisely known as herbal tea or herbal tea. The herbal teas include chamomile, rooibos and fruit teas. We will learn about that in a minute.
What is in the tea?
The three main components of brewed tea (also called “liquor”) are:
1. Essential oils: they provide the delicious aromas and flavors of tea.
2. Polyphenols: they provide the “vigor” or astringency in the mouth and are the components that also have most of the health benefits of tea.
3. Caffeine: Found naturally in coffee, chocolate, tea, and Yerba Mate, caffeine provides the tea’s natural energy boost.
Types of Tea:
The tastiest teas, black teas oxidize longer than their green and oolong counterparts, creating stronger aromas and robust flavors. Expect rich, full-bodied flavors and colors ranging from black to dark red.
Reported benefits: Some studies have shown that black tea may reduce the risk of stroke, regulate cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
Dark tea is from the Chinese provinces of Hunan and Sichuan and is an aged tea that is softened with a natural sweet note. Dark teas are often compressed into shapes (most commonly pastels or bricks).
Oolong tea is made from the same plant that produces black and green tea, but while black tea is fully oxidized and green tea is not oxidized, oolong is semi-oxidized and then rolled into its characteristic shape. Oolong could be green or brown in color, and the variations in flavors are huge.
Reported benefits: Less researched than black or green tea, but some studies show that oolong tea may help reduce the risk of diabetes. Plus, it comes with a range of antioxidants.
Green tea is left to wilt only a short time after being picked. The oxidation process is then stopped very quickly by firing (rapidly heating) the leaves. Therefore, when brewed at lower temperatures and for a shorter time, green teas tend to have less caffeine (10-30% coffee).
White tea is the most delicate of all types of teas. They are appreciated for their subtlety, complexity and natural sweetness. They are processed by hand using the youngest buds of the tea plant without oxidation.
When steeped at low temperature for a short time, white teas can produce low amounts of caffeine. Of course, soaking in a higher temperature and longer will extract more caffeine. But by definition, white tea has no less caffeine than other teas.
There are two main types of Puer: sheng puer and shu puer. Sheng puer is a simple non-oxidized tea whose end product will naturally change over time.
Shu puer begins as a sheng puer, but goes through a more deliberate and accelerated “post fermentation” process to accelerate this change in a matter of weeks rather than years.
All puer are made from Assamica leaf grown in Yunnan.
Yellow is a rare category of tea that is similar to green tea in appearance and taste. Yellow tea, however, generally does not have the herb of some green teas. Yellow teas often suffer more oxidation than green teas and a longer, slower drying period.
Your favorite teas and how they are made:
Before talking about the types of tea, here is the scoop on what is in your cup. The brewed tea, called “liquor,” includes essential oils, caffeine, and polyphenols.
Essential oils provide the distinctive aroma and flavor of tea, while polyphenols are associated with antioxidants, which scientists believe can boost the immune system and help prevent disease. Caffeine, of course, provides the natural energy boost that is also found in chocolate and coffee.
Now let’s talk about the types of tea. The different types of tea (black, green, oolong, white) are classified by the way they are processed, resulting in varying levels of oxidation.
So what is oxidation? It is the natural process by which the enzymes in the tea leaf interact with oxygen after the cell structure in the leaf has been broken.
It is the same process that you have seen in a freshly cut apple, which soon begins to turn brown. Once this alteration is complete, all teas are finished by drying the leaves.
Below are the four basic styles of tea. We suggest waiting to pick a favorite until you have tried the Revolution version of the teas.
To know more about tea you can check here: 26 Types of Tea: Profiles, Potential Benefits, Side Effects