Types of Tea
The classic definition of tea is the brew made from the infusion of water and the leaves of an evergreen plant of the Camellia family.
In the tea industry, tea is defined as the dried processed leaves of Camellia sinensis, or Thea sinesis. Commercially, there are three major varieties of Camellia sinensis: the China type, the India (Assam region) type, and the Hybrid type (a cross breed of the China and India types). The China type tea plant has small leaves and usually grows well at higher altitudes. The India or Assam type has larger leaves and cultivates best at lower elevations. The Hybrid falls somewhere in between the China and India types.
There are four major types of tea: White, Green, Oolong and Black. Interestingly, all these teas come from the raw leaves of the same tea plant, Camellia sinensis. What distinguishes each category is the method used when processing the tea leaves. The way the leaves are processed-steamed, fermented (oxidized), dried, or bruised-gives the tea the special characteristics of its category.
Tea spin offs, such as scented, flavored or blended teas, are produced using one of the four major types of tea as a base. Tossing jasmine flowers with either black or green tea makes a scented tea such as jasmine tea. A flavored tea such as Earl Grey is mainly the combination of bergamot oil and a strong black tea. English Breakfast tea is usually a combination of different black tea leaves from India and Sri Lanka.
One term that has become part of our everyday lingo is "herbal tea." Since you now know that tea only comes from the tea plant Camellia sinensis, you may be wondering how a tea can be herbal. It can't be. A product has to be either herbal or tea-based. In the tea industry, beverages made with herbs or flower parts instead of tea are often referred to as tisanes, or herbal infusions.
Black Tea: Itís allowed to wither. Water evaporates out of the leaves and the leaves absorbs more oxygen from the air. Their dark brown and black leaves are characteristic of undergoing full oxidation. It contains the highest caffeine content.
Green Tea: Is allowed to wither slightly. The oxidation process is stopped suddenly by quickly heating the leaves. Known for its many health benefits. They have less caffeine than black teas.
Oolong Tea: Undergoes only partial oxidation. They have a caffeine content between black and green teas.
White Tea: They are hand processed using the youngest of the tea plant, with no oxidation allowed. They have a very low amount of caffeine.
Puerh Tea: The production process is guarded by China and not revealed. Itís an aged black tea, known for its medicinal properties.