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A Guide to Every Type of Tea

We get all sorts of questions about the different types of tea. What does it mean if tea is black as opposed to green? Is herbal tea actually tea? Does red tea even exist? We've written this blog post to demystify the colors.

First and foremost, tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant (except herbal tea, which is made from a lot of other things). Variety is entirely determined by how the leaves are processed, which then affects caffeine level, taste, ideal water temperature, and more. See below for an in-depth breakdown.

 

Black

Origin: Made around the world in places like China, Vietnam, India, Turkey, and Kenya

Caffeine level: High

Taste: Dark, bold

Process: The tea is either rolled or minced, then highly oxidized

Benefits: Gives you a healthy dose of caffeine with no crash, making it a good substitute for sugary drinks

Fact: The most common tea in the world, people drink black tea everywhere, most often using teabags. Perhaps most popular is English breakfast tea, a mix of a few different black strains. Due to its color, black tea is also called red tea in China.

Prep instructions: Use 1tsp/4g tea per 8 oz water. Use 212°F/100°C water. Steep for 4 minutes.

 

Green

Origin: From China, but produced all over Asia including Japan and Korea

Caffeine level: Low to medium

Taste: Earthy, slightly bitter

Process: Depending on the location, green tea may be roasted, steamed, tumbled, or sun-dried

Benefits: Green tea has the most nutrients of all tea types. It sharpens focus, suppresses appetite, and comes rich in antioxidants.

Fact: Green tea is fleeting, with a short 6-8 month shelf life

Prep instructions: Use 1tsp/4g tea per 8 oz water. Use 175°F/80°C water. Steep for 3 minutes.

 

Herbal

Origin: Various

Caffeine level: None

Taste: Varies

Process: Herbal tea is created by blending aromatic herbs, all sourced and farmed in a unique way

Benefits: There are many possibilities—herbal tea is fundamentally medicinal

Fact: Also known as a tisane, herbal tea is not technically tea because as it doesn’t come from Camellia sinensis. Rather, tisanes use aromatic herbs and plants such as rooibos, rose petals, and orange zest.

Prep instructions: Use 1tsp/4g tea per 8 oz water. Use 210°F/98°C water. Steep for 4 minutes.

 

Oolong

Origin: Wuyi mountains, China. Produced often in the Fujian province

Caffeine level: Medium to high

Taste: Woodsy, smoky

Process: Oolong is withered and ripped apart to release flavor. This process can continue for hours until the tea master deems the leaves at optimal oxidation level. It then goes through a firing (or roasting) and rolling process.

Benefits: None in particular, aside from the overall health benefits of tea

Fact: You can steep this tea at least nine times. Oolong is commonly used in Chinese tea ceremonies, steeped in a lidded gaiwan bowl.

Prep instructions: Use 1tsp/4g tea per 8 oz water. Use 195°F/90°C water. Steep for 2 minutes.

 

White

Origin: Mostly from Fujian, China

Caffeine level: Low

Taste: Delicate, nuanced, a little sweet

Process: Barely altered from its original form, white tea nevertheless takes the longest time to process. It has a long withering period and is later baked at a low heat.

Benefits: Full of antioxidants, helps to strengthen immune system

Fact: It’s called white tea because of its light, fuzzy coating.

Prep instructions: Use 1tsp/4g tea per 8 oz water. Use 185°F/85°C water. Steep for 2 minutes.

 

Pu'er(h)

Origin: Yunnan province, China

Caffeine level: High

Taste: Complex, with notes of earth, leather, and even chocolate

Process: Fermented and packed into cakes, then aged for several years

Benefits: Full of probiotics

Fact: Because it’s fermented, pu'erh tea gets better with age (like a fine wine)

Prep instructions: Use 1tsp/4g tea per 8 oz water. Use 200°F/95°C water. Steep for 2 minutes.

 

Yellow

Origin: China

Caffeine level: Low to medium

Taste: Delicate, fresh, earthy

Process: Prepared similarly to green tea with an extra step called heaping, which involves wrapping it in a damp cloth

Benefits: Full of amino acids and vitamins

Fact: This is a very expensive and rare tea, produced in just a couple areas of China. During peak season, yellow tea can go for three times the price of black.

Prep instructions: Use 1tsp/4g tea per 8 oz water. Use 174°F/80°C water. Steep for 2 minutes.

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