Types of Tea - Green Tea, Black TeaIn essence, all tea comes from the same basic idea. You take a plant leaf and steep it in hot water, so that the flavors from the leaf come out into the water. All teas come from the tea plant species, Camellia sinensis. There are three main types of tea plant, and then four types of processing that can be done on the leaves.
First, the types of tea plants. These are the India/Assam with large leaves, the China with smaller leaves, and a "hybrid" or cross which has medium sized leaves.
Next, the types of processing. While you don't normally know (or really care) what type of plant was begun with, you do see clearly on packaging what type of processing was done to those leaves.
This is one of the most natural ways to process the tea leaf. First, the leaf is dried for 24 hours. Next, they are fried to help remove any extra water and therefore to help them not decay. Then they are dried again. You are truly getting just the "natural leaf" here which has solely been processed enough to make sure it doesn't mould or rot on its way to you. The leaves should still be green, and tend to be low in caffeine and have the freshest, most natural flavors.
White tea is rather uncommon and is much like green tea in that it is hardly processed at all. Again, it is dried for about 24 hours, then fired to further dry them out. The real difference here is that white tea leaves are picked very young, when they still have the tiny white hairs of new growth. Also, white tea leaves tend to be stored whole, so that you can see they really are young and white.
Oolong tea is a partially processed tea. Like the green and white tea, they begin by drying the leaves. Next, they partially crush the leaves, so they partially oxidize / rot and begin to turn black. They then steam the leaves to stop the oxidation process. This leaves them only partially oxidized so they are sort of like green/white tea, but sort of like black tea.
Black tea is the most popular of teas and is heavily processed. They start by drying the leaves, but then they crunch up the leaves into bits. This lets the enzymes out of the innards of the leaves, so that they oxidize / i.e. "rot". This makes the leaves turn black. Then the leaves are dried further and shipped out to consumers. This type of tea has a distinct flavor from the oxidation and also tends to be high in caffeine.
I will also mention that there are things called "herbal teas" but these are misnomers. They are of course not made from the tea plant at all so should not really be called teas. Instead they are just steeped herbs in hot water :)
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