The tea world is enormous that contains different types of tea with a history spanning centuries. The first-ever book on tea was written in the 8th century A.D. by Lu Yu, a teasage born in the Tang Dynasty, in China. A beverage with a spiritual value, tea travelled to almost every part of the world with different types of tea names sounding almost similar to tea and chai.
Made from the same plant namely camellia Sinensis, types of tea vary primarily on how they are processed. Experts say that different batches of tea processed similarly and harvested from the same estate can taste different. A slight change in rolling, withering, and oxidation period can change the characteristics of tea. In this sense, every batch of tea can be a category in itself, but there would be a million types of tea.
For the ease of our undersized human memory, we can segment different types of tea into seven categories namely Black, White, Oolong, Green Tea, Matcha, Herbal/flavoured, and Pu-erh teas. It is important to note that these loosely categorized different types of tea are made from the same plant.
1. Black Tea
Black Tea is perhaps the type most widely known. When we say tea what we often mean is black tea. Black teas are processed using two methods;
this is a lengthy and conventional process where tea leaves are withered, slightly rolled, oxidized, and dried. In the entire process, the tea leaves remain whole and an orthodox cup of black tea is full of nuanced fragrances and flavours.
b. Unorthodox (CTC)
this is a sped-up process where leaves are cut into smaller pieces, rolled, and oxidized. CTC tea steeps in a dark, rich, and malty cup with punchy and strong flavours.
2. White Tea
White Teas are minimally processed tea packed with flavonoids and a mild floral tinge to it. Freshly plucked tea leaves are directly dried (not fired) without rolling. White Teas are processed from two leaves and a bud and sometimes from only the buds. As they are not oxidized, they exhibit mild flavours and are packed with natural healthy elements.
3. Oolong Tea
Originating from China, Oolong tea defies any standardized definition, it is often considered a tea in between black and green tea as it is semi-oxidized. Oolong teas can range from dark to light and are typically rolled into balls. One can expect a mild fruity cup with woody undertones and an aftertaste of raw honey from a meticulously processed cup of Oolong tea.
4. Green Tea
The name green tea is derived from the colour of the leaves that appears green (we are not talking about green tea in teabags which contains mostly dust). Depending on the region where the teas are being processed, Green teas are either fired or steamed as soon as they are plucked to prevent oxidation from happening. Oxidation changes the colour of the leaf and infuses them with a plethora of flavours. Hence Green tea often lacks the heavy notes and rather renders a cup that can be best described as light, and bright with green flavours and mild astringency. Packed with antioxidants, green offers a lot of health benefits.
Matcha Teas are a distinct style of Japanese Green Tea that is dissimilar from the different types of teas we know. They are processed from tea leaves grown in shades and are milled between two stones until it is a fine powder. The powder is then whisked using a special bamboo whisk and consumed. Unlike any other tea, Matcha is not steeped and strained, rather the powder is consumed along with the water.
6. Herbal/flavoured Teas
Herbal Teas are called teas for the reason that they are steeped just like teas. Mostly, Herbal teas are just herbs brewed in hot water and strained. But these days, we can easily find herbal teas that contain green and white teas as their base ingredient. Similarly, Flavoured teas are also a mixture of natural ingredients like oil extract, flower petals, herbs, and green or white tea. A blender plays an important role in making a good cup of Herbal/flavoured teas. Every ingredient of herbal/flavoured teas should complement so that the whole should be greater than the sum of its parts.
7. Pu’rh teas
We will certainly need a different blog to go into the depths of how and where Pu’rh teas are made. Geography and cultivars are of utmost significance when it comes to Pu’rh teas. They come from the southern region of Yunnan province and are categorized as either raw or ripe. To make raw Pu’rh tea, tea leaves grown in the above region are just air- dried and it oxidizes slowly with time. On the other hand, ripe Pu’rh teas go under deliberate oxidation.
Experts believe that appreciating the nuanced flavours of different types of tea requires patience and the taste is acquired and not otherwise. It goes without saying that to get oneself immersed in the tea world, one shall have to take as many sips possible of as many varieties of teas one can get their hands on.