When it comes to tea, there are a lot of varieties – white, green, black, oolong and so on – but surprisingly, they all come from the same Camellia sinensis plant. What makes them different from each other, and which one would match your tastebuds?
As it turns out, the difference comes from the method of processing the plant leaves. This includes the timing of the plucking and the oxidation process, which may consist of drying, withering, rolling and heat treatment. Below is an explanation of how each type of tea is made in regards to these two factors.
White tea is made from young, barely opened tea leaves and new growth buds. The processing is minimal, with natural withering and gentle drying. The minimal processing allows white tea to keep its catechins intact, giving the drinkers health benefits such as lower cholesterol and reduced risk of cancer. Due to its ‘pure’, light taste, white tea is best enjoyed alone without any addition.
The ever-popular green tea is created by steaming/heating fully opened leaves quickly, making it much less oxidised than its black counterpart. Similar to its white counterparts, many studies found that green tea provides numerous health benefits, such as improving blood flow, reducing the risk of cancer and lowering LDL. Green tea is also the main ingredient in matcha, the specially-processed Japanese tea powder.
In terms of oxidation, oolong tea lies in between green and black tea. The brown oolong is semi- or partially-fermented, meaning that the withering process is stopped before its completion. Because of this flexible interpretation, oolong can vary in colour and taste depending on the oxidation process. The caffeine content in oolong tea will help you stay alert throughout the day.
This is the most oxidised/fermented of all teas. Black tea is processed with the greatest exposure to heat, light and crushing. We’ve talked about the health benefits of black tea here – while it may offer the lowest level of health benefits out of all types, black tea is one of the most common and affordable variety, making it more accessible to everyone. Black tea also varies across regions: for example, Assam has a strong and malty flavour while Darjeeling is lighter and more delicate. Black tea goes well with milk, cream, sugar or simply on its own.
Which one will you be trying today?