All kinds of tea are drawn from the basic, same plant the Camellia Sinensis. But there exist many hundreds of types of teas having individual aroma, taste, and appearance.
Just like coffee or wine, every tea harvest will differ year to year because of changes in rainfall, climate, and other seasonal factors. A particular kind of tea gains its individual character from the process of cultivation and processing.
The different types of tea are based on how it is fermented or oxidized. Oxygen plays a major role in tea making, and by exposing the tea leaves to the air, tea professionals, and farmers can bring out certain aromas and flavours from the leaves.
The following are the major kinds of teas:
This type undergoes the least processing. This tea was cultivated traditionally in China and leaves were picked only a few times a year when a white down (bai hao) emerged on the tender shoots. These tea shoots were subject to withering and dried to prevent oxidation. This tea has the most delicate aromas and flavours. Aromas may be like subtle floral sense.
The vital green colour is retained by avoiding oxidation. For preventing oxidation, leaves are heat processed. In China, leaves are pan-fried or roasted while, in Japan, they are steamed. Steamed green teas are delicate because they contain moisture.
Such teas are semi-oxidized. Oolong means ‘Black Dragon’ in Chinese. They have been cultivated in both Taiwan and China. Mature, large leaves are picked, rolled, withered, oxidized and finally, fired. Leaves can be permitted to be oxidized around 10% to 18%. Because of the intricacy of the modes of processing, oolong teas have a wide array of aromas and flavours.
The most popular variety of tea, its leaves are completely oxidized. Young leaves are picked and rolled, withered, completely oxidized and fired. Some of the best types of this tea come from Darjeeling, Assam (India), and Ceylon. The best black teas are created by hand. Such teas are of two types: Blends and Estate teas.
Like perfumes, tea companies have created their own blends. Estate teas are sourced from a particular estate and are auctioned for thousands of dollars per pound.
In spite of the misnomer, this variety of tea is in reality, fermented. This tea is made of big leaves, which is aged for several years. The highly prized varieties may have a light dusting of mould. During the ageing process, the tea is subject to bacteria and microflora, which ferment the tea, like in the case of yoghurt or wine. The most expensive type of tea is more than 30 years old.
It is a popular type of black tea, also known as Sri Lankan tea. Served warm or as iced tea, it is the most popular beverage worldwide. Sri Lanka is a small island but has a variety of terrains, and so, tea cultivated here has a variety of flavours and aromas. Premium Ceylon tea has leaves, which are wiry (thin and long like wires). These can be easily recognized. Classic Ceylon flavour is brisk, full, and bold. It may be flavoured with spice, chocolate, or citrus. Ceylon tea is the world’s favourite for making iced tea.
These are some of the major types of teas in the world.
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