There are five major types of classic Chinese teas: White tea, Green tea, Oolong, Black tea and Pu Erh tea. They are all made from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The difference is the process of leaves and its Oxidation. Oxidation starts from plucking of leaves until they are dried, withered, rolled and treated with heat. We are going to talk about the differences and characters of each tea types.
White tea is the least Oxidated tea, so the color remains white and silvery. It has the least amount of Caffeine of all teas (from the tea plant). The flavor is mild, slightly fruity and sweet.
White tea requires about 175 degrees F water. Let the boiled water cool down a little to bring out the best flavor.
Popular White tea includes White Peony tea (Bai Mu Dan) and Silver needle white tea (Bai Hao Yin Zhen). Silver needle white tea is rare and expensive because it is only the top buds, and White Peony tea is the second set of leaves.
Green tea has very short Oxidation time, so its Caffeine content is low, and the color remains green. Green tea is stronger than white tea but milder than Oolong or Black tea. It contains a lot of natural nutrients and vitamins.
Most green teas are from China and Japan. Popular Chinese Green teas include Lung Jing ( or Dragon Well - as a direct translation) and Bi Luo Chun ( or Green Spiral Spring - as a direct translation because the leaves curled up like the snails).
It requires less boiled water than Oolong and Black tea, about 80 degrees C or 176 degrees F.
Oolong is semi-oxidated tea. The flavor, color, and caffeine are between White tea and Black tea. The best temperature of the water for Oolong tea is about 195 degrees F.
Taiwan and China are two major areas producing Oolong tea. Famous Oolong includes Bao Jong and Tie Guan Yin (Iron Goddess). Oolong leaves are usually hand rolled, with a strong fragrance. You can brew the same Oolong tea leaves several times, but the flavor will decrease accordingly.
Black tea is fully oxidized tea. It has a dark brown reddish color. They are mainly from China, India and Sri Lanka (Ceylon).
The best water temperature for Black tea is 212 degrees F or the boiling point.
The leaves are plucked, withered, rolled and crushed. This activates Oxidation and turns the leaves black. In China, Black tea is actually called "Red Tea" because of the reddish color.
There are also the flavored Black teas, including Eral Grey, and flower or fruit flavored black teas. The Indian Chai tea is made of black tea, milk, and various local spices. These are all the variations of Black tea.
Pu Erh tea
Pu Erh is a fermented tea, aged just like wine. The ideal water should be at 212 degrees F or the boiling point.
It takes 6 months to a year of fermentation to produce the tea. It has a mellow, buttery flavor that is very different from other teas. Like all fermented food, Pu Erh tea contains good bacteria that is beneficial for stomach and intestines. It helps digestion, sleep, lower cholesterol and prevent disease. It is a good tea for the elderly because of the health advantages, less caffeine, and less astringent flavor.
All teas contain antioxidants. Drinking teas improve the immune system, prevent heart disease, and help fighting cancer. It has lower caffeine than coffee but still stimulates metabolism, increases energy and helps losing weight.
Everybody's constitute is different and balance is the key. Some people might be sleepless after a cup of tea, while others might just need that cup to perform at their best. Know your limit and avoid addiction to tea or coffee.
There is good and bad quality of tea. At least find a reliable brand or source. Organic tea is the best. Store tea leaves in an airtight container. Drink them as fresh as possible. They do expire after a while. The flavor is the best at the same season as produced. Next time, instead of reaching for a Lipton tea bag, try some high-quality loose tea. You might be pleasantly surprised.