1 Love It
Save it

The ultimate guide to tea

We strain the facts from the myths about tea

All teas are made from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant. The different tea types are determined by the fermentation and processing after which the leaves are plucked. Here's a guide to the five different types of tea.

White tea
Photo: Shawn Lor, Pixelpix
1/5

White tea

Fermentation
The least processed type of tea. White tea leaves are the purest, least doctored form of the camellia sinensis plant, from which all tea leaves are plucked. 

Smell
Mild with gentle floral notes. 

Brewing method
Boiling water destroys the delicacy of white tea, but water that’s about 80C is ideal for bringing out its flavours. Steep for about three minutes. 

Taste
Low in tannins (a bitter chemical compound that naturally occurs in tea trees), and therefore low in astringency. Clean, subtle, mild and contains the least caffeine. The high antioxidant content allegedly makes white tea a very potent cancer preventative. 

Common example
Silver needle tea.

Green tea
Photo: Shawn Lor, Pixelpix
2/5

Green tea

Fermentation
Leaves are only 70 percent fermented, while the rest are kept fresh. Sometimes, green tea leaves are left completely fresh. 

Smell
Similar to freshly cut grass. 

Brewing method
Steep in 90C water for about three minutes. Leaves left too long in water bring out more tannins than is ideal. 

Taste
Grassy, vegetal and sometimes woody. Green tea contains caffeine, but thanks to its theanine content it doesn’t give you the usual jitteriness and headaches you might expect from your standard morning pick-me-up. Like white tea, its antioxidant properties help protect against cancer. 

Common example
Gunpowder tea.

Oolong tea
Photo: Shawn Lor, Pixelpix
3/5

Oolong tea

Fermentation
Oolong is withered and partially fermented before being cooked on high heat. The result is crisp, dry leaves. 

Smell
If green tea smells of freshly cut grass, oolong bears the smell of burnt grass. 

Brewing method
The water temperature should be between 80C and 100C and leaves should be steeped for three to five minutes. 

Taste
Distinctly less golden and flowery than the other teas, which is to say that it’s full-bodied, complex and strong. Taiwanese oolong – also known as Formosa tea – is considered to be some of the world’s finest. 

Common example
Dong ding oolong tea.

Tisane
Photo: Shawn Lor, Pixelpix
4/5

Tisane

Fermentation 
Tisanes don’t contain tea leaves, which technically disqualifies them from being tea, but a long-running culture of drinking these herbal tea-like infusions make it culturally acceptable to deem them tea. 

Smell 
Depending on the type of fruit, flower, herb or spice used, tisanes are highly perfumed. 

Brewing method
Brewing temperatures vary by type of ingredient, but to make a stronger tea, add more tea rather than extend steeping time. 

Taste
Tisanes are usually floral, delicate and mild. The absence of caffeine or tannins makes it especially palatable just before bedtime. 

Common example
Hibiscus tea.

Black tea
Photo: Shawn Lor, Pixelpix
5/5

Black tea

Fermentation
The most popular tea in the Western world, black tea is fully fermented, resulting in leaves that are black, wiry and long. 

Smell
Floral, bright and highly fragrant.

Brewing method
Leaves should be infused in boiling water for about five minutes. Black tea often faces the misfortune of over-steeping, which results in bitter flavours. 

Taste
Smooth, golden and strong. Black tea should be naturally sweet, and pairs well with dessert at afternoon tea sessions. 

Common example
English breakfast tea.

Comments

0 comments