Kinds of Tea
Tea can be divided into five
basic categories: black, green, oolong (or wulong), white and puerh.
Black tea is
allowed to wither, which precedes a process called oxidation
(sometimes incorrectly referred to as fermentation) during which
water evaporates out of the leaf and the leaf absorbs more
oxygen from the air. Black teas usually undergo full oxidation,
and the results are the characteristic dark brown and black
leaf, the typically more robust and pronounced flavors of black
teas, and, when brewed appropriately, a higher caffeine content
compared to other teas (50-65% of coffee, depending on the type
and brewing technique).
Green tea is
allowed to wither only slightly after being picked. Then the
oxidation process is stopped very quickly by firing (rapidly
heating) the leaves. Therefore, when brewed at lower
temperatures and for less time, green teas tend to have less
caffeine (10-30% of coffee). Greens also tend to produce more
subtle flavors with many undertones and accents that
Oolong tea (also
known as wulong tea) is allowed to undergo partial oxidation.
These teas have a caffeine content between that of green teas
and black teas. The flavor of oolong (wulong) teas is typically
not as robust as blacks or as subtle as greens, but has its own
extremely fragrant and intriguing tones. Oolongs (wulongs) are
often compared to the taste and aroma of fresh flowers or fresh
White teas are the
most delicate of all teas. They are appreciated for their
subtlety, complexity, and natural sweetness. They are hand
processed using the youngest shoots of the tea plant, with no
oxidation. When brewed correctly, with a very low temperature
and a short steeping time, white teas can produce low amounts of
Puerh is an aged
black tea from China prized for its medicinal properties and
earthy flavor. It is perhaps the most mysterious of all tea.
Until 1995 it was illegal to import it into the U.S., and the
process of its production is a closely guarded state secret in
China. It is very strong with an incredibly deep and rich
flavor, and no bitterness, and an element that could best be
described as almost peaty in flavor.