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Types of Tea

Whether it is white, green, black or oolong, all teas come from the same plant: Camellia Sinensis. Similar to wine, the character of the tea, its color and flavor are determined by factors such as altitude, climate, seasonal changes, plucking method and how the leaf is processed.


White Tea is the least processed of all teas and therefore contains a high amount of polyphenols. Originally this tea was made in China and only the unopened leaves of two varietals of the tea plant were used. Because of the increasing demand, however, white tea is now produced in other parts of the world as well � the process, though, remaining the same. The tea is picked, withered and air dried only. Withering is the process by which moisture evaporates from the leaf.


Green Tea processing is similar to that of white tea, in that oxidation is prevented. Traditionally, after the leaves are plucked, they undergo a withering process (optional) after which they are heated, then rolled and dried. Heating the leaves halts the enzymatic action and prevents oxidation, therefore preserving freshness. In Japan, this is achieved by steaming the leaves for less than a minute while in China the leaves are tossed in a hot pan or rotating drum for a certain amount of time.


Oolong Tea (also known as wulong) processing is probably the most difficult as the leaves are only partially oxidized as part of a process that is complex and time consuming. The freshly plucked leaves are first withered outside for a certain amount of time (depending on weather and moisture content at plucking). Then the leaves are brought inside where they are withered for 6-8 hours at room temperature. During this time, the leaves are stirred or shaken, which starts the oxidation process. Pan firing and air drying are used to reduce the moisture content in the leaf. After the pan firing, the leaves are again rolled, fired, cold rolled and then given a final firing.


Black Tea processing involves the steps of withering, rolling, oxidation, drying and firing. It is the length of time and degree of oxidation which determines the final flavor and aroma of the tea. Black tea processing can be divided into orthodox and CTC (crush, tear, curl). Orthodox processing produces a higher grade of tea as this process is strictly manual and utmost care is given to rolling, sorting and shaping of the leaves. CTC is a more highly mechanized process which is primarily used for the production of tea bag grades.


Pu-erh Tea is a product of China where it has been valued for centuries for its many health benefits. Pu-erh Teas are tradtionally made with leaves old, wild tea trees which are found in the Yunnan region of China.  After picking, the leaves are made in "maocha" through withering and pan firing.  Once mostly dry, the maocha is pressed into raw Pu-Erh and aged naturally or undergoes further processing to make ripened Pu-Erh.  Like wine, the enzymatic process continues even after processing is complete.


Tisanes are infusions not containing leaves from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Tisanes, contain ingredients such as herbs, spices or fruit. Most tisanes are naturally caffeine free. This includes herbal infusions, botanical such as camomile, Ayurvedic and herbal blends. These should all be steeped longer than black tea to extract the most benefit.