Updated: Mar 11, 2022
Even though all tea is made from the same plant - Chinese Camellia, or camellia sinensis, an endless variety of flavors, aromas, textures, and experiences are possible. Different varietals, carefully bred and cultivated by tea farmers for hundreds of years, imbue the leaves with surprising attributes. The 'type' of tea refers to how the leaves are handled after picking. Click a teacup to learn more! And try all six types with our Six Types of Tea Sample Set.
Green tea is non-oxidized tea. Heat is applied to the leaves to halt oxidation before it starts. Oxidation (a process visible when you cut an apple, for example) gives tea a reddish / brownish color, and imparts a more fruity flavor. Green tea typically has a more nutty or grassy flavor, depending on how it's processed and the amount of roasting applied.
White tea is minimally oxidized (around 15%). It forgoes any roasting or shaping steps, keeping more of the original flavor of the leaves intact. Picking style, more than processing, differentiates white teas. They are prized for their subtle floral aroma, light fruity flavors and a lingering honey sweetness.
Yellow tea is a very rare tea that is processed like green tea, but with an additional step of wrapping the leaves in bundles after heating. This tea has a more mellow flavor than green tea, with a mild sweetness. Because of the complexity of it's production, only a small amount of yellow tea is produced, and it's rare to find it outside of China.
Oolong tea is moderately oxidized (anywhere between green and black), but more important is the shaping and roasting of the leaves, as well as the specific cultivars used. The combinations of these factors is nearly endless, making oolong difficult to describe. Flavors vary from flowery and honey sweet to fruity and creamy, to caramel and toffee.
Black tea is the most familiar tea to westerners - it is the basis of Earl Grey, Lipton, and most iced teas. It is a fully oxidized tea, with a more fruity, almost red grape flavor, often accompanied by a clove or cinnamon spice note as well. Some black teas are smoked, offering a more bold, rich flavor.
Pu'er, a specific kind of hei cha or Dark Tea, is a fermented tea, which imparts a robust malty flavor, while retaining some sweetness. It also adds many health benefits and aids digestion, making it a favorite for after a heavy meal. Pu'er teas are known to age like fine wines.