What better way to kick off Tea Week than with a breakdown of the types of tea? Based on our experience at Tea Source the other day, the choices can be overwhelming!
There are four main types of tea: white, green, oolong and black. But what is the difference between them? And where do Rooibos and herbal teas come into play?
White, Green, Oolong and Black
The four main types of tea all come from the leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis. White, green, oolong and black teas differ in caffeine content, flavor, brew time, brew temperature and color. These differences come largely from the amount of time the picked leaves are allowed to react with oxygen.
White teas are a very pale color, with a light and sweet flavor. They are the least processed and have almost no reaction with oxygen because they are made from new leaf buds that are picked and dried before they are fully opened. As a result, white tea has the lowest amount of caffeine of all the teas, but the most antioxidants.
Green teas have the second-lowest caffeine content of all teas and have a delicate taste, though not as delicate as white teas. The leaves are steamed or fired soon after picking to halt the reactions with oxygen.
Oolong teas have the second-highest caffeine level of tea, and are allowed to react longer with oxygen than green teas, but for less time than black teas.
Black tea leaves experience the longest oxygen exposure time, leaving them with a stronger flavor and highest caffeine content.
Though all four types of tea are naturally caffeinated, they can easily be decaffeinated using the method discussed in my previous Brain Food 101 post on the caffeine in tea. Personally, I prefer this method of decaffeination over the processed method which uses carbon dioxide, methylene chloride or ethyl acetate.
Rooibos does not come from Camellia sinensis, but from Aspalathus linearis, which is found only in South Africa. Naturally caffeine free, Rooibos is less bitter than tea due to the lower amount of tannins. Rooibos is often considered a form of herbal tea.
Herbal teas, or tisanes, are made by infusing flowers, leaves, seeds and roots in hot water, and actually contain no tea at all. Herbal teas are naturally caffeine free.
The New Tea Companion by Jane Pettigrew & Bruce Richardson