There are over 3,000 types of tea in the world; all of them come from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis. Variations in growing region, time of harvest, parts of the plant harvested, plant variety, processing method, and numerous other factors make the key differences between types of tea.
White Tea is the least processed of all tea varieties. Traditionally it comes from White Tea leaf varietals from Fujian Province China. Since they are made from young, tender, newly grown spring leaves, they are high in the amino acid L-Theanine, which acts as an anti-anxiety and mood enhancer. This also contributes to the silky sweet quality of the tea, and the calming effect white tea tends to have on the nervous system. White Tea leaves are generally only harvested once per year for a few weeks during early spring and minimally oxidized, not rolled, steamed or fired like other teas.
Fresh Tea Leaf → Withering → Drying (air drying, solar drying or mechanical drying) → White Tea.
Green Tea originated in China thousands of years ago and it is the least oxidized of all tea varieties. The first flush or growth of leaves usually takes place in late April to early May. The second harvest usually takes place from June through July, and a third harvest takes place in late July to early August. It is the first flush that brings the best quality leaves. The majority of Japanese teas are steamed, while most Chinese green teas are pan fired. One of the ways Japanese green teas are categorized is by length of time they are steamed; Asamushi – lightly steamed at 30 seconds or less, Chumushi – more traditional medium steaming, and Fukamushi – deep steamed at 90 seconds or more.
Fresh tea leaf → Steaming (Japan)/Panning (China) → Shaping/Forming → Drying → Green Tea.
Oolong is a category of teas that are semi-oxidized in order to create complex fruity and floral flavors. Green tea has almost 0% oxidation, black tea is 100% oxidized, oolongs span the gap between green and black. They are generally oxidized (exposed to oxygen after the leaves have been allowed to wilt) between 5%-60% with some exceptions like our Brandy Oolong, which is 85% oxidized. Most oolongs, especially those of fine quality, involve tea plant cultivars that are exclusively used for particular varieties; many are grown at high altitudes, which leads to a more bold and better flavor. This tea category is especially popular with tea connoisseurs of Southern China (where oolong originated) and Taiwan where the majority of oolongs are produced.
Fresh Tea Leaf → Withering → Bruising → Partial Oxidation → Panning/Baking → Rolling/Twisting → Drying → Roasting (if roasted) → Oolong tea
Black Tea originated in China where it is known as Hong Cha or “Red Tea.” With Black Tea, the leaf is not fired until it has withered and oxidized completely, resulting in a dark leaf and coppery-red infusion. This change in color occurs as a result of the way oxidation alters the polyphenols (antioxidants) in the tea leaf. Fresh tea leaves are rich in polyphenols which have a clear and greenish pigment. When these clear-green polyphenols oxidize they become Theaflavin, which has a golden-yellow pigment (as with the infusions of Oolongs and White Teas). In Black Tea, the Theaflavin has further oxidized and become Thearubigin, which has a reddish pigment.
Fresh Tea Leaf → Withering → Light Crushing → Full Oxidation → Shaping → Drying → Black Tea.
Pu-erh: this aged tea gets its name from the market in the city of Pu-erh, Yunnan Province, China where it was historically brought for sale from the more remote regions in which it was grown and processed. Like champagne, authentic pu-erh must come from Yunnan Province and similar to wine in general, the year, varietal, region, terroir, climate, etc. contributes to the taste and quality of the tea. There are two classes of Pu-erh: Sheng (raw) where the tea is aged naturally over time; sometimes for 5, 10, 20+ years, and Shou (ripe) where the tea is aged at an intentionally accelerated rate through a method called “wet piling” which can ripen in as little as six months. Both types start with sun-cured green tea leaves and then receive their flavor and character from the aging process. Unlike white, green, black, and most oolong teas, which are highly perishable and have a short shelf life, well-made pu-erh teas may be stored and aged for years of enjoyment.
Fresh Tea Leaf → Sun Curing → Steaming/Panning → Rolling/Forming → Drying → Natural Aging/Wet Piling → Pu-erh Tea
Tisanes/Herbal Blends do not come from the Camellia Sinensis plant and are therefore not actually tea. Like tea, they are often made by an infusion of hot water and plant material, but in addition to leaves, can include flowers, stems, berries, fruits, roots, seeds and other parts of a variety of plants. These plants can be either fresh, dried, whole, chopped, or ground. Tisanes date back almost as far as written history itself and are often formulated around specific medicinal qualities of certain plants. Most of them are caffeine free.