There has been a remarkable increase in the uptake of tea across the globe. Drinking tea has not just become fashionable, it has been credited for its health benefits to the consumers. Its various flavours have also enabled it to beat coffee in uptake. Increasingly, restaurants have mastered the art of differentiating their products to beat the competition in the industry. Research shows that after water, tea is not just the most popular but also the cheapest beverage consumed in the world.
So, what is tea anyway?
All tea traces its origin to the Camellia Sinensis plant. Interestingly, the plant has over 3000 varieties with many nuanced variations that originate from the location of its growth. Actually, in some cases, the subtle differences are hard to notice even when the plants are growing on the same farm. So, as you can tell, this guide will only try to provide you with the types of teas in the market while focusing on the dominant varieties.
Which are the available types of teas?
There are two broad categories of teas. They are herbal teas and traditional teas. We will begin by reviewing the traditional ones first and then delve into the herbal ones. Before delving into the types of traditional teas, we should acknowledge the differences among them emanate from the oxidation process, timing of harvest and place the tea is grown.
1) Green Tea
Green Tea is a variety that has increasingly become very popular. Typically, after processing, it retains its green colour because it does not undergo any oxidation. To prevent oxidation, the leaves, after plucking, are steamed to avoid enzymes which facilitate oxidation. Green teas provide a broad spectrum of flavours. In China, for instance, tea pan- firing is used in processing the tea, and this results in savoury flavours such as smoky and citrus that can indeed be mouth-watering. Contrastingly, Japanese green tea is steamed at phenomenally high temperatures which make it change colour and become light Sencha-pale green.
Green tea has lately become the must-drink beverage among most people who are health conscious. It has been acknowledged for its ability to reduce ailments such as heart disease, cancer, liver disease among other ailments. Studies have proved that long-term consumption of green tea has excellent health benefits.
Varieties of Green Tea (other teas below)
A) Sencha Green Tea
Sencha is the widely acknowledged and frequently taken variety of green tea. Its processing uses the standard methods in which the leaves undergo some steaming and are after that rolled.
B) Fukumushi Sencha Green Tea
Fukumushi Sencha is Sencha tea that has been steamed for a longer time. The long steaming makes it dark in colour while the taste gets strong. Moreover, it lacks the astringency typical in the regular Sencha tea.
C) Gyokuro Green Tea
This tea is as a result of covered culture. For 20 days before picking of the tea, the bushes will be covered with some reed screen to limit the light getting to the new shoots. Hence, the catechins generation from amino acids becomes suppressed resulting in a rich flavour and little astringency,
D) Kabusecha Green Tea
Kabusecha is similar to Gyokuro. It also uses covered culture in production, but unlike the former, the cover is only placed for a shorter time, roughly ten days. The resulting tea will have a dark green colour and a lower astringency when compared to Sencha tea.
Tencha is used as the primary ingredient in matcha. The production here is similar to that of Gyokuro, but the leaves are dried without undergoing the rolling process after they have been steamed. Moreover, the cover period is slightly longer than Gyokuro. Once the stalks and leaf veins are removed, the remaining flecks become Tencha. The resultant Tencha is stoneground and later shipped as Matcha.
Hojicha is produced by roasting Sencha to provide a distinctive smoky aroma. The roasting is done in a roasting pan, and the tea leaves are immediately cooled. Moreover, during roasting, caffeine becomes sublimated making the product less bitter. The tea, therefore, develops a light taste and a savoury aroma. Additionally, its flavour coupled with the aroma make it ideal for the elderly and children.
G) Shincha Green Tea
Shincha is tea processed from the new leaves which possess nutrients.It is the first picking or “new tea” of the season. The main characteristic of this tea is its invigorating and refreshing scent. Moreover, it also has low caffeine and catechin content making it less astringent and reducing the bitterness associated with other teas. Its amino acid content is high, and this makes it very sweet.
H) Ichibancha, Nibancha, and Sanbancha
Similar to Shincha, this is the first picking. The names vary with the order of its picking. So, there is no noticeable difference between the tea and the Shincha tea other than the timing of its picking.
2) Oolong Tea
Oolong tea forms the largest selection of teas with the most diverse assortment of flavours. Unlike green tea, partial oxidation of between 10%-80% is used in processing it but with precise control to ensure the real character of the tea is brought out. This tea is very common in China and is not only expensive but also a very sought after type of tea. Admittedly, it will not suffice to cover all the characteristics of this tea in detail, but when it comes to taste, Oolong tea offers a lingering flavour with an unassailable fragrance.
Research has proved that Oolong tea has several health benefits. A study showed that the tea has anti-obesity effects which can address diet-induced obesity. In another study, it has been demonstrated that the tea increases energy metabolism through its polymerised polyphenols. Clearly, this tea is very beneficial for those with health complications and even those who want to maintain healthy lifestyles.
3) White Tea
White Tea is a rare sub-category of green tea produced in China. Its tender shoots undergo some sun drying to inhibit any oxidation. Arguably, this tea has the most delicate flavours and aromas with gentle nuances that evoke bamboo or asparagus-like flavours. Moreover, its composition of healthy polyphenols is also quite high. Additionally, it is the least caffeinated traditional tea with very few tannins which makes it the least bitter tea.
White tea has immense health benefits in oral health since it contains flavonoids, tannins and fluoride. Tea has been proven to have a 34% bioavailability which helps in reducing caries.
4) Yellow tea
It is the rarest variety since it has a complicated process of production. It can take up to five days to produce and depends heavily on the intuitive feel of the person preparing it.
5) Red Tea
Also referred to as Pu-erh tea. It is characterised by its big leaves which are quite aged, for many years. Before they become old, they are compressed into many shapes and then they are exposed to microflora and bacteria to ferment the tea just like yoghurt and wine. The result is a low caffeine brew that is dark in colour.
6) Black Tea
Black tea is the most popular of all teas constituting more than 90% the consumed tea in the West. Concerning caffeine content and taste, the tea is the strongest. The taste is a product of the manner in which it is processed-high oxidation and fermentation. The high caffeine content is less than that of coffee, but its high tannin content makes the tea bitter.
Studies have shown that black tea has compounds which are beneficial in the prevention of cardiovascular ailments, and in particular coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis. Moreover, antidiabetic and anti-aging can be prevented through the use of black tea.
7) Blue Tea
Blue tea is very unusual. It is made from the bark of a the Eysenhardtia Polystachya tree. You must boil the bark to get the blue color. It is often called Palo Azul because it is from Mexico and in Spanish "Azul" means blue.
The tea was very popular in Europe in the 16th to 18th century for its diuretic properties and is commonly known as "Kidney Wood". The tea is only blue when held up to the light. It was the first known recording of the phenomenon of fluorescence.
8) Herbal Teas
Herbal teas constitute a significant portion of the tea world despite the fact that they are technically not teas. Through the term herbal tea, one is likely to presume that cinnamon and chamomile are real teas. No, they are not. The plain teas are all from the Camellia sinensis plant. Most of the commonly referred herbal teas are just infusions. They are beverages made from the decoction of plant materials or spice herbs in hot water. Normally, they do not have any caffeine. In them.
- Different tisanes are categorised by the part of the plant they originate. Examples include:
- Leaf tisanes: mint, lemon balm, French verbena and lemongrass.
- Flower tisanes: chamomile, rose, lavender and hibiscus.
- Bark tisanes: black cherry bark, slippery elm and cinnamon.
- Root tisanes: Echinacea, chicory and ginger.
- Fruit/berry tisane: blueberry, raspberry, apple and peach.
- Seed/spice tisanes: Fennel, caraway and cardamom
Well, you now have it, the ultimate guide to all types of teas and varieties. You now understand and know the production of each tea and some of the benefits it provides. You can now select the one you prefer and order. Enjoy your tea!