A Beginner’s Guide to the Different Types of Tea

All tea in the world comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, but why are there hundreds of kinds of teas with their own appearance, flavor, and aroma? The answer lies in the way they are cultivated.

Much like wine or coffee, factors such as climate, humidity, rainfall, and soil acidity can influence how the tea tastes from harvest to harvest, as well as from one region to the next. The different varieties of tea also reflect how much a tea is oxidized to bring out specific flavors and aromas.

While there are hundreds of tea varieties all over the world, the following are some of the most common that you can find. Most, if not all, are often variations of the preparation process that are close to one of the following:


White tea has the most gentle and delicate flavors and aroma among the major tea varieties, which can be fresh, or sometimes even earthy.

This is because white tea is the least processed and oxidized among the other varieties, and harvesting the leaves is meticulous work done only a few days a year. To prevent oxidation, the tea shoots allowed to wither and dry.


While Chinese green tea has a more yellowish appearance, Japanese green tea has a range of colors, from pale to deep green.

However, the similarity of these types of green tea lies in heat-treating to prevent oxidation. While white tea shoots are allowed to wither, green tea leaves are heat-treated, either by pan-firing or steaming at a high temperature.


Also called wulong, oolong tea is semi-oxidized by bruising the leaves by being shaken in baskets. To stop the oxidation, the leaves are then heat-treated using methods that vary based on the region, which in turn creates different flavors.

Oolong tea is usually characterized as having a flowery or fruity taste, but can also have a smoky flavor.


This tea is known in China as “red tea”, and is the most famous variety in the West. Black tea is the most oxidized, as the leaves begin to wilt once picked, and the process is sped up by crushing or rolling them.  

Black teas are often split up into two categories: broken and full-leaf. Broken leaf black teas have leaves that are broken into smaller pieces before they are processed, and tend to be higher in caffeine, while full-leaf teas are gentler.


This is a type of tea that is actually fermented, consisting of larger leaves that can be withered and aged for several years at a time.

This tea is often characterized by a hearty brew with a low caffeine content, and the resulting taste lacks the sharpness otherwise found in other types of tea.

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