Do You Know the Six Main Types Of Tea?

If you are new to tea (or even a seasoned veteran), there may be times when you get confused by all the many types, styles, names, grades, and tea jargon, flying at you.

Tea - Wikipedia

In order to help simplify it all a bit, let’s start at the beginning and break it down into bite size bits of information, starting with the six main types of tea.

In the early days of my exploration, I believed that each type of tea – black tea, green, white, oolong, yellow, and pu-erh teas, each came from individual, unique plants 茶葉店. Now I know that’s not the case. The type of tea is actually determined by a step in the processing method for each one.

All tea, no matter the type shares eight common steps in processing, which are: plucking or picking, sorting, cleaning, primary drying, processing that is specific to the type of tea being made, final firing and drying, sorting by grade, and last, packaging. Step number five – processing specific to the type is what determines which of the six main types of tea is being made.

Other elements, of course, factor into determining the tea type, such as leaf size, climate, elevation-whether it’s high or low grown, the amount of moisture, the type of soil, and time of year it is harvested, all contribute to the end result.

Black Tea – black teas are fully oxidized and are usually broken down into two categories; whole leaf teas and broken leaf. The broken leaf tea is graded using a wire mesh screen with graduated sizes, going from largest, thickest leaf, down to the smallest particles called fannings or dust. Broken leaf teas are mostly used in tea bags and blends.

Green Tea – this is one of the largest and many times most confusing of the six main types of tea. Rather than using a grading system, green teas use name designations. But with the over 3,000 different styles of green tea said to be in just China alone, it is very difficult to keep track of each individual name. Japan also produces green teas, but because they produce fewer styles it’s easier to identify each of their individual styles.

To add to the confusion, there are no uniform guidelines from one country to another for naming green teas, with each country using their own methods of naming and identification.

White Tea – until recently China was one of the few countries producing white tea, with their exquisite Bai Hao Yin Zhen (or Silver Needle) and Bai Mei (White Eyebrow). But Sri Lanka has entered the competition with their Ceylon Silver Tips and Bai Mu Dan (White Peony), both of which are equally as sumptuous as China’s white teas. Several other countries are also producing white teas, but so far none on the level of these two top producing countries.

Oolong Tea – both China and Taiwan produce exquisite oolongs. Nature has provided both areas with perfect growing conditions. The long, careful manufacturing process provides the rest, with a wide selection of styles and flavors, from sweet and light to hearty and robust.

Yellow Tea – you probably haven’t heard much about yellow tea as it’s made only in China and is hard to find because very little is produced. Also, because it’s a bit more obscure, it is sometimes marketed and sold as a green tea unintentionally.

It’s too bad, because yellow tea is extraordinary in its own right, and shares many of the same attributes as white and green teas, with an extra step during processing that sets it apart and makes it unique.

Pu-erh Tea – there are two styles of pu-erh: shou pu-erh, a faster aging style that is available as loose leaf or compressed into cakes, called beeng cha. Sheng pu-erh is the longer aging style compressed into beeng cha and other shapes, then stored in temperature controlled rooms to age for anywhere from ten to fifty plus years.

It’s amazing to consider that each of the six main types of tea start out exactly the same, fresh leaf plucked from the same plant, yet with a little help from nature and finesse of the tea maker, end up being completely unique teas unto themselves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *