While there is no denying our passion for coffee, we realized it is time we show some love to another delicious, caffeinated beverage, tea! Aside from water, tea is the most consumed beverage on this planet, just ahead of coffee. For that reason, we wanted to give you some basic tea knowledge in hopes you will learn something new about this beloved drink.
What is Tea?
Tea refers to a drink derived from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. Unlike coffee, which comes from both Arabica and Robusta plants, all tea starts out the exact same way and it’s how it is processed, through a mixture of drying and oxidation techniques, that creates the different types. While you may have heard of herbal tea in the past, any blend of dried fruits, flowers and/or other plants should not be labeled as tea at all. While still delicious, these non-caffeinated drinks are correctly identified as tisanes or herbal infusions. Only tea is tea if you get what I’m saying!
The Importance of Tea Growing Regions
Similar to coffee, the tea you taste in your cup is greatly impacted by where it is grown. Things like climate, altitude, soil, processing techniques and even growing traditions all impact the what you taste. Growing regions are so important in fact that many teas, including some with the greatest popularity, get their names from where they come from. Assam, a beloved black tea is named after the region in India where it comes from while Yunnan tea is named after the famous tea growing province in China.
4 Main Types of Tea
Generally speaking, there are four main types of tea - white, green, oolong and black. While these teas all come from the same plant, they each have their own distinct flavor, smell and appearance. Just like coffee, tea has many unique varietals and preference is largely subjective.
1. White Tea
White tea is the most minimally processed type of tea. Only young leaves and unopened buds are pulled from the tea plant and immediately left outside to dry. White tea will have very mild flavor with the lowest caffeine content of the bunch. This delicate tea is typically consumed without additives and is known to be packed with healthy antioxidants.
2. Green Tea
Just like white tea, green tea is rather minimally processed. With that said, they do have a longer production process which involves drying and heating leaves to prevent oxidation. Unique variations of green tea are made by also shaping the tea leaves as they dry into distinct forms. Despite having many variations such as sencha, matcha tea and genmaicha, most green teas share similar attributes of earthy flavor notes and brew greenish in color. Similar to white tea, green tea is also rich in antioxidants making it also a very healthy drink choice.
3. Oolong Tea
Oolong is a partially oxidized tea that is left to oxidize for a few hours before heat is applied to stop that process. The amount of oxidation involved in producing a specific oolong makes some taste lighter and more similar to green tea and others darker and bold more similar to black tea. The color of brewed oolong is also in between green and black tea and is often golden brown in color. For those that can’t decide on green or black, oolong offers something right in the middle!
4. Black Tea
Black tea is the most processed type of tea. Once picked from the plant, leaves undergo a lengthy process that involves drying, rolling and oxidizing the leaves. Black tea has flavor that can be described as bold and even pairs well with milk and sweetener, if that’s your thing of course.
For coffee lovers wanting to dip their toes in the water, black tea is a good jumping off point as there is no shortage of flavor here and it also contains the highest level of caffeine out of the bunch.
Tea and Coffee Similarities
You can spend a lifetime learning about tea. Just like coffee, each tea gets its distinctive flavor from the growing region which also impacts how it gets processed and subsequently what you taste in your cup. Even more so than coffee, tea is finicky, and successful brewing requires great attention to detail at every step in the process from brewing temperature and dosage to duration. The list of similarities goes on and on but I have grown to appreciate tea for many of the same reasons I do coffee and think you might as well. It’s time to give tea a shot!