All types of tea come from the same basic plant, the Camellia Sinensis plant. The differences between teas arise from processing, growing conditions, and geography.
The Camellia Sinensis plant is native to Asia, but is currently cultivated around the world in tropical and subtropical areas. With over 3,000 varieties, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world after water.
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Tea can be divided into six basic categories: black, dark (including puer), oolong, yellow, green, and white.
Black tea is allowed to wither, which precedes a process called oxidation (sometimes incorrectly referred to as fermentation) during which water evaporates out of the leaf and the leaf absorbs more oxygen from the air. Black teas usually undergo full oxidation, and the results are the characteristic dark brown and black leaf, the typically more robust and pronounced flavors of black teas, and when brewed appropriately, a higher caffeine content compared to other teas (50-65% of coffee, depending on the type and brewing technique).
Dark tea is from Hunan and Sichuan provinces of China and is an aged tea that steeps up smooth with a natural sweet note. Dark teas are often compressed into shapes (most commonly cakes or bricks).
Oolong tea (also known as wulong tea) is allowed to undergo partial oxidation. These teas have a caffeine content between that of green teas and black teas. The flavor of oolong (wulong) teas is typically not as robust as blacks or as subtle as greens, but has its own extremely fragrant and intriguing tones. Oolongs (wulongs) are often compared to the taste and aroma of fresh flowers or fresh fruit.
Green tea is allowed to wither only slightly after being picked. Then the oxidation process is stopped very quickly by firing (rapidly heating) the leaves. Therefore, when brewed at lower temperatures and for less time, green teas tend to have less caffeine (10-30% of coffee).
White tea is the most delicate of all teas. They are appreciated for their subtlety, complexity, and natural sweetness. They are hand-processed using the youngest shoots of the tea plant with no oxidation. When steeped at a low temperature for a short time, white teas can produce low amounts of caffeine. Of course, steeping with hotter temperature and longer time will extract more caffeine. But by definition, white tea does not have less caffeine than other teas.
All puer tea comes from Yunnan, China, particularly the southwest areas of Lincang, Xishuangbanna, and Puer (hence the name). There are two major types of Puer: sheng puer and shu puer. Sheng puer is a simple non-oxidized tea whose finished product will change naturally over time. Shu puer starts out as a sheng puer, but goes through one more deliberate and accelerated "post fermentation" process to speed up this change into a matter of weeks as opposed to years. All puer is made using the Yunnan-grown Assamica leaf.
Yellow is a rare category of tea that is similar to green tea in appearance and flavor. Yellow tea, however, typically does not have the grassiness of some green teas. Yellow teas typically go through more oxidation than green teas and a longer, slower drying period. All yellow teas come from China. Try the Huo Shan Yellow Buds!