If you haven't noticed already, there are many different types of tea.
How many types of basic teas are there?
Tea is a classic, with a rich history around the world. There aren’t really multiple types of tea plants, because “tea” all comes from the camellia sinensis plant. However, there are a number of herbs, roots, and plants that, when combined, will be called “tea”. Technically, all base teas (White, Green, Black) come from the camellia sinensis plant and are caffeinated to varying degrees.
So if White, Green, and Black tea all come from the same plant...What's the difference?
For starters, where it is grown makes a difference. All our Ceylon teas come from Sri Lanka! Different climates that the tea is grown in create different flavors. Ceylon tea is highly sought after, but a tea can’t have “Ceylon” in its name unless it comes from Sri Lanka. Our Organic Ceylon Tea and Organic Ceylon Green Tea are known for being long leaf teas. The black Ceylon tea has light floral and citrus notes, while the Ceylon Green is smooth and sweet.
Another major factor in what makes the teas different is oxidation. After the tea is plucked, it is generally dried to lose some of the moisture in the leaf, which is called withering. In this sense, picture sun-drying tomatoes without a fancy oven: we enjoy the new, dried texture while still preserving the flavor. Drying tea leaves allows for easier handling while also allowing the plant to retain different flavors. Afterward, tea is typically rolled and shaped and begins the process of oxidation.
The amount of oxidation that the tea leaves receive affects the flavor and color of the tea – leaves that are oxidized longer end up with a bolder flavor and darker color. Black tea has the highest amount of oxidization, while green and white are minimally oxidized; oolong teas have a varying level of oxidation, generally in between green and black, giving them a variety of flavors.
Some tea leaves are complete and ready to be used after just being oxidized and rolled. However, some special types of tea will also undergo a firing process. Our Organic Houjicha and Organic Gunpowder teas are both processed this way, which gives them that great smoky taste. Houjicha undergoes pan firing in a ceramic pot, which gives it a stronger smoky flavor compared to Gunpowder Green Tea.
What type of tea has the most caffeine?
As we mentioned, black tea undergoes the most oxidization, so you would think it is the most caffeinated tea out there. Interestingly, while it’s the most caffeinated camellia sinensis variety, there is an herb that beats it! Yerba Mate: it’s a South African evergreen herb in the holly family. Yerba Mate is actually the highest in caffeine content, just under the amount you would get from a normal cup of coffee.
Our Organic Yerba Maté is a stunner that you'll just have to try for yourself. It's even featured in some of our Wellness Blends, like our new Organic Green Energy. It gets its name from the way it's prepared and consumed, which originally was out of a dried gourd. (“mate” means gourd).
Rooibos is also its own plant, but opposite to Yerba Mate in that it is caffeine-free. It is also evergreen and from South Africa, but it has a mild sweet taste. We carry a variety of Rooibos teas, including Organic Rooibos and Organic Green Rooibos. For those with caffeine sensitivity, we use Rooibos as a base for some of our herbal Wellness Blends, such as Organic Sleeping Tranquilitea, Organic Immunity, Organic Beauty Me, and Organic Vita Me Tea.
Lastly, Honey Bush, which is a close cousin of Rooibos, is also caffeine-free. It’s a little milder (less nutty) and a little sweeter than Rooibos. Also, our Organic Honey Bush is a flower, while Rooibos is a leaf.
All of the above are only basic tea types, not even going into sub-types and plant strains. Tea making is an art that has been practiced for millennia, so there will always be questions as well as subtle nuances that we have barely tapped into.
But isn't tea a beautiful, tasteful way to explore nature?
White tea (only lightly caffeinated): Organic Pai Mu Tan.