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Tea 101: Tea Families

We’ve all heard of black tea, green tea, and herbal tea. But what are the differences?

Each tea belongs to a tea family, which is determined by two main criteria:

  • By main ingredient. Herbal teas and fruit teas are botanicals. They are generally caffeine-free and do not derive from the tea plant. The remaining tea families all come from the same tea plant: Camellia sinensis.
  • By processing techniques. Each tea family undergoes a unique combination of tea-making processes, as illustrated below
Information White Green Yellow Oolong Black Pu'erh Herbal Fruit
  • Picking

    Tea shoots or herbs are harvested at their peak: white and green leaves while young, black and oolong leaves when more mature.

Young

Young

Young

Mature

Mature

Mature

Variable

Variable

  • Oxidation

    Tea leaves are bruised, allowing natural enzymes to darken the leaves. The greater the oxidation, the darker the tea in color and flavor.

5-15%

<8%

30-45%

15-80%

>80%

Fermented

Variable

Variable

  • Heating

    Heating halts oxidation by drawing moisture from the leaves. In China, teas are pan-fried in a wok. In Japan, they are steamed.

 

 

 

 

 

Drying

  • Rolling

    Tea leaves are rolled into traditional shapes. Oolong is twisted into balls or long curls, black into strips or discs.

 

 

 

 

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