What is Tea?

Lynn Maidment

Tea comes from the plant Camellia sinensis, a warm-weather evergreen. Like wines, many teas take their names from the district in which they are grown, and each district is known for producing teas with unique flavour and character. While there are more than 1500 varieties of tea available worldwide, all teas can be divided into five types: white, yellow, green, oolong, and black.

The way the fresh tealeaves are processed and their level of contact with oxygen determine the types of tea. . 


White Tea

White Tea is made entirely from leaf buds that are covered with whitish hairs. 

The new buds are plucked before they open, withered, and then dried slowly at low temperatures.  Unlike other tea processing methods, the leaf buds are not rolled and slightly oxidized. The result is a tea with a mild flavour and natural sweetness.


Yellow Tea

This very rare tea has a production process similar to green tea, except that the leaves undergo a longer drying process.  As the moist leaves are left to dry, they become yellow in colour and lose some of the grassy vegetative flavours distinct to green teas.


Green Tea

Most popular in Asia, green tea is not oxidized. It is withered, immediately steamed or heated to prevent oxidation and then rolled and dried.

 It has a delicate taste, light green colour and is very refreshing. 


Oolong Tea

The name oolong literally translates as “Black Dragon” and is very popular in China.  Oolong teas feature partly oxidized leaves and combine the taste and colour qualities of black and green tea.  Extremely flavourful and highly aromatic, oolong teas are consumed without milk and sugar. 


Black Tea

Most commonly used in North American tea bags, black tea is made from fully oxidized leaves, which produce a hearty deep rich flavour in a coloured amber brew. 


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