Fancy a cup of tea? But wait. Which kind? There’s green tea. Black tea. White tea. Herbal. Oolong. Matcha. Peppermint. The list literally goes on and on. And you know you want to make your cup just the right match for you.

What you might not know is that all tea comes from the same plant - with teas like herbal tea as the small exception. The Camellia Sinensis plant, or the tea plant, is the mother of all teas. All teas are made from its buds and leaves, but are prepared and oxidized differently to create the different flavors. It’s often likened to a glass wine - all wine’s made from grapes, but where the grapes are grown and how they’re harvested makes all the difference. The same goes for the tea plant.

There’s a few main processes that go into determining what makes each type of tea unique. The most common of these are plucking, withering, oxidation, rolling, and drying.


Plucking: plucking’s more or less what it sounds like. The buds and the leaves of the plant are plucked throughout the year, varying from three to twelve times depending on several factors, like weather and how much growth the plucker wants to take place before plucking again.

Withering: withering is essentially what makes your tea look like tea. During withering, tea leaves lose most of their water weight. The taste of the tea changes during this period, depending on how long it’s left and where the leaves are stored during the withering process.

Oxidation: oxidation can also be known as fermentation, where the tea leaves are left in a climate controlled room where the exposure to the air causes chemical reactions to occur. The chlorophyll is broken down, and the tannins in the tea are released.

Rolling: leaves are rolled to change their appearance, tighten up the mixture, and release natural juices throughout.

Drying: this is typically the finishing step in the tea-making process. Often, the leaves are baked to lock in the flavor. Sunning and air drying are alternative methods to baking.



Black Tea

for the adventurous

Black tea is usually left to wither for no longer than a day, or 24 hours. When it comes to oxidation though, black teas oxidize to one hundred percent capacity, to almost full capacity. This is what creates such an intense flavor in the teas.  They’re rolled heavily by hand, also adding to that strong taste. And watch out - these teas tend to be stronger, too, so don’t drink them before you’re about to get your forty-winks unless you know the caffeine content. Black tea’s the typical base of chai tea, and tends to be named after the region where it’s made.

If you like:.

-bold

-earthy

-rich

this is your type of tea.


Green Tea

for the carefree

Unlike the other teas, green tea isn’t left to oxidize at all. After harvesting, they’re either pan-fired or steamed to stop any oxidization in its tracks. That’s what gives the tea its color - it’s not left to oxidize, so doesn’t get darker. That helps the flavor stay fresh, too, which gives it its light, more airy taste. The leaves are rolled after the steaming or pan-firing process, which is sometimes repeated more than once depending on the desired flavor of the tea. They’re then rolled according to the preference of the tea maker. Some are twisted, balled up, or left in their natural form.

If you like:

-fresh

-aromatic

-vibrant

this is your type of tea.


White Tea

for the free-spirit

White teas are the least processed type of all the teas. Young buds are plucked and then allowed to wither for up to 72 hours. Very rarely, the teas are rolled, but normally they’re left alone in a pure state to preserve the freshness of the leaves. The fruity, light flavor comes from the minimal processing involved in the making of the tea.

If you like:

-fruity

-delicate

-sweet

this is your type of tea.


Yellow Tea

for the nonconformist

Yellow teas are, probably not surprisingly, similar to green teas. Like green teas, yellow teas aren’t allowed or are barely allowed to oxidize. The tea leaves are then steamed under a damp cloth or a mat, the key step in what makes them yellow. This process takes out the more leafy taste of green teas and gives yellow tea its distinct flavor.

If you like:

-bright

-floral

-unique

this is your type of tea.


Oolong Tea

for those who want it all

If you’re looking to cut out the middleman, well, don’t drink oolong tea. It’s essentially a halfway mark between the two giants of green tea and black tea. They’re allowed to wither, but for a shorter time period than black tea, which means less than a day. A key factor in the making of oolong? The leaves are shaken in bamboo baskets, and allowed to bruise, tear, and react with the air, causing them to turn dark in color. Like green teas, they’re then fired up. The more they’re allowed to oxidize, the more they’ll resemble black tea, and vice versa with green tea.

If you like:

-woody

-varied

-dark

this is your type of tea.



Herbal Tea

for the eccentric

Herbal teas aren’t actually real teas at all. That’s right - true herbal teas actually contain no tea leaves. They’re literally a mixed bag, usually made up of buds and flowers of varying plants. Those varying plants can be lemongrass, basil, rosebuds, chamomile, or any number of dried fruits. Typically, they’re not going to contain any caffeine, but they’re going to offer you a slew of health benefits.

If you like:

-herbaceous

-zingy

-spicy

this is your type of tea.