Camellia sinensis, native to East, South and Southeast Asia, but now cultivated across the world in tropical and subtropical regions is the plant whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce all types of teas. There are two major varieties used for tea Camellia sinensis var. sinensis and Camellia sinensis var. assamica. Teas can generally be divided into categories based on how they are processed.There are at least six different types of tea: white, yellow, green, oolong (or wulong), black (called red tea in China), and post-fermented tea.
Black tea is a type of tea that is more oxidized than oolong, green and white teas. Black tea is generally stronger in flavour than the less oxidized teas. Black teas are processed in either of two ways, CTC (Crush, Tear, Curl) or Orthodox. The CTC method is efficient and effective for producing a better quality product from medium and lower quality leaves of consistently dark color. Orthodox processing is done either by machines or by hand. Hand processing is used for high quality teas. While the methods employed in orthodox processing differ by tea type, this style of processing results in the high quality loose tea sought by many connoisseurs. Black tea retains its flavour for several years.
Green tea is made from the leaves from Camellia sinensis that have undergone minimal oxidation during processing. Green tea originated in China, but it has become associated with many cultures throughout Asia. Green tea has become the raw material for extracts used in various beverages, health foods, dietary supplements, and cosmetic items. Many varieties of green tea have been created in the countries where it is grown. These varieties can differ substantially due to variable growing conditions, horticulture, production processing, and harvesting time.
Oolong tea is a traditional Chinese tea (Camellia sinensis) produced through a unique process including withering under the strong sun and oxidation before curling and twisting. Most oolong teas, especially those of fine quality, involve unique tea plant cultivars that are exclusively used for particular varieties. The degree of oxidation can range from 8 to 85%, depending on the variety and production style. Oolong is especially popular with tea connoisseurs of south China and Chinese expatriates in Southeast Asia.
White tea is a lightly oxidized tea grown and harvested primarily in China, mostly in the Fujian and Zhejiang province. More recently it is grown in Taiwan, India, Northern Thailand and Eastern Nepal. White tea comes from the buds and leaves of the Chinese Camellia sinensis plant. The leaves and buds are allowed to wither in natural sunlight before they are lightly processed to prevent oxidation or further tea processing. The name “white tea” derives from the fine silvery-white hairs on the unopened buds of the tea plant, which gives the plant a whitish appearance. The beverage itself is not white or colourless but pale yellow.
Fermented teas are a class of teas that have undergone an open-air fermentation, from several months to many years. The exposure of the tea to micro flora, humidity and oxygen in the air causes it to undergo further oxidation through auto-oxidation, fermentation, and possibly some reactivated oxidative enzymes in the tea. This alters the smell of the tea, and typically mellows its taste, turning previously astringent or bitter teas into products that are thick and unctuous, with pleasant mouth feels and aftertastes.
Yellow tea usually implies a special tea processed similarly to green tea, but with a slower drying phase, where the damp tea leaves are allowed to sit and yellow. The tea generally has a very yellow-green appearance and a smell different from both white tea and green tea. The smell is sometimes mistaken for black if the tea is cured with other herbs, but similarities in taste can still be noticed between yellow, green and white teas. It can, however, also describe high-quality teas served at the Imperial court, although this can be applied to any form of imperially-served tea.