There are five true teas: white tea, green tea, oolong tea, black tea, and pu-erh tea.
Even though these teas come from the leaves of the same tea plant, they differ wildly in processing, flavour, aroma and appearance.
Loose Leaf Tea uses 'loose' tea leaves typically of much higher quality than a typical 'tea bag'. The tea is prepared by utilizing various 'steeping' methods including but not limited to: Tea Bags designed for loose leaf tea, loose leaf tea infusers and loose leaf tea strainers. Each of these methods allows for the loose leaf tea to expand and take advantage of it's true nature and flavour profile.
The more you break down tea, like in typical tea bags, the more the teas flavour, aroma and apparent health properties are degraded.
Finally, loose leaf tea has a remarkable shelf life. For most teas, as long as you are storing in a dark container or bag at room temperature or cool location, it can last for years.
Green tea is made from leaves that are only minimally processed. Green tea leaves are not oxidized, but they do undergo a slightly longer production process than white teas.
Chinese green teas have roasted, nutty flavours while Japanese green teas are vegetal and herbaceous. Green tea is typically light green or pale yellow in color. Green tea may have fruity undertones or grassy notes.
Black tea is the most processed of the true tea varieties. Black teas are most commonly produced in China, India, Sri Lanka, and Africa.
Black teas are dark brown or reddish amber when brewed. Assam black tea features a malty flavour with earthy aromas. Darjeeling black teas are more delicate with floral, and fruity flavours. Ceylon black tea features hints of chocolate and has a bold, full-bodied flavour.
A refreshing herbal tea that comes from South Africa. Also known as 'redbush tea' or 'red tea' it is comes from the dried leaves of the Rooibos plant. However, there is also Green Rooibos which unlike Red Rooibos (Rooibos) does not go under the oxidation process. It has a light flavour without the same bitter notes as green and black teas. Often described as having a fruity, nutty, floral and slightly sweet taste.
Herbal teas do not contain any leaves from the tea plant. Instead, these beverages are made by infusing spices, herbs, flowers, and twigs in hot water.
There are thousands of flavours when it comes to herbal teas due to the wide variety of plants used to make infusions. Popular spice teas include turmeric tea, ginger tea and peppermint tea. There are also hundreds of floral teas such as hibiscus tea, lavender tea, and jasmine tea.
While the health benefits of true teas have long been researched by scientists, herbal teas have only recently piqued the interest of mainstream medical practitioners. Herbal teas have been used in traditional medicine such as Ayurveda for thousands of years.
Flavoured teas are made by combining true teas with herbal tisanes. A true tea such as green tea or black tea is used as a base while herbs, spices, and flowers are added to create stunning flavour profiles.
Pu'er or pu-erh teas are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, but are post-oxidized. Pu-erh tea consists of two categories: raw pu-erh and aged pu-erh. Raw pu-erh tea undergoes a production process similar to green tea.
Aged pu-erh tea is post-oxidized. The carefully controlled process allows the leaves to age just like fine wines. Pu-erh tea leaves are typically aged anywhere from 10 to 15 years. The highest quality aged pu-erh teas can be aged for up to 50 years.
Raw pu-erh teas are most similar in flavour and aroma to green teas. They tend to be lighter in color and have roasted or vegetal flavours. Aged pu-erh teas are closer to black tea in flavour. They are dark reddish color in color and boast robust flavours.
White tea is the least processed true tea. It undergoes the simplest production process, which is designed to maintain its natural look and flavour.
White tea has a subtle flavour profile that is both delicate and naturally sweet with undertones that are floral and fruity.
Oolong tea is a semi-oxidized tea. The tea leaves are allowed to oxidize, but only for a short period of time. The flavour and color of oolong tea are stronger than green tea, but more mellow than black tea. In general, oolong teas feature a floral flavour with a smooth finish.
The key is to avoid moisture, excessive heat, light, air, and strong, competing aromas (as the can be absorbed by the tea itself). Store in any opaque, airtight container in a cool, dry place.