The Wonderful World of Teas
There are so many varieties of tea, it can get a little confusing. Several major varieties of tea are linked with different world traditions and harbour a wealth of health benefits. All ‘teas’ in the strictest sense come from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis, though the term tea has also come to be used to describe other drinks where fruits and herbs are steeped in hot water. At Treating Blends, we’re passionate about educating tea drinkers on what’s in their cup, so we’re here to demystify the wonderful world of teas.
Black teas are one of the most common varieties of tea drunk, especially in the United Kingdom where English Breakfast Tea or a ‘Builder’s Brew’ are cultural staples. Originating from China, where its known as ‘red tea’, black tea is now cultivated worldwide. Compared with white teas and green teas, it is fully oxidised giving it that rich full-bodied taste and deep reddish-brown colour. Black tea varietals include Assam, Darjeeling, Keemun, and Lapsang Suschong, though English Breakfast Tea is usually a blend of several to create a specific strength and flavour. Black teas are often blended with herbs and fruits such as Earl Grey which contains bergamot and citrus. Black teas are usually high in caffeine.
Unlike black tea, green teas are unoxidized. This means they keep the greenish tinge and have a lighter flavour. Traditional methods of processing vary between Chinese and Japanese teas and are used to bring out different flavours and qualities in the brew, but they’re generally heat processed to avoid oxidisation. While black teas can be good for you in small doses, green teas and other varietals tend to trump them in terms of health benefits. Green teas do contain caffeine, but a different kind of caffeine to its black cousin. It gives you a less jittery, more sustainable boost of energy, so it isn’t followed by that sudden crash which means you hit the caffeine all over again. This means green teas are better companions to good work habits and exercise. Green tea also contains powerful antioxidants which are great for boosting metabolism and the immune system, aiding with disease prevention and weight loss.
Green tea varietals include Sencha (the most common), Tencha, Gyokuro, Chun Mee, Long Jing, and Matcha. Matcha Tea has become popular lately as it’s produced in potent powdered form. This means that all the goodness is consumed rather than left in the leaves after steeping. It is made from Tencha green tea and is like a super-charged version of other green teas with up to 10x the antioxidants. It also contains fibre, zinc, magnesium, and vitamins. It’s the drink equivalent of a superfood, boosting energy and concentration, while having various other benefits to health and wellbeing.
White Tea is the most delicate of all the teas, both in taste and production methods. It is the least processed (oxidised), with a lighter, more elegant flavour than green teas. White tea is traditionally cultivated in China and picked only a few days per year when the shoots are showing a white down. The tea shoots are then allowed to wither and dry, which requires close attention from tea pickers, preventing the oxidisation process common in most teas. White tea is now cultivated in other countries as popularity has grown, and methods of production may vary from tradition. White tea has slightly less caffeine than green teas (and significantly less than black teas). The levels of antioxidants are also much higher, so people feel it’s a superior weight loss tea to green.
The word Oolong means ‘Black Dragon’ in Chinese. Oolong teas are semi-oxidised and the various nuanced methods of production from different tea estates mean it varies the most widely in flavour. Teas can also be steeped multiple times offering a slightly different flavour each time. Oolong Tea shares these same metabolism-boosting qualities as green and white teas but with a richer flavour.
Pu-Erh Tea is named after a town in the Chinese Yunnan province. It is fermented and aged over time in a similar way to wine, sometimes for 20-30 years. It is shaped into solid forms known as pearls, bricks, and melons, rather than being sold as tea leaves. It is renowned for various health benefits and its rich oaky-sweet flavour.
Herbal and Fruit Teas
While many herbal tea blends use green tea or black tea as a base to mix with other herbal flavours, some herbal teas don’t originate from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) at all. One of the most famous of these is Rooibos (Redbush) which comes from a similar plant growing in South Africa. Rooibos is processed (oxidised) in a similar way to black tea, but it naturally contains no caffeine whatsoever. Add to this a range of other diverse health benefits and a warm sweet flavour, and you have one of the most popular herbal teas.
Other popular herbal teas include Peppermint and Chamomile. Fruits, nuts, and spices are also often added to herbal blends to create new flavours and diversify the health benefits of the base tea.
Try Something New
If you’re a bit of a tea fanatic, we recommend trying some of the more usual teas. You can browse our range of Oolong, White, and Pu-Erh teas here [link], or try our personal favourite, Silver Needle Tea, the most famous of all the white teas.