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Different Types of Tea


I have to admit, I used to have no love for tea.


It wasn’t until doing research for this article that I changed my mind about it.  I have to say, my appreciation for tea is now as much as my appreciation for wine, they are very similar.

Years ago, before I started learning about wine, they all tasted the same to me.  That’s exactly how I felt about tea. If I ever drank tea in the past it would be with sugar, lots of it. That’s pretty similar to how I started drinking wine, “Do you have any sweet white wines?…or just a white Zin”?

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After realizing the similarities between wine and tea I got  “jazzed over tea”, and went and  purchased a sample pack of green, black, chai and an herbal. Drinking tea is helping me learn about and appreciate tea, it’s the same as when I was studying wine for my Sommelier exam.  I brew, I smell, I read about what I am drinking, I smell, I sip and on and on.

I have learned a lot researching for this article. I won’t bombard you with too much information though.  The point of this article is to give you enough knowledge to feel comfortable fielding most questions that a tea drinking customer could ask you.


Where Does Tea Come From?

All tea comes from the plant called Camellia sinensis.  It is in the part of the plant or the way it is harvested that differentiates tea into 4 different types:

     1.   Green

     2.   Oolong

     3.   White

     4.   Black

All four types of tea contain caffeine.  There is no getting around it.  Caffeine is in the actual tea shrub, no processing will remove it from the leaves enough to give you a caffeine free product.

Any tea referred to as “herbal tea” is actually a tisanes (a french word that means an infusion of dried or fresh flowers or leaves: tea-ZHAN).

Green Tea 

Green tea is the worlds most popular tea and the one with the most health benefits.  There are many different types of green tea that hale
from all around the world.  China makes the most but it also is grown in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, to name a few.

Popular green tea names that you may recognize are:

  • Gunpowder Green: This tea is mostly grown in China.  It is called gunpowder because once the tea is processed, it looks like tiny pellets.
  • Sencha:  The Japanese translation of the word is “brewing tea”.
  • Gyokuru:  The very best of Japanese green teas.  It is recognized by its deep bluish color and naturally mellow taste.
  • Dragonwell:  Grown in China, this tea has a smooth, flat and spear-like appearance.

Facts about Green Tea:

  1. Green tea is made with the top two leaves and buds of the tea plant Camillia Sinensis.  (Other ingredients may be added during the drying process to create special flavors and scents, a common addition is jasmine.)
  2. The tea plant is generally plucked every 5-10 days.  It takes anywhere from 70-90 days for a shoot to redevelop to be picked again.
  3. After the tea leaves are picked they are dried to prevent oxidation.  This is done by heating in some way, either pan firing on large woks, steaming or drying the leaves in the sun.
  4. The leaves are shaped by machine (and uncommonly by hand) into various shapes: twisted, curly, pointed and round.  This created a distinctive look and regulates the release of the flavor when steeped.

Possible Health Benefits of Green Tea:  Lowers cholesterol, prevents cancer, prevents breast cancer from spreading, lowers the chances of heart attack,  helps prevent and control diabetes, and much more.

Black Tea; “The Oxidized Cousin Of Green Tea”

Black tea is the strongest and most oxidized of all the tea types. Black tea keeps well for years while green tea is so gentle that it is only good for about one year when stored properly.

Popular Black Tea names you may recognize:

  • Earl Grey:  The awesome aroma that comes from Earl Grey is from the addition of oil from the rind of the citrus fruit Bergamot Orange.  I always think that Earl Grey smells like Bubble Gum.
  • Ceylon:  Half the size of Alabama, Ceylon is Sri Lanka.  The name changed from Ceylon to Sri Lanka (meaning “resplendent island”) in 1972.
  • English Breakfast:  A robust floral tea with light floral undertones.  Add some milk and it kind of smells like warm toast and honey.
  • Masala Chai:  This translates to “mixed- spice tea”.  The spices used to make chai are known as “warm spices” such as:  cinnamon, cardamon, cinnamon, star anise, peppercorn, fennel, cloves, allspice, ginger and many more.

All black teas are first withered by blowing air on them.

Black tea’s are processed in one of two ways; Crush, Tear Curl (CTC) or Orthodox.  The CTC method usually produces lower quality teas, typically those used for the tea in tea bags.  The Orthodox tea leafs are withered then rolled by hand or by machine.

All Black Teas are Oxidized under controlled humidity and temperature.  Oxidation is what happens to an apple when you cut it and leave it, it turns brown. Left undisturbed, that apple will dry or rot depending on atmospheric conditions that surrounds it.  Black teas oxidation process is controlled so the outcome is always the same; dried tea leaves.  The leaves turn black from the oxidation process and makes the tea very distinct in appearance.

 White Teas

White teas are harvested mainly in China.  White tea comes from the leaves and buds of the tea shrub.  The name “white tea” comes from the little silvery-white hairs that are on unopened buds of the tea plant.

These teas are only lightly oxidized.  The manufacturing of this tea is much more simple than the others.  It’s cut, it’s withered, it’s dried.  Voila; white tea.

The color the tea produces when steeped isn’t white, it’s light yellow.


Oolong teas are oxidized anywhere from 8% to 85%. There tastes vary greatly too.  Some are woodsy, some are fruity and still some are green and fresh.  These tea leaves are rolled in one of two distinct ways.  They are either rolled into long curly leaves while some are rolled into small beads with a tail.

Tisane (tea ZHAN)

Tisanes and Rooibos “teas” are naturally caffeine free.   Herbal teas have unique flavors and medicinal effects of their own, but they won’t get you ampted-up like a green, black or oolong tea will, this makes them great to enjoy before bedtime.

Chamomile:   Light yellow, fluffy little floral puffs of happiness from the daisy family.  Excellent for easing cramps, migraines and insomnia.

Ginger:  This rather ugly, gnarly root makes a beneficial and flavorful tea.  This herbal tea is wonderful for treating digestive problems, gas and the common cold.  It also improves blood circulation and is great in combating motion sickness.  Ginger is considered a “heating herb” so enjoy a cup on a cold winter day.

Peppermint:  A hybrid mint, crossing watermint and spearmint, this herb has been popular for treating stomach ailments throughout the ages.  It has a crisp and cool flavor perfect for sipping on in the warm summer months.  In test tubes, peppermint was discovered to kill some types of bacteria and viruses suggesting it has antibacterial and antiviral properties.

Lavender:  Zzzzzz.  Is there any herb more synonymous with sleep and relaxation?  Chamomile might be in the running but have you ever heard of putting a sachet of chamomile under your pillow to sleep better like you have with lavender?  Doubt it.

Other tisanes include: ginseng, floral, apple-spice, citrus and tons more.

Getting the temperature and steep time right.

Black Tea:  Full on boiling water, steep 4-6 minutes.

Oolong, 190°F:  Pretty frickin’ hot, but not full boil.  Steep 5-8 minutes.

White tea 180°F:  A little less hot than Oolong, steep 5-8 minutes.

Green 155°F:  The least heat required with the least amount of steep time, 2-4 minutes.

Tisanes:  Varies.

Watch your bubbles when boiling water.  Small bubbles will begin to rise at around 160°F, strings of bubbles begin at the bottom of pot around 180°F. Beyond that you will have a full on boil!

Caffeine amounts in tea:

  • Coffee: 150-200 mg
  • Black tea: 60-90 mg
  • Oolong tea: 50-75 mg
  • Green tea: 35-70 mg
  • White tea: 30-55mg

The first steep of tea (steeped around 5 minutes) contains the most caffeine, about 70% of it’s total, the second steep contains around 30% of caffeine.

Table/Customer Practice.  I’ll play the customer.

  1. Do you offer tea?
  2. What company do you use?
  3. Do you have any green teas?
  4. Do you have any caffeine-free green tea’s?
  5. What’s a tisane?
  6. What kind of tisanes do you carry?
  7. Can I steep this tea more than once?
  8. How long should I steep my tea for?

If your restaurant doesn’t carry tea, I do suggest adding it. Offering loose leaf tea is economical and a nice addition to your N/A beverage list.  You can find beautiful tea pots that make the experience aesthetically pleasing and flavorful one.

is the tea company that I am affiliated with. Most of their teas are organic and fair trade, their customer service is awesome, they have a huge amount of flavors to choose from and they offer custom blending for your own personal preference or to create a signature restaurant blend.  How awesome is that?

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