The world of tea and infusions fit many variants, and as we saw at the time in the guide of types of coffee, we will know in depth what are the types of tea that exist.
Before knowing the main types of tea and their benefits, we have to emphasize that in the world, there are many more varieties of tea that we discuss here.
Many of them have a very small local production and consumption, and it would be impossible to cover them all in a single publication. So we are going to stick to the main types of tea that we all know and that are most widespread around the world.
These types of tea are categorised or distinguished mainly by their level of oxidation and have different properties. As is logical, each of them is more or less popular depending on the region of the world where we are.
In some cases, there are even well-known varieties of some of them, which we will also detail in each of the sections. And there are also blends of tea, as with coffee blends, which multiply the options and possible results to almost infinity.
Oxidation is a chemical reaction that the tea producer can control to achieve different flavours, aromas and nuances in each cup of tea. And depending on this process, a certain type of tea with certain characteristics is obtained.
We start with black tea, which is the most oxidised of all teas and one of the best known. Many people know it as black tea, but in China, it is usually called red tea (PU EHR)… but let’s not get confused. It is practically the same.
As it is the type of tea with the most oxidation, its flavour is intense, strong, has more theine… and must be prepared with water that is hotter than normal. It is recommended to use water just below the boiling point: between 95º C and 100º C.
Properties of black tea
The properties and benefits of black tea are largely derived from its total oxidation process (as is the case with the strong flavour that characterises it). Here is a summary of the most significant ones:
- It helps circulation, thanks to the dilation and contraction of blood vessels.
- Its high caffeine content gives it similar properties to coffee in terms of stimulation, concentration and memory benefits.
- It prevents tooth decay, due to its high fluoride content.
- It is good for the metabolism, purification and collaborates with diuretic processes.
- It is an antioxidant.
- Helps maintain good bone density (prevents osteoporosis).
Earl Grey tea
Black tea, as we have already mentioned, is one of the most popular teas in Europe and in general in the Western world, while in China, red tea is more popular among the strong teas.
Some of the best-known types of black tea are Earl Grey and English Breakfast. But… do you know exactly what they are and what distinguishes them?
Earl Grey tea is a black tea that is flavoured with bergamot oil: a citrus fruit halfway between lime and orange that is only grown in very specific regions of the Mediterranean (mainly in the Italian region of Reggio Calabria).
Naturally, the contribution of bergamot gives Earl Grey black tea its distinctive flavour and aroma.
English Breakfast Tea
This is the typically British tea (indeed, its name is not misleading), and as it is conceived as a breakfast tea, it stands out for its strong, stimulating properties and intense flavour. Hence also the British custom of adding milk and even sugar.
What is English Breakfast tea made of? It is simply a blend of black teas of different origins, but always with a common denominator: its potency and flavour. The most traditional combination is the one with tea leaves from Assam (India), Sri Lanka and Kenya.
Red tea is known as PU EHR, very popular in China and quite similar to the black tea we consume more in the West. In some places, you will read that black and red tea are the same tea, known by different names depending on whether you are in China or Europe… but this statement is not entirely accurate.
The fundamental difference between black tea and red tea is that the latter is semi-fermented, through a process that lasts two or three years. The black tea leaf, on the other hand, undergoes total oxidation, which is why it is much stronger than the others, but it does not undergo “post-fermentation” after oxidation, like red tea.
As a curiosity, we can tell you that red tea was discovered accidentally when trying to extend the natural preservation process of the original green tea.
Properties of red tea
Among the properties and benefits of red tea, which in some cases coincide with those of black tea, we can mention the following:
- It is very digestive (ideal to drink after a big meal).
- It has a high fluoride content, so it helps to protect teeth.
- It has excellent diuretic and depurative properties, so it is good for the spleen and liver.
- Controls LDL cholesterol levels.
We could place green tea at the opposite end of the spectrum to the black and red teas we have just met. This is an unfermented, mild tea that does not undergo any oxidation process and whose leaves are pressed and heated for short periods of time.
Properties of green tea
- It is the tea with the highest antioxidant properties.
- It is often a good supplement for weight loss diets. Have you never heard of green tea for weight loss?
- It limits cholesterol levels.
- It has much less caffeine (or theine) than other teas.
- Provides general immune system benefits.
- High in minerals and vitamins A, C and E.
- Helps lower blood glucose levels.
Matcha should not really be a separate category because it is part of the green tea variety. In fact, it could be considered a very green tea. But it has such curious peculiarities, so different from the rest, that it is often called a variety in its own right.
Japanese matcha tea is, essentially, a powdered green tea, which is obtained by crushing or grinding the leaves (including the stems, without discarding anything) of the highest quality from the tea bushes and protecting them with a steaming process to prevent them from oxidising.
It is, therefore, an unoxidised tea. And it is widely used in the Japanese tea ceremony, which is why we associate it permanently with Japan, even though it actually comes from China.
As a result of its peculiar appearance, it is also not brewed in the same way as other teas. There are no leaves to infuse, but a deep green powder (very similar to pistachio) that has to be processed with a matcha tea set.
Matcha tea properties
- It has higher antioxidant properties than normal green tea.
- Helps relaxation and stress reduction.
- Reduces blood cholesterol levels.
- Accelerates fat burning, which is why it is often used in weight loss diets.
- The process of harvesting and grinding matcha tea is more laborious than conventional green tea, so its production – and its final price on the market – is considerably more expensive.
Known as Pai Mu Tan, white tea is a very popular and widely consumed type of tea in China, although much less so in the Western market. Like green tea, white tea is an unfermented tea.
It is considered a very select tea of very high quality and is obtained by choosing only the youngest buds of the plant for harvesting before they oxidise.
Properties of white tea
- It strengthens the health of our skin and hair.
- Like green tea, it retains a high amount of antioxidants because it is not oxidised. The ancient Chinese called it the tea of beauty or tea of eternal youth, precisely because of these very visible benefits.
- It fights cell ageing.
- It is highly diuretic.
- It is the tea with the least theine or caffeine of all teas.
Yellow tea, originally called Huang dacha, is perhaps the most unknown of all the types of tea that we are reviewing in this article, at least in these “western” parts of the planet. It is only produced in China, is very expensive to bring to Europe or America, and therefore many consumers do not know it.
It is a mild tea, similar to green tea, which undergoes a slight process of wet oxidation (stopped and artificially controlled by dry heat) which is what causes its leaves to turn from green to yellowish.
As a result of being a slightly more oxidised tea, it does not have the astringency of green tea and is also more aromatic. It should be brewed in water that is not as hot as teas that oxidise completely. Around 80º C is sufficient.
Properties of yellow tea
- Helps concentration.
- Contains a high concentration of minerals.
- It has a very characteristic aroma, more powerful than milder teas.
- It is beneficial for combating any type of illness or gastric problem.
- It retains the diuretic and antioxidant properties of green and white teas, although to a lesser extent than these.
Oolong or blue tea
Until not so long ago, blue tea was as unknown in Europe and America as the yellow tea we have seen above. In recent times, however, its popularity has grown exponentially… have you all seen the name Oolong tea or Wulong tea? Well, that is the real name of blue tea in China.
Blue tea or Oolong tea is the tea that is halfway between green tea (unoxidised) and black tea (fully oxidised). It is a semi-oxidised tea, which goes through the same process as black tea but is not oxidised until the end.
Therefore, its properties and nuances are halfway between the two: it has, for example, less caffeine than black tea but more than green tea.
There are many varieties of blue tea, depending on the oxidation time it has undergone (a tea oxidised to 30% is not the same as one oxidised to 70%), so it is one of the largest and most varied groups of tea in the whole range of colours we have just reviewed.
Properties of blue tea
- Helps to lower cholesterol levels.
- Improves the circulatory system, artery pressure and the cardiovascular system in general.
- It has good digestive properties, so it is ideal for drinking after meals.
- It maintains its antioxidant properties, although logically to a lesser extent than green tea.
- It can be included in slimming diets because it speeds up the metabolism.
In summary, and if we order all the main types of tea in the world from less oxidised (mild) to more oxidised (intense), we would have the following list: white tea, green/matcha, yellow, blue, black and finally red tea, which, in addition to being totally oxidised, undergoes a subsequent fermentation process.
Related: What is Lingzhi Black Coffee