The Camellia sinensis plant, or “tea plant”, can produce an array of different teas depending on the variety of the plant, the way it is grown, the time of the harvest, the rate of oxidation and fermentation, and more. These range from strong black teas to light white teas, and we have described these in more detail below.
Types of Tea
All of the teas listed below come from the Camellia sinensis plant, which means there are no red teas and no herbal teas. For more information on those, visit our guides to herbal teas like sideritis, blackberry leaf, and dandelion.
Types of Black Tea
Black tea undergoes extensive fermentation, more than any of the teas listed above. It produces a stronger flavour and is the most popular type of tea in the UK.
The blends that you find at your local supermarket are made from a combination of different black teas all brought together to create a complex, rich flavour that can be consistently recreated to ensure every cup of Tetleys, Yorkshire Tea, PG Tips, or whatever, tastes the same.
Known as the “champagne of tea”, Darjeeling borrows its name from the region in India that produces it. It is generally considered to be a light, floral, and delicate black tea, but there are actually many different types of Darjeeling based on the growing seasons. These are known as “flushes,” and the first flush and second flush varieties are the most sought-after and the most expensive as a result.
To produce this unique Chinese tea, the tea leaves are smoked over pinewood fires, leaving a strong, smoky flavour in their wake. This smokiness is very prominent in both fragrance and taste, and there are several different versions.
A tea with a slightly smoked flavour that comes from combining lapsang souchong with other black and oolong teas.
This is a Chinese black tea that is fermented over a period of weeks, months, or even years. In China, Pu’er tea is considered a delicacy and is treated the same as fine wine. It is often referred to as “dark tea” outside of China, but it is known as “red tea” in China. It is pressed into balls, “cakes”, or bricks.
A tea named after the Assam region in India that possesses a strong colour and a deep, malty flavour. The Assam region is actually the largest growing tea region in the world, but this variety is also produced in Yunnan, China.
A type of tea produced in Sri Lanka, a country that relies heavily on the production and export of tea and produces some of the best varieties of black tea in the world.
This tea is flavoured with bergamot oil, a fragrant citrus fruit that grows in southern Europe. It is believed to have been created in the 1830s and named after the then British prime minister, Charles Grey, the Second Earl Grey.
A spiced tea from India that is made from a combination of black tea, milk, sugar, and spices. It is typically a very rich, very sweet tea, with prominent flavours of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.
Types of White Tea
White tea is produced from young buds of the tea plant. These buds undergo minimal processing other than drying, and they have a very light, fresh taste.
Silver Needle Tea
This is another name for “baihao yinzhen”, a type of white tea produced in the Fujian Province in China. Only the leaf shoots are used to make this tea, and it is considered to be the most expensive type of white tea on the market.
This tea contains tiny white hairs that float on the surface of the drink, which is why it is also known as “white hair tea”.
Also known as “Bali Mudan”, this is a type of white tea that is said to have a fuller, richer flavour than other types and is one of the most popular varieties in the United Kingdom for this reason.
A white tea that tends to be darker in colour than other types because it is harvested later. It is made from the upper leaves and the tips of the Camellia sinensis plant.
Types of Green Tea
Green tea is made from tea leaves that have not undergone any oxidation or fermentation. It is harvested, dried, sifted, and then sorted before being packed and shipped around the world. Around 2 million tonnes are produced every year, and different varieties, growing methods, and growing seasons can produce vastly different tastes.
Green tea has gotten a bad reputation with black tea–loving Brits because most of the green tea sold is in the form of low-quality teabags. But if you use a premium green tea in loose leaf form, and you make sure the water is just off-the-boil, the difference in taste is significant and enough to win over any black-tea drinker.
The most popular type of green tea in Japan, where it is also produced. In the UK, Sencha green tea is sold as a premium variety of green tea and is one of the strongest and best tasting. It can produce an array of flavours depending on the growing season and several other factors.
A Chinese tea that is one of the most popular in China and is also sold as a premium green tea in the UK. It has a rich floral taste with a noticeable sweetness.
A Japanese tea grown under strict conditions that includes planting the trees in the shade to slow growth and increase the production of nutrients like amino acids, caffeine, and theanine.
The best buds are then handpicked and dried before the veins and stems are removed and the remaining leaves are then ground into a fine powder. The tea is consumed whole, not steeped. It’s an expensive, time-consuming process, but one that produces a nutrient-rich tea.
Before matcha tea is dried, de-stemmed, and then ground into a powder, it is Gyokuro. It basically refers to a variety of green tea that has been partially grown under shade to increase the levels of certain nutrients.
Also known as “popcorn tea”, this tea is made from mixing brown rice kernels with green tea. It was created as a cheap alternative when rice was abundant and tea was expensive.
Types of Oolong Tea
Oolong is one of the most popular teas in China, but it’s not something we have particularly taken to here in the UK. This tea is produced by light oxidation, putting it somewhere between green tea, which is not oxidised, and black tea, which is fully oxidised. The taste and the colour can also said to be somewhere between the two.
Varieties of oolong tea can differ significantly in taste due to the fact that they can undergo varying degrees of oxidisation.
Tieguanyin (Monkey Picked)
Legend has it that monks trained monkeys to pick this tea from mountainsides, and the term monkey picked is still used to denote teas that have been grown at very high altitudes. Its name translates as “Iron Goddess of Mercy” and it is grown in many regions in China.
This is a fairly recent variety of oolong tea that originates from Taiwan. It is also known as “Milk Oolong” because it is said to possess a creaminess akin to milk.
Also known as “Golden Cassia”, this tea is said to be very similar to Tieguanyin and comes from the Fujian province in China.
This is a region in China that produces some of the best (and the most expensive) teas in the world. They are grown organically at high altitudes and with much lower yields than usual. It is thought that black tea and oolong tea were invented in this region.