For years I drank only coffee. This year I started drinking more tea. While I drink coffee in the morning, tea is my go-to beverage in the afternoon and evening. My favorite is black tea, but I enjoy a variety of other options.
Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world, second to only water. It did not just suddenly reach this historic popularity overnight. Tea has a rich history, which is intertwined with thousands of cultures, spanning centuries. Before we delve into all the different types of tea that can be found across the globe let’s go over some interesting facts about tea in general.
Tea ceremonies are an ancient tradition in China and Japan that are still celebrated with the utmost enthusiasm to relish the benefits and versatility of the beverage. Upon its introduction in Europe, tea was perceived as a status symbol and a customary drink for the elite members of society before it became widely popular.
Tea is also prevalent in various cultures worldwide. For instance, in the Middle East, it is a norm to offer a cup of tea to the guest as a welcoming gesture. The drink is also considered a focal point for social gatherings in countries such as Iran and India. According to a survey, the average Turkish tea drinker consumes about 5 cups per day and double that in winter.
But how deep is your knowledge of this immensely popular drink? Do you know where tea originates from? Or how many different types of tea there are and the ways in which they are consumed?
Brew a nice cup of tea for yourself, relax and read on to find out some more facts.
A Brief History of Tea
Tea is an aromatic drink that is commonly prepared by brewing cured leaves of the evergreen plant Camellia Sinensis in hot or boiling water.
Archaeological evidence suggests that tea was first discovered in China as early as 6,000 years ago, but back then, the Chinese consumed tea leaves either as a form of grain porridge or by simply chewing them on their own.
Tea shifted from being a food item to a beverage only a few hundred years ago when people realized that a concoction of the leaves prepared in hot water tastes a lot better than the alternative ways of consuming tea.
Legend has it that tea was first discovered by the Chinese Emperor Shennong when a tea leaf accidentally fell into his bowl of hot water while he was on his quest to discover edible herbs and plants.
Over the years, it became a common practice in China to sell dried tea leaves in the form of compressed cakes or by grinding them into a powder that could be mixed with hot water when needed. This early form of commercial tea was called ‘matcha’ by the Japanese who perfected the process.
While tea culture grew and flourished in East Asia, tea was still unknown in other parts of the world until Dutch traders introduced it to Europe during the 14th Century. The substance was so well received that special ships were built to transport it — the British built the clipper Cutty Sark in 1869 to bring tea from China to England as fast as possible.
It is said that British spies smuggled the plant along with skilled tea-farmers from China in order to learn the tricks of the trade. Soon, tea cultivation began in Darjeeling, a city in then British-occupied India.
Today, tea is grown in Africa, South America, and various regions around the Caspian Sea but most of the tea consumed worldwide is still obtained from traditional sources — China, India, Kenya, and Sri Lanka together represent over 75% of the world’s total tea production.
Tea vs. Herbal Tea
Before we discuss the types of tea, it is important to note that “tea” and “herbal” tea are two entirely distinct drinks. Herbal tea or more appropriately, tisane, has a history as long as the original tea itself.
However, tisane refers to a caffeine-free drink that is prepared from fresh or dried flowers, fruits, herbs, and/or seeds. In other words, it does not contain any “tea” at all. Nonetheless, the terms are normally used interchangeably and unless you are caffeine-conscious, it shouldn’t really matter.
True Tea (Camellia sinensis)
1. Black Tea
Black tea is prepared from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. The leaves which wither immediately when harvested, are rolled by the farmers in order to release the enzymes contained therein. The leaves are then spread out and allowed to oxidize until they turn brown.
Once dried, the leaves are heated at a certain temperature to destroy the enzymes and prevent further oxidation as it will change the taste. Finally, the leaves are ground into a powdered form and sold after being packaged.
Black tea has a strong, robust flavor and gives off a deep reddish-brown or black color when prepared in hot water. This type of tea has several health benefits that include maintaining blood pressure, lowering blood sugar levels, boosting heart health, improving digestion, and reducing the risk of cancer
A rich, malty flavor profile coupled with countless health benefits is the reason why approximately 165 million cups of black tea are consumed in Britain every single day.
Given the fact that true black tea tastes somewhat bitter, many people prefer to add a dash of milk to balance the slightly astringent flavor. Black tea can be further divided into different categories such as Darjeeling and Assam tea (cultivated in India), Ceylon Black tea (from Sri Lanka), and Earl Grey breakfast tea. Some of the different types of black tea are discussed below.
2. Green Tea
Green tea is the opposite of black tea in terms of processing. While black tea is the most processed of all true tea varieties, green tea is the least processed. It is prepared from leaves that are dried before heating them at a very low temperature.
Other techniques might be employed, for instance pan-frying, steaming, roasting, or tossing over a low flame. This makes the leaves mildly aromatic, and they release a fresh, herb-like flavor when added to boiling water.
Depending on the type of plant, the overall taste of green tea can range from fresh and mild to strong and slightly acidic. Green tea features a pale green color that closely resembles the actual color of fresh leaves due to the fact that they haven’t been processed too much. Green tea is celebrated for its health benefits because it is chock full of antioxidants. The following are some of the various types of green tea that you can brew.
3. Oolong Tea
Oolong is also obtained from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The way it differs from black tea and green tea is by how it is processed.
Oolong is partially oxidized. In other words, it undergoes half of the treatment that black tea undergoes. Therefore, depending on the level of oxidation, oolong tea may slightly resemble green tea or black tea in terms of both taste and appearance.
But the primary difference lies in the properties. Oolong tea reduces the level of bad cholesterol and maintains blood sugar levels. More often than not, oolong is mixed with a few drops of milk.
4. White Tea
White tea is the most delicate of all tea varieties. This is because it is hand-processed and obtained from the youngest shoots of Camellia Sinensis. If brewed for a particular amount of time, white tea can give out the lowest amount of caffeine but brewing it for longer will strengthen its properties.
Pu-erh refers to an aged black tea that originated in the city of Pu-erh in southern Yunnan province, China. It is renowned for its medicinal properties although it was illegal to import it to the U.S until 20 years ago. The method of production of Pu-erh is still a closely guarded secret.
Pu-erh features an intensely rich flavor profile that is not bitter despite the peaty taste.
6. Chai Masala
Popular in India, masala chai literally means spiced tea. It is brewed with Darjeeling or Assam black tea, milk, and an array of spices, such as cloves, fennel, star anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom. You will love a cup of masala chai during rainfall or the cold season.
7. Black Tea with Bergamot
As the name suggests, black tea with bergamot is a combination of black tea and bergamot fruit extract. Often believed to be a hybrid of lemon and orange, bergamot is a pear-shaped citrus fruit that is well-known for its medicinal properties.
Besides counterbalancing the bitter taste of plain black tea, the addition of bergamot extract makes the beverage good for weight loss and oral health as well as making it a good stress reliever.
The renowned Earl Grey tea is basically black tea with bergamot.
8. Black Tea with Lemon
Another way to cut down on the harsh flavor of plain black tea is to add a few drops of lemon juice to the concoction. You can buy pre-packaged black tea with lemon extract or simply squeeze some lemon juice into your regular cup of tea.
The benefits of lemon-black tea include increased iron absorption, detoxification, and weight control. This tea is also good for curing a sore throat and boosting immunity as it fights off free radicals in your body.
9. Green Tea with Jasmine
Jasmine green tea has been flavored with the extract of jasmine flowers. Apart from the unique smell that jasmine extract adds to the beverage, the drink is also prized for its health benefits.
It relieves arthritic pain and inflammation stabilizes blood pressure, reduces stress and anxiety, and is known to help those suffering from depression.
10. Green Tea with Lemon
Add a few drops of lemon to your regular green tea or purchase the same mixture from a nearby store but don’t miss out on the refreshing and reinvigorating taste of lemon green tea.
According to research, citrus juice brings out the antioxidizing properties of green tea and makes them more readily absorbed into the body. A cup of lemon green tea every morning can help you lose weight drastically while drinking it during a cold can help you recover faster.
11. Green Tea with Mint
Adding some mint leaves to green tea can strengthen your immune system, improve digestion, as well as alleviate joint and muscle pains.
12. Lapsang Souchong
Lapsang souchong is produced from the fourth and fifth leaves of the camellia sinensis plant, which are smoked and preserved for their unique smoky flavor. It offers a distinctive taste and flavor profile, making it quite popular throughout Europe, particularly in England and Russia.
13. Dian Hong
Dianhong teas are known as relatively high-end gourmet Chinese black tea. It brews into a brassy golden-orange color and features a sweet taste and a gentle aroma.
14. English Breakfast
English Breakfast tea features a blend of black teas. These typically include Assam (malty and bitter), Kenyan (fruity and floral), Ceylon (piney and sour), and Keemun (citric and smoky). Combined, these teas create layers of flavor that make a full-bodied, robust tea. It blends well with milk and sugar.
15. Russian Caravan
Russian Caravan tea combines Lapsang Souchong and a classic black tea like China Keemun. The Keemun’s slightly sour notes complement the Lapsang’s bold smokiness to create a flavorful. Blend equal parts of these teas for a cup or a large batch.
Lychee is a Chinese black tea that is scented with natural lychee fruit. The sweet scent of the fruit is roasted into the tea leaves to create a refreshing flavor that doesn’t require sweeteners. Once brewed, the tea has a reddish-brown hue and a light, sweet taste similar to honey. It can help ease digestive issues, assist with weight loss, promote good heart health, and more!
17. Moroccan Mint Tea
Moroccan mint tea combines fresh mint, water, sugar, and gunpowder tea to create a drink that is both refreshing and pleasing to the eye. That said, mint doesn’t have to be the exclusive flavor. Other aromatic herbs such as lemon verbena, sage, wild thyme, wormwood, and wild geranium will produce a satisfying taste.
While there are only a handful of true tea varieties, they are not the only ones that enjoy widespread popularity in the world today.
18. Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea, made from dried chamomile flowers, has long been a topic of interest for researchers and tea-lovers alike. It has been used as a traditional folk remedy for a long time as it is rich in flavonoids, natural chemicals with many health benefits.
Chamomile tea lightens dark skin spots, and acne scars and prevents breakouts due to its anti-inflammatory properties. However, it can cause severe allergic reactions in some cases or lead to vomiting if consumed excessively.
19. Lemongrass Tea
Lemongrass tea is made from a herb that is native to Sri Lanka. This type of herbal tea is said to help lower cholesterol, reduce anxiety, and is used to treat certain bacterial infections.
20. Linden Tea
Also known as basswood, the linden tree’s flowers, leaves, and bark are all used for medicinal purposes. Linden tea can help cure breathing problems like bronchitis, relieve headaches, and fasten the recovery from flu and common colds.
21. Hibiscus Tea
Made from fresh or dried hibiscus flowers, hibiscus tea can be consumed warm but tastes best served chilled. Besides lowering cholesterol and regulating blood pressure, it also maintains liver health and speeds up metabolism.
22. Rooibos Tea
Rooibos tea is widely popular as a flavorful and caffeine-free alternative to black and green teas. The herbal tea, made from a plant native to South Africa, is prized for its numerous health benefits, which include protection against cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
23. Honey and Ginger Tea
Be it protection against the common cold, flu, headaches, joint pain, or stress — drinking ginger tea will help you get rid of it all. Simply add some fresh chopped ginger to water and bring it to a boil. Add honey (and some lemon juice to balance the astringent taste) and drink while warm.
24. Mate Tea
Also known as chimarrao or cimarron, mate is a traditional drink in South America that is rich in caffeine. However, many people consider it as a better alternative to coffee because it provides a similar boost of energy but contains more nutrients.
25. Dog Rose Tea
Sick of catching a cold every now and then? Want an effective method to lose weight? If you answered yes to any or both of these questions, dog rose tea is just what you need. Made from dog rose, a plant native to North Africa, the tea is full of minerals and vitamins that boost your immunity and improve overall health.
26. Winter Fruit Tea
When the weather turns chilly, a cup of winter fruit tea will provide warmth like nothing else. As evident by the name, there is no fixed formula for this tea.
Tea lovers and manufacturers produce it in different ways, but a typical cup of winter fruit tea will include fruits (or extracts of fruits) such as apples, grapes, kiwis, oranges,s and a dash of honey to sweeten up the mixture.
Other Types of Teas
Produced in Assam, India, this tea is made from the Camellia sinensis plant grown at or near sea level. It offers a deep, rich, and full-bodied flavor that contains earthy, malty, and spicy notes. The longer it’s steeped, the more bitter it can become. Drinking this tea can help boost immunity and improve heart and brain health.
Also produced from the Camellia sinensis plant, Darjeeling is an expensive black tea well-known for its floral notes, fruity aroma, and color. The average cup contains approximately 120mg of caffeine, which is less than a cup of strong coffee. Purists drink tea without additives such as milk, lemon, or sugar.
Keemun tea is primarily used in China for producing green tea. It has considerably less caffeine (45mg) than Darjeeling tea and has a light and gentle taste with wooden notes and floral aromas. The tea offers a variety of health benefits, such as increased energy, body temperature regulation, and optimal liver and renal function. It can also serve as a topical medicine to apply to wounds, bedsores, and more.
30. Yellow Tea
Yellow tea contains antioxidants that help remove harmful free radicals that can cause health problems. Two main types are Huo Shan Huang Ya (Amber Mountain) and Jun Shan Yinzhen. However, it’s becoming increasingly rare because of the popularity of green teas, which do not require as much time to produce.
31. Purple Tea
Grown in Kenya, purple tea contains super-antioxidants called anthocyanins that produce its color. When brewed, the tea has a dark color with a slightly purplish hue. Some associate the taste with green tea but without the astringency or bitterness.
Drinking this tea over a consistent period of time can help reduce body weight, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and more. It can also help reduce free radicals that can cause certain types of cancer.
32. Kenyan Tea
Most of the tea produced in Kenya is black tea and is often used in several tea blends, such as English Breakfast. It features golden tips reminiscent of fine Assam teas and a light, citrusy taste. The tea has a high level of caffeine. Major tea producers typically produce green, yellow, and white Kenyan teas on order.
Where to Buy Online
1. Bigelow Tea
Bigelow Tea is a family-owned American company that has been making high-quality tea since 1945. Besides the high-quality teas, they are known for their excellent customer service, employee policies, and supplier relations. Besides, they have marked their place as environmental enthusiasts.
We live in times where consumption goes beyond the quality of the product. An era where people care about what goes on behind the scenes. Bigelow Tea ticks all the boxes if that is anything to go by.
2. Art of Tea
Art of Tea is also an American-based company known for its delightful products. One thing you’ve got to love about Art of Tea is their selection – they source for the top 2% of all teas produced worldwide. They assure consumers that all their products comply with GMP and HACCP business practices and handling.
Besides, their website is easy to navigate – it makes it easy for you to shop from the comfort of your home. For instance, for every product you select on the website, you can see steeping instructions and suggestions of other products you might like. They also have a wide variety of shipping methods, spoiling you for choice.
3. Verdant Tea
Good tea takes skill, care, and commitment during processing. A combination Verdant Tea has mastered. The company, founded in 2011, has fought nail and tooth to become a household name in this field. Another thing that stands out about Verdant tea is its tasting tea.
Chances are, you already know your favorite tea. But would you like to expand your palette? The tasting kit helps you explore different tea styles and farmer collections. Verdant has offices in China and Minnesota – but you can easily order from their website.
The name Ikaati is coined from “ikat,” which can be loosely translated to “tie by hand” in Indonesian. Over the years that this company has been in practice, it has strived to create a unique tea experience for consumers in Asia and beyond.
It was founded by a family in Asia, which had a passion for tea and a desire to share it – a passion they still hold. All their teas contain natural flavoring; you can even request complimentary samples to see what you like.
Are you a lover of Chinese teas, such as Pu-erh? If yes, Teavirre could easily become your favorite shop. They offer state-of-the-art Chinese teas at reasonable prices. Having been in the tea business for over ten years, Teavivre truly understands its customers’ needs. Throughout the years, they have proven to be of exemplary conduct and even won prestigious awards.
For instance, Teavivre won a gold medal in green tea at Golden Leaf Awards, which took place in Australia in 2019. The previous year, they also scooped a gold medal in the Global Tea Championship competition. Besides, Teavivre boasts fast hipping – they also offer free shipping for orders above $40 in most countries.
6. Matcha Source
As you might have anticipated from the name, Matcha Source is the best place to get your next batch of matcha. In case you didn’t know, matcha is only grown in Japan and is known for mood enhancement. Buddhist monks would drink matcha tea to assist in meditation.
Matcha Source bridges the gap between you and Japan. You will find their website to be relatively straightforward, making your experience pleasant. You can also find popular matcha recipes on their website and other instructions, such as the best way to store the tea.
7. Adagio Teas
The story of Adagio Teas is one everyone would resonate with. The company’s founders were inspired by their mother. She would prepare a unique blend of Indian and Chinese tea – and voila! Several years later, this family shares their love for tea with the rest of the world.
One thing about Adagio Teas is that they have a wide selection. Therefore, even if you are not too familiar with the world of teas, you can find something to love.
8. Tea Sante
Tea Sante is French for “health tea.” Isn’t that intriguing? This company is based in Montreal, Quebec in, Canada. They have a unique approach to tea – they consider it a lifestyle instead of a mere beverage. Expect to be spoilt for choice – they have a wide variety of tea flavor profiles.
Whether you are looking for a tea to boost your energy or one that will boost your immune system, they have it all. You can even buy their teas wholesale if you need them in bulk – say you have a wedding coming up.
9. Generation Tea
Generation Tea has some of the finest unblended collector’s teas China offers. The company directly imports its teas from China and Taiwan, after which they are processed naturally with no flavorings, additives, or preservatives. Their collection features aged Pu-erh teas and aged Liu Bao teas.
Generation Tea started about three decades ago. Michael, the company’s president, visited an actual tea store for the first time in New York. It was love at first sight. That and his enthusiasm for Chinese healing arts led to the birth of Generation Tea. Today, he believes that tea will be the drink of a new generation.
10. California Tea House
California Tea House is one shop that guarantees you value for money. Although they have a somewhat limited selection, it is a good stop if you are on a budget. They also have a monthly tea club, which you might consider checking out.
11. Silk Road Tea Store
The list would be incomplete without speaking about the Silk Road Tea Store. This Canadian tea store has been creating fine and fresh teas since 1992. Over the years, the Silk Road tea store has built quite a reputation. They use premium quality ingredients, have exceptional customer service, and the company is committed to serving the community.
What more could one ask for? As a result of their outstanding craft, they have been featured in reputable publications, such as The New York Times. The founder, Daniela Cubelic, recently helped develop a teacup that won the Red Dot design award.