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20 Different Types of Tea

From the classic ‘true’ varieties to the more exotic ones, explore the various types of tea and lots of other interesting information including a tea chart, photos and descriptions.

Tea

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 over 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 the 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 about 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.

Related: Online Tea Stores | Types of Tea | Types of Kombucha | Kombucha Substitutes | Types of Herbs | Types of Food

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 the 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 in a cup

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 level, boosting heart health, improving digestion and reducing the risk of cancer

A rich, malty flavor profile coupled with the 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 a 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 

Original 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 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 level. More often than not, oolong is mixed with a few drops of milk.

4. White Tea

Low caffeine 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 the 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 the properties.

5. Pu-erh

Puer tea

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.

World Tea Production

 

Flavored Teas

6. Chai Masala 

Spice tea

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

Harney & Sons Earl Grey Imperial Tea Tin - Fine Black Tea with Natural Bergamot - 2.35 Ounces, 30 SachetsCheck Price

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

 Lemon black tea

Another way to cut down on the harsh flavor of plain black tea is to add a few drops of lemon juice into 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

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 reliefs 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

Lemon green tea

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

Mint green tea

Adding some mint leaves to green tea can strengthen your immune system, improve digestion, as well as alleviate joint and muscle pains.

Herbal Teas

While there are only a handful of true tea varieties, they are not the only ones that enjoy wide-spread popularity in the world today.

12. Chamomile Tea

Chamomile flower 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, 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.

13. Lemongrass Tea

 Lemongrass herb 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.

14. Linden Tea

Linden herb 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.

15. Hibiscus Tea

 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. 

16. Rooibos Tea

Rooibos herb 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.

17. Honey and Ginger Tea

Ginger and honey 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 in water and bring it to a boil. Add honey (and some lemon juice to balance the astringent taste) and drink while warm.

18. Mate Tea

 Mate or cimarron 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.

19. Dog Rose Tea

Tea with dog rose

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.

20. Winter Fruit Tea

Apple 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 apple, grapes, kiwi, orange and a dash of honey to sweeten up the mixture.

Happy sipping!