Black, White, Green - What's the Difference?
There are many different types of tea available and this page describes the major ones. Each type has its own tab - just click on the name to read about that type of tea. The basic types are just three:
- White tea
- Green tea
- Black tea
The major difference is the amount of processing each receives, with white being the most and black the least processed.
There are also descriptions of other types of tea and elements of tea production.
Black Tea leaves are fully oxidised and therefore the most intense in flavour. Because it is fully oxidised, Black Tea also keeps longer than all other teas.
Black Tea Processing
The main steps of black tea production are as follows:
This can be done either by hand or by machine. Unless stated otherwise, all of our black teas are hand-harvested.
This involves a large but incomplete reduction of the tea's moisture content. Commercially, it is done in large troughs, with fans to circulate air and remove moisture as it evaporates. Ours are sun-dried with little or no mechanical assistance.
Usually done using a machine or sometimes by hand, to break the cell walls, release essential oils, and aid brewing. This is one step better done with the aid of machinery as it produces a more consistent result, at the correct pressure.
The exposure of the essential oils to air results in a change in flavour, aroma and colour, similar to what happens when you slice an apple and leave it exposed to air for a few hours. This step is sometimes referred to as "fermentation," though oxidation is a more accurate term for the chemical processes that occur - there is no actual fermentation, a process normally involving yeasts.
Baking or firing
A high heat process. Most of the rest of the moisture is removed from the leaves, which halts oxidation and dries the tea, ready for storage.
Any waste material, such as large stems, is removed and the tea sorted into different sizes/grades of leaves. This step is usually done for machine made teas. It is partially done for our hand-made teas so that pieces of woody stem and any other extraneous material are removed.
The leaves are stored in bags or boxes for shipping and the containers are labelled appropriately.
An optional step used for commodity/commercial teas and many speciality teas but not for our single-batch, hand-made teas. This step may be done before packing, the previous step, or afterwards, when the tea has been transported to a blending company. In the latter case, it will be repacked after blending.
In some countries known more as a herb than a tea, White Tea from the High Hills of Nepal is a delicate infusion that reflects the character of the place itself - tranquil and subtle.
When the tea bushes start to sprout theirs first buds in the spring and the summer, only then are the White Teas picked. Only choice bushes in carefully selected fields produce White Teas. Only the subtle and clean buds with at most a few unopened leaves are harvested. The picking time is meticulously monitored as the glistening buds need to acquire enough pubescence (hairs). More pubescence means more of the characteristics expected of a white tea.
Expert tea makers have perfected the art of making white teas; that’s why these teas are exceptional.
The drying of White teas is meticulously monitored by the tea makers. The tea is usually dried slowly so as to retain the catechins and enhance the formation of sugars. White tea is a natural form of tea rich with antioxidants. The White Teas have a comfortable, mellow taste which melts in the mouth and a sweet vegetal finish. To sum up White Tea:
- White Tea is the purest form of tea as “herb”.
- Only the buds or the buds plus a few first leaves are used to make white teas.
- White Teas can be produced only at the appropriate part of the tea harvesting season.
- Only selected High Hills produce White Teas and only expert tea makers can manufacture them.
- White Tea is a natural form of tea with rich antioxidants.
Green Tea is made from leaves of the tea bush, Camellia Sinensis, that have undergone minimal oxidation during processing - they are not "fermented" before being dried. Oxidisation is prevented by heating the tea to destroy the enzymes that would otherwise cause oxidation.
A Green Tea infusion is pale in colour and very slightly bitter in flavour.
There is some evidence that regular consumption of Green Tea has demonstrable health benefits, including lower incidence of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Although Green tea does contain some caffeine, it is not usually enough to raise metabolic rate and so does not directly aid weight loss. Some Green Tea extracts can do this but, as with so many things when concentrated, may also have unwanted side-effects.
Pearl teas may be of any colour - White, Green or Black. They are made by rolling just the soft tips of the bush, usually with one or a few leaves below the tip, into a small ball or "pearl". This is done, usually by hand, at a suitable point in processing so that the pearl retains its shape - it stays rolled up. Some pearl teas consist of only lower leaves without the growing tip (bud).
When brewing a pearl tea, the pearl will "bloom" - open out into (almost) its original shape - when the water is poured over it.
Because some of the pearl is less exposed to whatever processing is done to the tea, due to it being masked by the outer layers of the pearl, the tea usually develops some of the characteristics of different tea types. This gives rise to a much more complex and, ultimately, more satisfying flavour than non-pearl teas.
Some pearl teas have something non-tea in the centre of each pearl, the most common being a jasmine flower.
Because of the large manual labour element of their production, pearl teas are expensive but for the ultimate tea treat, they are very much worth it.
- Mixtures of White/Green/Black teas
- Teas with flavours added to them - e.g. fruit, other herbs, flowers
Golden Black Tea
This is basically a mixture of whole-leaf (i.e. not crushed) Black Tea and Golden Tips. The flavour, as can be imagined, is amazing as it is a mixture of the two.
Raspberry Black Tea
Exactly what it sounds like: a high quality black tea with flavouring derived from raspberries. There are no artificial additives, colourants nor preservatives in this tea and consequently it has a rather shorter shelf life than some - around 18 months.
These are as much as feast for the eyes as the taste buds. A good green tea is married to a dried flower, one with a good flavour of its own. This is presented as a small "bouquet", tied with cord. When put into the teapot or cup and infused with hot water, the dried leaves rehydrate and the "flower" opens. In some cases, the dried flower inside the Green Tea leaves appears to bloom from the centre of the "bouquet". The flavours of such teas are unusual and usually pretty unique, in some cases exquisite.