After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world - it has a cooling, slightly bitter, and astringent flavour that many people enjoy.

It is thought that tea originated in China during the Shang Dynasty as a medicinal drink and was first introduced to Portuguese priests and merchants in China during the 16th century. Drinking tea became popular in Britain during the 17th century and the British introduced tea to India, in order to compete with the Chinese monopoly on tea.

Tea has been historically promoted for having a variety of positive health benefits. Recent human studies suggest that green tea may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer, promote oral health, reduce blood pressure, help with weight control, improve antibacterial and antivirasic activity, increase bone mineral density. Additional research is ongoing to fully understand its contributions to human health.

Tea catechins have known anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective activities, help to regulate food intake, and have an affinity for cannabinoid receptors, which may suppress pain, nausea, and provide calming effects. Consumption of green tea is associated with a lower risk of diseases that cause functional disability, such as stroke, cognitive impairment, and osteoporosis in the elderly.

Tea contains L-theanine, and its consumption is strongly associated with a calm but alert and focused, relatively productive, mental state in humans.

So what are the different types of tea?

Green Tea

greentea

A popular tea in Asia, its leaves have undergone the least amount of oxidation, by a quick application of heat, either by steaming or by dry cooking. Green tea has a bright green colour and bitter/sweet taste. Traditionally green tea was only a hot beverage but iced green tea is becoming increasingly popular.

 

 

Black Tea

blacktea

Black tea leaves are allowed to completely oxidise, which darkens the tea. Black tea is produced mainly in China, India and Sri Lanka and it is the most consumed fermented tea. There are many varieties of black teas which are indigenous to so many regions of the world, it is common to name the variety according to the region it came from (e.g. Assam, Nepal, Darjeeling, Nilgiri, Turkish and Ceylon).

 

White Tea
whitetea

White teas are produced mostly in China. It is minimally oxidised (also known as fermentation in the tea industry), which leaves a characteristic sweet aroma and aftertaste. Processing involves withering and drying the young leaves by baking. White tea’s name comes from the downy hair on the surface of the buds, which appear white.

 

 

Oolong Tea
oolongtea

Oolong tea is commonly served at Chinese restaurants and is the most popular of the Chinese teas. Oolong tea is made from the same kind of leaves as white, green and black tea. The oxidation process is somewhere in between green and black tea.

 

 

Want to know more about ocha (Japanese tea)?

The Japanese consume many types of tea, however the most common are non-fermented green teas which are a staple to accompany Japanese food at mealtimes and frequently drunk throughout the day as a refreshing pick me up.

 

SenchasenchaGyokurogyokuroMatchamatcha
A green tea common in Japan. The word originally meant boiled tea, but in reality it is a processed tea, where the raw leaves are steamed, rubbed and dried. The brewed tea is brilliant green, and contains both sweetness and bitterness.Processed in the same way as Sencha, but grown in the shade where the tea plants are covered by reed screens around budding season. Gyokuro is processed with care and time, and with its unique sweetness and umami, it is considered to be the highest quality Japanese tea.Like Gyokuro, Matcha is processed from carefully grown buds. Matcha tea leaves are steamed and dried without rubbing, then ground into powder in the stone mill. Because whole tea leaves are consumed with Matcha, you are also getting all the natural nutrients contained in the leaf.

 

KonachakonachaBanchabanchaHoujichahoujicha
Konacha is a tea made by powders produced during the Gyokuro or Sencha making process. You may find it served at sushi restaurants. Because of its powder form, it brews a darker tea, so it is best to brew quickly. Good quality konacha is not too fine and bright in color.Bancha is made with hard tea leaves, which are the leftovers after the best leaves for Sencha have been picked. It has a light flavor, and is best brewed quickly in hot water. Because it uses leaves from a second choice of the crop, the name “bancha” derives from “ni-ban” or “number two”.Houjicha is made by roasting Bancha where the green color is transformed into brown, and has a unique aroma. It has no bitterness or astringency, and is characterized by its light taste. It contains less caffeine or tannin, and is good for seniors or young children.

 For information on how to brew tea and what temperatures are best, see our page – Brewing tea – it’s all in the water!