Boiling, pouring, slurping, scratching heads, scribbling pen – these are the noises you’ll hear almost continuously from the tasting room on our tea farm. Although we have 20 teas available to buy, the actual number we make is much higher. And, each is unique. The world of tea has literally thousands of varieties to choose from, so it’s hard to know which to go for. Generally, though, we can break all of these choices down into six different types of tea, all of which we make on our time.
What are true teas?
When talking about tea types, you might hear the term ‘true teas’. These are teas that are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, so green, black, oolong, white and yellow tea. The compounds found in tea leaves and how they’re processed by the tea maker gives each tea its distinctive flavour and aroma. These are also the only teas that contain caffeine aside from Yerba Mate.
All teas start of life the same way – leaves from tea bushes like at our farm.
Different types of tea – white tea
Each season, we get a bit of a headache from producing white tea on our farm. Tea pluckers seek out the youngest leaves and buds of the tea plant which needs a lot of concentration and time. But, it’s essential that the leaves are the best quality as white tea is the least processed of all the different types of tea; the leaves and buds wither in natural sunlight before being gently steamed or dried to prevent oxidation. Our Imereti Summer white tea is withered for 24 hours which brings out the tropical flavours of the tea leaf.
White tea is pale and has a delicate flavour and aroma. Unlike other teas, the first steeping of white tea is usually the weakest in colour and taste. Each time you brew it, the tea becomes darker and deeper and you can stepe it many times.
Green tea – the misunderstood tea
Green tea can have a bad rep among tea drinkers as being bitter; it’s often drunk for its health benefits rather than flavour. But, we want to wave the flag for green tea for its taste as well as its high antioxidant content. Provided you don’t put boiling water on green tea leaves, it can have a wide range of flavours – from grassy to nutty. It all comes down to when and where the tea leaves are plucked and how it’s produced.
Green tea is made by quickly heating the leaves to prevent oxidation, although teamakers have their own recipes. We wrote a blog about how to make green tea here.
Popular types of green tea:
Sencha – a type of Japanese green tea that is made from the first flush (new growth) of tea leaves. It has a refreshing, grassy flavor and is often enjoyed as a daily tea in Japan.
Gunpowder tea – a Chinese green tea that is named after its shape. The tea leaves are rolled into small, tight balls that resemble gunpowder. It has a strong, smoky flavor and is often used in blends.
Dragonwell: Dragonwell is a type of Chinese green tea that is known for its flat, green leaves and its delicate, nutty flavor. It’s a premium tea produced in the Zhejiang province of China.
Jasmine tea – a type of green tea that is scented with jasmine flowers. It has a floral, fragrant flavor and is often enjoyed as a dessert tea.
Black tea – the strong one
Full-bodied, robust and punchy – black tea is the strongest of the different types of tea. It’s also the most commonly consumed type of tea worldwide. To make black tea, you first wither the leaves to remove some of the moisture. Next, a rolling machine crushes the leaves to release their natural oils and enzymes which then react with oxygen in a process known as oxidation. This gives black tea its characteristic colour and flavour.
There are many different types of black tea, and they are often named after the region in which they are grown or the specific process used to make them. Georgian Breakfast is one of our most popular black teas.
Some other common types of black tea include:
- Darjeeling tea: This tea is grown in the Darjeeling region of India and is known for its light, floral flavor.
- Assam tea: This tea is grown in the Assam region of India and is known for its strong, malty flavor.
- Ceylon tea: This tea is grown in the country of Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) and is known for its bold, full-bodied flavor.
Oolong tea – the inbetween
Although no one knows exactly when oolong tea was first made, oolong tea was probably developed in China in the early years of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). It’s partially oxidized so it falls somewhere between green and black tea in terms of flavour and oxidation. The level of oxidation usually varies between 20 to 60%, depending on the specific variety and the way it is processed
Lightly oxidized oolong teas tend to have a delicate, floral aroma and a lighter color. They may also have a more astringent, slightly bitter flavor. Heavily oxidized oolong teas, on the other hand, tend to have a stronger, deeper flavor and a darker color. They may also have a more complex, nuanced aroma.
Hannes making some of his first batches of tea.
Pu’erh tea – fermented
Originally produced in China’s Yunnan province, Pu'erh tea is fermented. It’s made through a process called post-fermentation which takes place after the leaves are dried and rolled. The dried leaves are put in a cool, humid place and left to ferment. How long they ferment affects the final flavour and appearance of the tea. The fermentation process also helps to break down some of the tannins in the tea leaves, which can give pu'erh tea a smoother, less astringent taste compared to other teas.
Some pu’erh teas are then aged for several years or event decades to develop a more complex flavour profile. Older teas can be very expensive as it’s thought that the flavour and quality improves over time. You can buy Pu’erh as loose leaf tea or in compressed cake form.
Yellow tea is produced through a process that is similar to that used for green tea, but with an additional step called ‘sealed yellowing.’ This step involves lightly steaming the tea leaves and then allowing them to rest in a humid environment for some time, which helps give the tea its unique flavor and yellow color.
Yellow tea is a rare and premium tea that isn’t well known outside of China. It is often considered to be a more refined and elegant tea compared to other types of tea, and it is often served at formal tea ceremonies. This year, Hannes experimented making yellow tea which is now available for season 6's tea garden adoptions.
Herbal tea – tea, but not really
Herbal tea or infusions are not considered true teas as they’re not made from the Camellia sinensis tea plant. A variety of herbs, fruits and spices make delicious, caffeine-free tea when you add hot water. Many people drink herbal teas for their health benefits – for example, mint tea can aid digestion and chamomile tea helps you sleep.
In Georgia, many herbal teas are oxidised, undergoing a process similar to black tea making. For hundreds of years, mountainous communities have oxidised bilberry leaves. At our farm, we like to experiment, so we also had a go at making mint tea this way and the results were pretty good!
How to choose from all the different types of teas
Well, that really comes down to trying and figuring out what you like for yourself. If you want to try all the different types of tea, you could order our taster set which includes 15 teas that we make on our farm.