Types of Tea
The major types of tea including black, oolong, green, and white all originate from the Camellia sinensis tea bush. The differences among the teas result only from the way the plucked leaves are processed.
Tea derived from the plant Camelia sinensis, most often sourced from China, East Asia, India and Sri Lanka. Black tea is characterized by a 4-step process of withering, rolling, oxidation and drying. It typically has the deepest color liquor color and higher caffeine content compared to white or green tea.
- Withering - Workers start picking early in the day and usually return to the processing factory around mid-day. The freshly harvested leaves are spread out on racks and left to wither for 14 to 24 hours. During this withering process, the leaves become soft and pliable loosing too much water weight due to evaporation.
- Rolling - Next, from the racks leaves are fed into rolling machinery that break up the cellular structure and release the natural enzymes of the leaf. An elliptical motion created by large rollers exerts just enough pressure to roll and twist the leaf without causing heat damage. The resulting product is a green, pungent pile of twisted tea leaves.
- Oxidation - After rolling, the leaves are transferred to a cool, humid location in the factory to begin the oxidation process, also commonly known as the fermentation process. Over the next two to three hours, the leaves release their enzymatic juices and oxidize upon exposure to air. A chemical reaction occurs whereby the mixing of natural polyphenols and pectin with oxygen and enzymes cause the leaves to turn black, also contributing to the characteristic flavor of black tea. Determining how long to oxidize the leaves involve considerable expertise and different styles of black tea demand varying time for fermentation.
- Drying - Upon the reaching the optimal oxidation level, the leaves are fired or dried to stop the fermentation. In essence, the drying seals in that particular tea’s characteristic flavor. Placed on large trays or on a conveyor belt, the tea travels through an oven chamber that halts oxidation and reduces the leaves water content to an ideal 2%.
Popular Mighty Leaf black teas include Organic Breakfast, Organic Earl Grey, Ancient Trees Pu’er, Darjeeling Estate and more.
As partially fermented teas, oolongs can be thought as teas sitting halfway between black and green tea.
- Withering - After plucking usually three to four leaves and a bud, oolongs undergo the withering process, but for a shorter period of time compared to black tea.
- Oxidation - Upon wilting, workers shake the leaves in bamboo baskets resulting in slight bruising and tearing of the leaf. As the leaf is exposed to air, and the enzymes react with the oxygen, it turns darker in color.
- Drying - The leaves are then fired to stop oxidation. Again, the duration of oxidation will depend upon the style of oolong. Traditional Chinese oolong is usually fermented up to a 10-15% level whereas a Taiwanese style oolong might be 70% oxidized. Interestingly enough, an oolong can exhibit more green or black tea characteristics depending upon the length of oxidation.
Mighty Leaf offers popular Oolong teas such as Formosa Top Fancy Oolong, Golden Dragon Oolong and Ti Kuan Yin.
Most often sourced from China and Japan, green tea is characterized by a less oxidized leaf and typically retains its green color. It contains less caffeine than black tea and most oolong teas. Instead of going through the withering and oxidation process, fresh leaves from the Camelia sinensis plant are immediately steamed or pan-fired to stop any oxidation activity.
- Steaming or Pan-firing - In Japan, green tea is steamed, and in China, leaves are pan-fired in a wok or heated drum, both processes resulting in soft and pliable leaves. With the active enzymes locked inside, the leaf is ready for rolling.
- Rolling - Whether done by hand or with machines, rolling determines the unique size and shape of the green tea leaf. A tea growing location will dictate the style of rolled tea – resulting shapes include long thin leaves, tight balls, flat natural leaf and gently twisted green teas. The beauty of a tea and the taste profile is affected by the style and tradition of rolling.
- Drying - Finally, a gentle heating or firing afterwards allow the leaves to dry, preserving their fresh "green" characteristics. At the end of the process, the moisture content of the tea leaf should be about four percent.
Mighty Leaf’s bestselling green teas include Green Tea Tropical, Organic Spring Jasmine, Organic Hojicha, and more.
While there is no convention for white tea, and it may refer to one of several styles of tea, it is typically considered to be the least processed type of tea.
Also known as tisanes, herbal “teas” consist of an infusion of herbs, spices, fruits, flowers, or other plants in hot or boiling water. Herbal teas are naturally caffeine free and the production process varies significantly depending on the type of herb, spice, fruit or flower being cultivated for use in an herbal blend.
Mighty Leaf’s bestselling green teas include Chamomile Citrus, Organic African Nectar, Mint Melange, and more.