If you’re a casual tea drinker, you’ve probably never considered what the difference is between white tea, black tea, and green tea. However, true tea lovers (much like true coffee lovers) like to know a bit more about their beverage of choice and the options available to them. Here at Mochas and Javas, our mission is to serve the finest quality coffee beverages to our guests, and we feel the same about the tea we serve.
While most people believe that different plants produce different types of tea, that is not true with white, black, and green teas. Surprisingly, they are all made from the same plant, called Camellia Sinensis, which is an evergreen shrub that is cultivated in both tropical and sub-tropical climates. You get the differences in the white, black, and green tea from how each is processed.
All three tea types require some oxidation, which is a process during which oxygen is absorbed and chemically changes the tea leaf. In other words, it is a chemical reaction that results in the browning of tea leaves. To create this, tea producers tumble the leaves, which gently bruises the leaf. This is done at temperatures between 80 and 85 degrees, as heating the tea slows and/or stops the oxidation process.
White tea, which normally has a sweeter, lighter flavor, is the most minimally processed and will be less brown. It’s typically plucked from the bush and left out to dry and wither in the sun or shade. Due to this, they achieve a smaller amount of oxidation and are thus able to retain most of their natural antioxidants.
Green teas are heated early to halt the oxidation process, and are normally steamed or even pan-fried to scald the leaves. They are often referred to as “unoxidized teas” since they are processed right away. The steaming and/or pan frying can bring out flavors that are grassy, earthy and, in some cases, sweet, and is what allows green teas to retain the green coloration.
Black teas are fully oxidized—which is why they have their distinct darker brown/black color—and are normally crushed once they’ve withered. Due to their strong flavor, black teas are often consumed with a bit of cream and sugar or honey. Black tea is the most popular tea and most consumed tea in the United States.
What about herbal teas? Well, herbal teas aren’t actually teas at all. They’re usually blends of various herbs, spices, and fruit and flower bits. They are often added to teas to enhance the flavor of the tea, or marketed as tea to appeal to the tea drinking consumer.
Every type of tea is backed by a beautiful culture that made it popular, and while you sit all cozy with your favorite mug, you can appreciate all of the various health aspects that drinking tea offers you. And beyond physical health, slowing down and steeping your favorite tea, whether it is white, green, or black, is just good for your soul!