• Green tea: Green tea is minimally processed. After plucking, the leaves are left to air dry/wither to soften and to reduce moisture content. After a certain amount of time, the leaves are dried quickly and thoroughly to prevent oxidation. The leaves are then rolled to the desirable shape before undergoing final drying. Green tea is grown in many countries. The major countries producing green tea are China, Japan and Korea.
• Yellow tea: Yellow tea is processed in a manner very similar to green tea, but an extra step called “smothering (men huan)” is applied to develop its special flavor characteristics. After pan-frying, the leaves are lightly steamed and then covered with a cloth for a period of time. During this process, astringency is reduced and sweetness is introduced. China is the only country that produces yellow tea.
• White tea: After it is plucked, white tea is also minimally processed, although very different from that of green tea. After the pluck, the leaves are withered, first outdoor and then indoor, and then the leaves are bake-dried. China’s Fujian Province is the home of authentic white tea.
• Oolong tea: Oolong is a partially oxidized tea. It is considered to be the most intricate and complex tea to manufacture. Some oolongs can take up to 36-40 hours to produce, requiring several shifts of workers. The degree of oxidation of oolong tea ranges between 15%-80%. After the pluck, fresh leaves undergo outdoor and indoor withering, during which time the leaves are tossed and rested at time intervals. The withered leaves are then fed to an oven for pan-firing. Following pan-frying, the leaves are brought to a rolling machine to be rolled and shaped. Finally, the rolled leaves are fed into a drying machine. Additional steps of roasting are added to certain Oolongs. Roasted Oolongs are highly sought-after and improve with age. Major oolong producing regions are China (Fujian and Guangdong) and Taiwan.
• Black tea: Black tea is a fully oxidized tea. It is the most popular tea in North America for making hot and iced tea, reflecting the tea-drinking influence of English and Europe. Black tea’s production steps after plucking include withering, rolling, sifting, oxidation and drying. Major black tea producing countries are India, Sri Lanka, China and Africa. In China, black tea is called “hong cha", which translates to red tea.
• Dark tea: “Dark” means “black” in Chinese, hence dark tea is black tea in China. To avoid confusion with black tea in the West, most tea experts refer to China’s “black tea” as “dark tea.” Dark tea is a post-fermented tea that can be aged. Tea leaves undergo a microbial fermentation process after they are dried and rolled. The degree of fermentation varies among different kinds of dark teas. Pu-erh is the most well-known dark tea. Other dark teas include Liu-an, Liu-bao, Fu-Zhuang and Qian Liang Cha. Dark teas are packed in baskets, compressed in cakes or bricks and packed in logs. As Pu-erh tea has gained in international fame and popularity in recent years, all dark teas have gained attention and the value of aged dark teas is comparable to the value of aged Pu-erh. All dark teas are manufactured in China.
Tisanes: Tisanes are made with flowers, herbs, spices or barks. Some examples of tisanes are Rooibos, Mate, Chamomile, Rosehip, Mint and Ginger. Tisanes are technically not tea because they are not made from leaves of the Camellia sinensis tea plant.