Drinking a cup of tea every day is a great ritual to practice as part of your overall wellness routine. However, if you’re a beginner tea drinker, it can be difficult to know which tea to choose with all the different varieties available.
To help you get started on your tea drinking journey, we’ve provided a quick tea guide with an explanation of each of the 5 main tea categories, as well as a great way to try teas out to find out which ones best suit your taste preferences.
Overview of the 5 Main Tea Categories
Real tea (a.k.a true teas) are made using leaves from the tea plant known as Camellia sinensis. Teas made from any other plants are not technically considered to be true teas.
The teas that are considered real teas are black tea, green tea, white tea, oolong tea and, sometimes, pu-erh tea. Here we’ll be discussing the first three types, as well as herbal teas (which are not considered true teas).
1. Black Teas
Known in the Western world as ‘black tea’ and in China as ‘red tea’, black teas are the most processed of the tea varieties. Black teas undergo a process of withering, rolling, oxidation and drying that results in a dark brown or reddish amber appearance.
Black teas offer the strongest flavors, but the tastes will vary among the different types of black teas. For example, Assam teas have a malty flavor, while Darjeeling teas are more delicate, with floral and fruity flavors.
2. Green Teas
Green tea leaves are harvested and then withered in order to reduce moisture content. The leaves are then pan fired or steamed at high temperatures to induce drying, followed by being rolled by and swirled. Green tea is typically green or yellow in appearance.
Flavors of green teas range from toasty and grassy (for pan fired teas) to mild with a vegetable or herb-like astringency (for steamed teas).
3. Matcha Teas
Matcha is a high-grade green tea that is produced from shade-grown tea bushes and then ground into powdered form. Instead of being steeped, the green tea powder is whisked into hot water to make a frothy drink.
Since matcha is whisked into hot water, it delivers a unique richness that isn’t produced from traditionally brewed tea leaves. Matcha will vary in flavor depending on the type you consume, but can typically be described as sweet, rich, creamy, vegetal, full-bodied and slightly astringent.
4. White Teas
White tea is the least processed of the true teas as it undergoes a manufacturing process that consists of just one step – it’s plucked and allowed to wither dry. Most white teas are a light yellow color, but some varieties can also have hints of green.
White tea has a soft, delicate flavor profile and is naturally sweet with floral and fruity undertones. As one of the milder true teas, it’s a universally good choice that appeals to tea experts and beginners alike.
5. Herbal Teas
As mentioned above, herbal teas aren’t real (or true) teas since they’re made without using any leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant. Rather, they are infusions made from steeping spices, herbs or roots in hot water. If these ingredients combine with true teas, they’re known as flavored teas.
These teas are typically caffeine-free and the flavors vary widely, depending on the plants and spices used. For example, herbal teas made with hibiscus and chamomile are floral and offer sweet flavors. Those made with lemon and bergamot, on the other hand, are citrus and provide a tangy, tart flavor.
Tips for Beginners
If you’re a complete beginner when it comes to tea, one of the best ways to determine which teas you like the best is by trial and error. The reality is, you won’t know which ones you like and don’t like unless you try them!
A great way to sample teas without being stuck with large amounts of the teas you’re not a fan of is by getting one or more tea samplers. Sampler packs are convenient in that they provide smaller amounts of a few different teas, enabling you to try out a variety, rather than having to purchase a larger amount of each tea individually.
Curious about green teas? Check out our green tea sampler, which includes three delicious green teas: Marrakesh Mint, Green Tropical Tea and Mystic Dragon. Think you’ll enjoy herbal teas more? Our herbal tea sampler includes three favorites: Berry Bouquet, Bonita Peach, and Cinnamon Plum.
In addition to the other fabulous tea samplers, we also offer a small tin option for every type. You really can’t go wrong with these tea assortments. They also make fantastic gifts for the holidays and other special occasions!