Chinese Tea
Six Different Types Explained

There are six different types of Chinese tea, starting from the least oxidized: green, white, yellow, oolong, red and pu-erh. How to decide which tea to drink?



dragonwell teaAre you starting to learn about tea? Are you confused by the different types of tea that exist?

Broadly speaking, there are two main types of tea. First, you have the Camellia sinensis teas, which come from tea plants. This is what this article is about.

Then, you have the herbal teas, which are pretty much everything else i.e. dandelion tea, ginseng tea and flower tea.

The Chinese people characterize the Camellia sinensis tea by color of the tea liquor. So, here you are - the six types of Chinese tea!

Chinese Tea #1: Green Tea
Health Benefits Correspond to Antioxidant Contents

Readers often ask me which tea has the most health benefits. Some so-called "experts" say it doesn't matter, black tea is equally healthy as green tea.

I beg to differ. Everything being equal, you would expect tea that contains more antioxidants to be healthier.

Unlike black tea, green tea is made with minimal oxidation. A process - called firing - applies high heat to kill the leaf enzymes to stop oxidation on its track, which resulted in the high catechins content of green tea.

Green Tea Processing - Steaming, Roasting, Baking

Researchers from the Department of Food Science and Technology School of Agricultural Biotechnology at Seoul National University found that green tea contains more tea antioxidants than black tea does.

Black tea has a relatively small percentage of the powerful antioxidants called theaflavins, only about 2 to 6%. Green tea, on the other hand, contains 30 to 42% of the powerful antioxidants called catechins.

Tea Antioxidants Debate - Green Tea Vs. Black Tea

Therefore, if you want to get maximum amount of antioxidants, drink teas that are the least oxidized. Green tea is unoxidized, white tea and yellow teas are slightly oxidized. They all have plenty of antioxidants.

The most famous Chinese Green Tea is the Dragon Well, widely regarded as the National Tea of China.

Chinese Tea #2: White Tea
Which You Prefer- Raw Salad or Cooked Food?

silver needle teaMany people think that white tea is the highest quality and the healthiest. Again, I beg to differ.

Quality depends on the tenderness of the tea leaves. The highest grade teas are usually harvested early spring, where the young tea buds contain high concentration of soluble solids such as theanine and antioxidants. Because they are only a couple of days old, they are pure and safe to drink.

So as long as you are drinking high grade tea buds, and not cheap, bitter-tasting mature leaves, you are getting quality.

But what about white tea?

Imagine: pick the fresh leaves, spread them out to wither until moisture reduces to 20%, then dry further. This is white tea processing in a nutshell. Minimal heating. No rolling.

It is a stark contrast to green and oolong tea. It does not undergo fixation, where high heat is applied to kill the enzymes and stop the oxidation. It does not undergo rolling, where the fixated leaves are massaged into various shapes.

So drinking white tea is akin to eating salad. It is raw and lovely to have on a hot summer day. White tea is untreated by high heat, which may explain why it is found to be more potent.

White Tea Health Benefits - Rising Star?

The highest quality white tea is the Silver Needle, or Baihao Yinzhen.

Chinese Tea #3: Yellow Tea
Not Many Around, But Worth Trying Nevertheless...

Yellow teas that are slightly oxidized are like green tea and contains lots of antioxidants. Examples are Mengding Huangya and Huoshan Huangya.

(The word Huangya means Yellow Buds.)

The best Yellow Tea is heavily oxidized and more like a black tea, it is called Junshan Yinzhen. We haven't sourced this tea due to the high price of a high grade.

When making a green tea, high heat is applied to kill the tea enzymes to halt the oxidation process.

If roasting temperature is too low, or the subsequent cooling lacks ventilation, the tea leaves will turn yellow. This yellow-ing is a form of "wet oxidation", in the same way that tea reddens when it oxidizes to make oolong or black tea.

The key is to control the degree of "yellow-ing" so that the right chemical changes take place.

Yellow Tea Explained

Chinese Tea #4: Oolong Tea
Intensely Aromatic

iron goddessOolong teas are often described as semi-oxidized. There are many types of oolong, but they can thought of as either green or dark.

Green Oolongs have low level of oxidation, and are often described as "green and floral". They are popular to Westerners, as they have a stronger taste compared to green tea, which can seem too light and subtle for some people.

Dark Oolongs are fully oxidized and roasted; they are more of an acquired taste for Westerners.

A good way to try both green and dark oolongs is to get the Iron Goddess Sampler Pack.

While green tea contains the highest level of theanine, and gives you the best after-feeling, oolong is often remembered for its intense aroma.

When making oolong tea, tea leaves are deliberately bruised, which exposes tea juices and speeds up the oxidation process. The process ends when leaf edges start to redden and aromatic oils form.

Oolong Tea Processing - A Pictorial Guide

People often ask me if oolong or Pu-erh tea is better for weight loss. The answer is not really. All teas are good for losing weight, not just oolong tea.

Oolong Tea Weight Loss - 7 Facts And Fictions That You Must Know

Chinese Tea #5: Red Tea
Rich, Mellow Taste

chinese red teaWhile oolong tea is renown for its high level of aromatic oils, Chinese red tea is renown for its rich and mellow taste.

Now, a word of terminology.

Chinese red tea is the same as Chinese black tea, they are both fully oxidized.

A fully oxidized tea liquor is dark red in color, but the dried tea leaves are black in color. This is why the Chinese called it red tea, while Westerners call it black tea.

Few Westerners are interested in Chinese red tea, thinking that it is similar to the black tea they drink in the West. They can't be more wrong.

The best Chinese red tea tends to be the tippy varieties. Like green tea and white tea, they are made of young tea buds, not the mature leaves commonly drunk in the West.

Want to know which Chinese red tea offers excellent quality at affordable price?

Yunnan Gold Tea (Dian Hong) - Best Chinese Black Tea At Affordable Price

Chinese Tea #6: Pu-erh Tea
Older is Better

pu-erh teaHaving introduced the five different colors of Chinese tea, we finally arrive at the most exotic of them all: Pu-erh tea.

For most teas, oxidation occurs during the making process.

A traditional pu-erh tea is made with minimal oxidation. This means a raw pu-erh is like a green tea, white tea or yellow tea, depending on how it is made.

Post oxidation occurs afterwards.

A raw pu-erh tea can taste astringent and bitter.

After 3 to 5 years, some rawness still remains, mingled with some other smells.

After 5 to 10 years, you can detect ripeness in the dry leaves, which also acquires a tint of red. The tea liquor tastes sweet and mellow.

After 20 years, you can longer detect ripeness in the dry leaves, which now shines with a luster. A rich, powerful aroma emerges from the liquor, carrying fragrances that you would never imagine exist!

So, this is a tea that is perfect as a back-up. It never goes bad. It gets better over time.

Aged Pu-Erh Tea - Romancing the Chinese Yunnan

Chinese Tea #7: Which Tea for the Season?

While the green tea and white tea have the highest level of antioxidants, it doesn't mean that you should only drink these two types of tea.

Drinking tea is as much about diversity and balance. You want to be drinking cooling (green tea, white tea) in the summer, and warming tea (dark oolong, red tea and pu-erh tea) in the winter.

Tea and Health - Balancing the Four Seasons

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Herbal Tea Health Uses - A Chinese Medicine Perspective

What does traditional Chinese medicine say about the herbal tea health benefits and its uses?

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