Thursday, May 5, 2016

Black, Green, White, & Red

Black, green, white, and red. They're all types of tea, but what makes them different? And how are they the same.? As I started my study of tea, I was amazed to learn that black tea, green tea, and white tea all start the same! One tea bush can create all types of those teas!  All true teas come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The leaf is the same, how it's processed makes the differences.

 Tea Bushes at the Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden

So what makes a tea black, green, or white? It's the oxidation of the leaf. Oxidation is the chemical reaction in a plant when exposed to oxygen. For example, when you cut an apple and it browns, that browning is evidence of oxidation! Oxidation begins in tea leaves when the leaves are "damaged", in other words after they are picked and are rolled and withered.

Black teas have the most processing done to them and are the most oxidized. Some will say that black tea is "fully oxidized", but that's not quite true. Black tea has reached the optimum oxidation, if it was fully oxidized it would be stale!

Pictured: Lapsang Souchong Black Tea

Green teas have no oxidation. The process is prevented by pan frying or steaming.

Pictured: Jade Mountain Green Tea

White teas are the least processed but have minimal oxidation.

Pictured: Himalayan White Tea.


What about red teas? Red tea is what they call Black tea in China! So red and black teas are the same thing!

 So, what do you think about oxidation? Do you have a preference for black, green, or white teas?


I'd like to thank my friend, Niraj Lama, for verifying some of my information and also for the use of his pictures! I also used the following websites as references:


  1. I enjoy a strong flavored tea, and that seems to be more often related to 'black' teas. I steep teas a little longer, and select teas that say they are stronger. Right now, I greatly enjoy a tea from Beekman 1802 called 'Brace the Day.' It is very flavorful with Assam and Ceylon black tea leaves. Thank you for setting me straight about the three types of tea...

    1. Brace the Day sounds good. I like a strong tea as well. I really enjoy teas made with the Keemun leaf.