Now that we know the basic processes through which production takes place, we can understand how different varieties or types of tea are achieved. Lest's see it:
1. White tea:
We will start with white tea, which is basically unprocessed tea. Simply, the leaves are collected and allowed to dry. Sometimes they can be heated slightly to help in the process, when the weather prevents it from happening naturally. A minimal oxidation takes place naturally, since the leaves can take a day or two to dry completely. That is why we find leaves with different degrees of color within the same white tea.
White tea is, basically, unprocessed tea.
Some types of white tea are composed only of the youngest and most tender buds of the plant, which are closed or newly opened, and which show white hairs from which the variety takes its name. This tea is the most delicate in terms of aroma, and at the same time preserves all the beneficial properties of the plant, since it is not subject to any other process.
2. Green tea:
If we continue a little further in the production process, we will obtain green tea. In it, after the wilting of the leaves, these are rolled in different forms. Here the oxidation does not take place, because it is prevented by the application of heat. This can be done either with steam or by drying the leaves in large pans at a high enough temperature to prevent the enzymes from darkening the leaf and turning it brown. Green tea offers a wider range of flavours and aromas than those found in white tea; it contains a large amount of antioxidants and helps prevent diseases, making it one of the most consumed beverages, not only in China, but throughout the world.
3. Wūlóng tea (Oolong):
Wūlóng 烏龍 is halfway between green tea and black tea. During its production each of the five basic processes takes place, with the particularity that rolling and oxidation are repeated several times. The range of oxidation is very wide, between 8 and 80% approximately, which can give rise to "green" wūlóng or "black" wūlóng. The leaves are rolled and left to oxidize, then re-rolled and oxidized again. This creates several "layers" of flavour and aroma, which will later be released as the tea remains brewing. It is undoubtedly the type of tea with the most complex and rich flavors, with a soft floral and fruity aroma.
4. Black tea:
Black tea rigorously follows the five basic processes in a linear manner, and is characterized by complete oxidation. In general, the entire production process can take place in a single day. Black tea undoubtedly has the most intense flavours, and is also somewhat more bitter and astringent, due to the amount of tannins. "Black tea" is basically a Western denomination, since in China it falls within the category of hóng chá 红茶(red tea).
Black tea is characterized by complete oxidation and has the most intense flavours.
5. Hēi chá:
Hēi chá 黑茶 (literally, "black tea") is a truly fermented tea (although it is not a fermentation in which alcohol is produced), and follows a more particular process. At the beginning, it follows a processing similar to that of green tea, but before the leaves dry, it is stored for maturation or aging (as if it were a good wine).
The best known type in the West of hēi chá is pǔ'ěr 普洱 (Pu Erh), produced in the region of the same name. In turn, there are two types of pǔ'ěr: dark or cooked pǔ'ěr (shú chá 熟茶, which we know as "red tea"), and the raw or green pǔ'ěr (shēng chá 生茶). Depending on which of them will occur, the aging process can last from a few months to several decades. In China, old pǔ'ěr can reach exorbitant prices. Pǔ'ěr has recently become famous in the West for its extraordinary health benefits, including its slimming properties.
Although each type of tea has its unique characteristics and properties, most varieties, coming from the same plant, share many of its benefits. We see that the world of pure tea is very rich, and offers us a wide range of varieties, flavours and aromas without having to resort to the famous aromatized blends that are so fashionable in the West today.