The Difference Between Black, Green, White, and Red Teas: The Process

Thursday, 13 April 2017 12:26

Most people are surprised when they hear that all types of true teas come from the same plant. However, the nature of the Camellia sinensis plant, as well as weather and soil conditions determine the final flavor of the tea. The main factor that determines the color a tea plant turns is based on the level of oxidation the tea leaves experience after being plucked. Although all varieties of tea discussed below, other than Rooibos (or red tea), come from the same plant, they all boast unique characteristics. We’ve explored four of the major types of teas so you can see how they differ from one another.

Black tea

Black tea is the most heavily processed of all teas and are fully oxidized. They are also the most popular type of tea consumed in the West. As soon as the leaves are picked they are left to dry out in the sun, allowing the leaves to wilt slightly. They are then rolled in order to break open, which allows the chemicals inside the leaves to react with the air and begin the fermentation process. While this process is occurring, the leaves turn black and are then dried and packaged after the process is complete. Black teas typically contain 40-60 milligrams of caffeine per 8 oz. cup.

Green Tea

Unlike black tea, green tea is unoxidized, which allows the tea to maintain its natural green color, vitamin C, chlorophyll, and minerals. After the leaves are picked, they are typically steamed and then rolled into different shapes before drying. Green tea contains high levels of EGCG, a powerful antioxidant which has been linked to cancer prevention . This antioxidant is unique to green tea only. Green teas also contain low levels of caffeine (about 25-35 milligrams of caffeine per 8 oz. cup) which can be attributed to its lack of oxidation.

White Tea

White teas are the least processed of all types of teas. White tea leaves are picked early in the year while the bud has yet to open, and are then left to dry in the sun. They contain the least amount of caffeine of all teas, containing 10-15 milligrams per 8 oz. cup. Unlike other types of teas, white teas are not steamed or pan-fired, which results in a light and subtle taste.

Rooibos Tea

Sometimes referred to as “red tea” because of its color, rooibos tea is an oxidized form of tea that is full of vitamin C and does not contain caffeine. Rooibos leaves are harvested from the Aspalathus linearis plan during the summer and are then put through the oxidation process, which changes the leaves from green to red. Rooibos tea is also full of antioxidants and minerals such as copper, iron, and magnesium, and is a great choice for pregnant women because of its caffeine-free nature and associated health benefits.

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