FREE SHIPPING on orders over $65 International: over $250

Six main types of tea

There are 6 main types of tea: WhiteGreenYellow, Blue-green (Oolong)Black (Red) and Dark tea, also called Hei Cha (incl. Pu-erh). 

All six types of tea derive from the same plant. What accounts for their many differences are the length of time it takes for the tea leaves to become oxidized and the processing style. For instance, roasting, steaming, pan-firing and aging.

Below you’ll find an explanation as to how each of these types of tea differ. Furthermore, you can learn about their individual characteristics.


All six types of tea derive from the same plant. Their differences stem from the oxidation degree and the production process.


Below you'll find an explanation of how each type of tea differs. Furthermore, you can learn about their individual characteristics.


The Six Main Types of Tea

White teas

Bai Hao Yin Zhen White Tea

White tea undergoes the most minimal processing among the six different tea types. In addition, the highest grade of white tea consists of the most tender and fresh buds and leaves. Farmers harvest it only during the spring season. The production utilizes the delicate process of withering, curing, and drying. It gives white tea its delicate flavors and a smooth mouthfeel with a subtly fruity or sweet finish.


White teas tend to have less bitterness than other tea types and can be more forgiving of water temperature and infusion times than green teas.


Farmers make the majority of white teas from medium-leaf tea bush varieties that yield silvery-white sprouts and leaves. They are harvested by hand twice a year - in spring (the higher grades) and autumn. The withering process of white tea results in an abundance of silvery-white hairs on the dried tea leaves and buds. Authentic white teas such as White Peony are multi-colored like autumn leaves and have a silver-white fuzz that resembles the skin of a ripened peach. Silver Needle, the premier style of white tea, consists of only silvery-white sprouts shaped like needles without attached leaves.

More delicate white teas brew best at water temperatures around 185ºF (85ºC). It is best to use boiling water for thicker, more mature leaves.


Green teas

Long Jing Green Tea

Tea enthusiasts love Green teas

for their fresh flavor and health benefits. Farmers predominantly produce them throughout China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia during the spring growing season (March through May). 

Tea artisans use various methods of firing freshly harvested leaves to prevent the natural oxidation process and to preserve the fresh green qualities of the leaf.


Green teas undergo the least oxidation of all the teas. We categorize them by the firing method and craftsmanship technique as follows: 

  1. steamed
  2. pan-fired
  3. oven-baked
  4. half-roasted
  5. half-baked
  6. hot-air roasted
  7. sun-dried


When tasting an assortment of green teas, regional nuance, the harvest season, the style of leaf, and the plucking standard become apparent. 

Most green teas brew best at water temperatures around 175-185ºF (80-85ºC). However, some Japanese green teas, such as Gyokuro, require a much lower temperature – 150ºF (65ºC).


Yellow teaHuo Shan Huang Ya Yellow Tea

Yellow tea is a partially oxidized tea. Its processing technology is similar to green tea. The main difference is the presence of one extra step - "stuffing the yellow" (Men Huang – 闷黄). It is crucial for shaping the aroma and taste qualities of Huang Cha. Men Huang promotes the transformation of the tea leaves' inner substances and defines the overall quality of the entire tea batch.

Workers start picking fresh tea leaves in March to produce Yellow tea. They then roast them over medium fire to halt oxidation. During the next step (Men Huang), they either wrap the leaves in cloth (or paper) or pile them in bamboo baskets, and it causes the leaves to change color from green to yellow. Finally, they dry the tea. They can also press it in cakes or bricks for some regional specialty teas, like the tea brick from Meng Ding.  


Oolong teas

Ali Shan Oolong Tea

Oolong teas are semi-oxidized teas (they fall between unoxidized green teas and fully oxidized black teas). Farmers make them only from certain types of tea bushes growing in specific geographical regions. Only a few areas in the world know of their production methods. Today, the main production regions are Fujian, Guangdong, and Taiwan

Farmers produce Oolong teas from larger, more mature leaves. During processing, farmers shake the leaves, leaving their edges to "bruise". That brings about a brown or red color, while the middle of the leaves stays green. The final amount of oxidation depends on the desired type of tea. The skill of the tea maker is of utmost importance. It can result in lightly fermented oolong teas. For example, pale delicate-tasting green teas. Or ones that are almost fully fermented, like dark and bold flavored black teas.


Oolong tea production requires some of the most skillful and sophisticated tea makings. Oolong tea artisans are much like boutique winemakers.


Most producers sell oolong teas under simple trade names (e.g., Tie Guanyin, Shui Xian, Dong Ding, Dancong). However, experts categorize and understand oolong by its region, age, bush variety, and season of harvest, just like wine.

Most oolong teas brew best at water temperatures of around 205-212ºF (95-100ºC). 


Black teas (Red teas)

Dian Hong Black Tea


We say “Black Tea” in the West, or "Hong Cha" ("Red Tea") in Asia.

This tea is popular as an afternoon tea thanks to its mellow and sweet flavor.

Unlike green tea processing, which attempts to preserve the green color of fresh tea leaves, black tea processing encourages the tea leaves to change from green to coppery red. We call this change oxidation.


Black (or red) tea has dark leaves and produces a deep-colored liquid.


Most black teas brew best at water temperatures around 195-205ºF (90-95ºC).


Pu-erh teas and Hei Cha

Hei Cha (also known as "dark tea") is a unique variety of fermented tea common in China. Its production process combines fermentation and oxidation, resulting in a type of tea that the rest of the world is only now beginning to appreciate. Hei Cha dominated the tea trade along the kingdom's border areas. It supplied much-needed warmth during the winter and made up for the lack of vitamins and nutrients. It also helped break down the grease from the meat and dairy-rich diet of the mountainous herders. That made Hei Cha a health staple among the local minorities.

One of Hei cha's most representative teas is indeed Pu-erh. Originating in Yunnan Province of southwestern China, pu-erh tea has an ancient history of more than 2,000 years.

There are two different types of Pu-erh: Sheng Pu-erh (the raw or green type) and Shu Pu-erh (the ripened or black type). Farmers produce both Shu and Sheng Pu-erh from a sun-dried Camellia sinensis var. assamica. After fermentation and roasting, farmers age pu-erh tea, often for many years. This results in its dark color and bold, mellow flavor.


Like Champagne or other regionally specific foods and beverages, pu-erh is a geographically indicated product. Farmers can only produce and ferment this tea in southern Yunnan using sun-dried green tea from specific tea varieties found in Yunnan, Laos, Burma and some parts of Thailand and Vietnam.


Pu-erh remains an integral part of the food culture throughout Southeast Asia. Traditional Chinese Medicine has used it for centuries to promote digestion and break down heavy foods.

Most pu-erh teas brew best at water temperatures around 212ºF (100ºC).