The Six Main Types of Tea

When I was a newbie to tea drinking, I assumed that black, green, and oolong
teas, etc., all came from different kinds of tea plants.  It turned out I was wrong
about that and many other assumptions I made early on.
One of my goals for The Tea Detective is to share everything I’ve learned about
tea over the years so you can come to understand and enjoy, as I have, all the
truly remarkable traits and qualities of tea.
Oolong or Pu-erh
It’s All in the Processing
   Once the plucking is finished, the fresh leaf is quickly taken to a factory or processing faci-
lity, which can be anything from a simple pavilion set in the midst of the tea garden, locat-
ed in a village at the base of the mountain, or a pristine regional factory built specifically
for processing large amounts of tea.
No matter the type of tea being made, all
tea processing has eight common ele-
ments, which are:


  1. plucking
  2. sorting
  3. cleaning
  4. primary drying/withering
  5. manufacture specific to the tea type
  6. final firing/drying
  7. sorting
  8. packing

Number five on the list, the manufacture
specific to the type of tea, is the step that
determines the type of tea being process-
ed.  The size of the leaf, the climate in which it was grown, whether at higher, moist eleva-
tions, or lower, drier elevations, whether its a first or second flush, the type of soil, all goes
into what the tea eventually becomes.

But it’s mainly the percentage or type of drying or oxidation the leaves receive that deter-
mine the type of tea they will become, whether black tea, which is fully oxidized, green
or white tea, which receive minimal oxidation, or oolong, which lies in the middle and is

Be sure to visit the other Tea Detective pages to get an in-depth look at each type of tea,
and to learn more about what it takes to bring the finest teas to your table.  

There are six main types of tea, which are:
black tea, green tea, white, oolong, yellow,
and pu-erh. All come from the same plant
family-Camellia sinensis.  So the plucked tea
brought to the processing facilities or factory
starts out basically the same, from the same
kind of tea leaves.
There are, of course, other variables such as
the the country and climate where the tea is
grown, type of pluck, is it an early or late
spring flush, and more, that all factor into the
of the tea we drink today comes from well-tended bushes pruned until they are three to five feet
tall and wide.
The exception to this is Fenghuang Dan Cong oolong (or Fonghuang Tan-Chung) that is pruned
to grow and develop into a tree with a single trunk and individual branches.  Ladders must be
employed to pluck this tea.
Harvesting the Tea
Most quality loose leaf tea purchased today is plucked by hand,
mainly by women.  Carrying baskets on their backs or heads, the
women make their way through waist high bushes, plucking the tea
leaves from the stem in swift, practiced motions.
Each worker picks about 30,000 shoots a day, about forty pounds,
equalling ten pounds of processed tea leaves.


Japan many tea companies and estates employ mechanized tea
picking using large machines which ride over the top of the rows of
tea.  The tea is processed in large, state-of-the-art mechanized
factories, with little orthodox, artisan teas made by hand.
The opposite is true of

China, where they insist the leaf tea have
an excellent appearance through all stages of manufacture.  Much
of their high quality leaf is still processed by hand, especially by the
smaller artisan farms.  

No Tea From the Tree
    The Camellia sinensis is actually a type of
evergreen that if left alone would grow to
heights ranging from 35 to 60 feet.  Most all