Camellia sinensis is the amazing plant that we can thank for all types of tea. Whether you are into green tea, white tea, oolong, Darjeeling, English breakfast, or earl grey – they call come from the camellia sinensis plant.
The leaves of the camellia sinensis plant are about 5-10cm long and grow in an oval shape with a pointy tip. They are coloured in a deep green and the plant also sprouts little white flowers.
How can one plant make so many different teas?
The differences lie in the processing. By processing the leaves in different ways, you will get different types of tea. The types of processing tea leaves go through are rolling, withering, roasting, steaming, firing and oxidisation.
Let’s look at the different types of teas…
This is the least processed of all the teas – which is why it is known to have the most antioxidants. White tea is made from newly opened leaves. It is simply plucked and allowed to wither and dry. There is no heating or oxidisation.
Green tea is also plucked and dried but it is also steamed or pan fried. It doesn’t go on to be oxidised though. That is the end of its processing so it still maintains a high level of antioxidants.
I like to think of Oolong like a love child between green and black tea. It falls somewhere in the middle. It goes through the same processing as green tea and then begins oxidisation. The oxidisation process is stopped midway, before it turns to black tea.
Unlike the other teas, black teas go through the entire processing system. It isn’t complete until the end of the oxidisation or fermenting process. Due to the level of processing that black tea goes through, it has the least amount of antioxidants.
What about herbal or fruit tea?
Herbal or fruit teas aren’t actually teas at all – they’re tisanes. Tea can only be called tea if it derives from the tea plant, the camellia sinensis. If it doesn’t have any actual tea leave in it then it’s a tisane.
We think it’s pretty incredible that so many of flavours and bodies can come from the one, very clever, plant! All hail the Camellia Sinensis!