THE MAJOR VARIETIES OF Tea
While all tea comes from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis, there exist hundreds of kinds of teas, with their own individual appearance, taste, and aroma. Like wine or coffee, every harvest of tea will vary year to year due to changes in climate, rainfall, and other seasonal conditions. Thus, tea from the same plantation or garden may taste very different from one year to the next. Moreover, a particular tea gains much of its individual character from how the leaves are cultivated and processed.
To make sense of all the varieties possible, teas can be placed in several categories. The most common categories used today are green, white, oolong, black, and fermented. These categories refer to how much a tea is oxidized or, in tea terminology, fermented. Before modern science, Europeans thought teas were the result of the fermentation process similar to that of wine or cheese. In actuality, it is oxygen that is responsible for altering the tea leaves. By selectively exposing the tea leaves to the air, tea farmers and artisans can bring out certain flavors and aromas from the leaves.