Tea is harvested after each flush - the sprouting of the top two leaves and bud. The top two leaves and bud are hand plucked and then processed into any of the four types of tea, which are Black, Green, Oolong, and White.
Black tea is withered, fully oxidized (fermented) and dried. Black tea yields a hearty, amber-colored brew. It is the type of tea most consumed in the West. Some of the popular black teas include English Breakfast, and Darjeeling.
Green tea skips the oxidizing step. It is simply withered and then dried (sometimes roasted). It has a more delicate taste and is pale green / golden in color.
Oolong tea, popular in China, Taiwan and Japan, is withered, partially fermented (between 30% and 70%), and dried. Oolong is a cross between black and green tea in color and taste.
White tea is the least processed. A very rare tea from China, White tea is not oxidized or rolled, but simply withered and dried by steaming.
The main chemical substances in tea are essential oils, caffeine, and polyphenols (mistakenly known by many people as tannins). The essential oils give us the aroma of the tea, the caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, and the polyphenols account for the much publicized antioxidant and anti-disease properties.
Tea is not to be confused with herbal infusions. Herbal infusions are packaged like tea, infused like tea, and enjoyed like tea, however the herbs do not come from the camellia sinensis bush and therefore are not teas (see previous article). Herbal infusions are made of grasses like lemongrass, barks like cinnamon, fruits like orange peel, flowers like chamomile and hibiscus, and many other botanicals.