Now, it’s probably quite clear that we love a cup of tea… but which ones have the best tea flavors?
Well, for us that’s almost like choosing between our favorite children, so we’re not going to even try to guess which one is our favorite.
Instead, we thought it would be fun to list the six most popular varieties of tea and their best flavors, according to our own insider experts who have probably drunk enough tea to fill an ocean.
If you’re new to the world of tea, knowing which ones to try first can be a little overwhelming.
Should you go with green or black?
Or, how about a herbal option? Should you go with tea bags or loose leaf?
All of them have their respective health advantages, tastes, intricacies and preparation methods, so you can’t really go wrong.
So, what are the most popular types of tea and the best tea flavors? Read on and find out…
All hail the camellia sinensis plant
The same plant species is responsible for all varieties of tea in the traditional sense of the word.
This plant is known as camelia sinensis and is said to have originated in China thousands of years ago, where it has been cultivated and consumed ever since.
Going a little deeper, there are actually two types of camellia sinensis which have their own distinctions.
Sinensis is known to grow in East Asian countries and China, and has a more mellow and mild flavor profile.
The second goes by camelia sinensis var. Assamica (assam), which mostly grows in India, and has a deeper, stronger and more robust flavor profile.
All black, green, oolong and white teas come from camellia sinensis, and develop their own unique profiles due to their climate and methods of harvesting and processing.
These profiles can be affected by things like:
With so many different harvesting methods and cultivation factors that have been developed over centuries, the appearances and flavors of different teas have a lot of variation.
There are dozens of different types, but we’re going to look at the six main types, together with their production profile, health advantages, origins, and the best tea flavors you can get
One thing we want you to note is that when we mention health advantages, these are not intended to be recommendations for medicinal use and still require further research.
The Most Popular Types of Tea and Tea Flavors
The world of tea is large, but to make sense of it all there are a few basic categories that we put together.
However, within these broad categories, there will be an even larger number of varieties and types.
For instance, even if a tea grows in the same area, the way that it is harvested and processed can have a profound effect on the final product.
If you’re a new tea drinker or looking for something else to try, you have a huge range of options to choose from. Let’s get to it.
A Quick Note On Oxidation
In this guide, you’ll see us mentioning oxidation quite a lot when discussing harvesting methods.
To put it simply, this is the amount of time that tea leaves are allowed to be exposed to oxygen once they’ve been harvested.
The longer they are left to oxygen, the darker that the leaves become – resulting in a stronger taste.
Most casual tea drinkers and new fans will most likely be familiar with black teas.
It is one of the most common types you can find in any shop and is associated with world-famous brands such as Twinings and Tetley.
Popular blends such as English Breakfast tea, Earl Grey tea and Assam are among the most popular because they are relatively high in caffeine and give a nice kick in the mornings.
When brewed, the liquid becomes a dark and coppery color, and the flavor range is generally stronger and most robust.
But, as we know, different types will have different tastes, with Earl Grey tea being more aromatic, and pure black Assam being more bitter.
How Black Tea is Made
To produce black teas, black tea leaves are harvested, wilted, and then lightly crushed.
Some types of black tea, such as Irish Breakfast and Earl Grey, are broken up into even smaller pieces using a method known as crush-tear-curl, or CTC.
The tea leaves are then fully oxidized, which turns them a brownish-black color.
Where Black Tea Comes From
The best black tea is mostly produced in India and China, but other countries getting in on the action are Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Kenya. Indian black years in particular are usually stronger in flavor and are used in Irish and English breakfast tea blends that go well with milk.
Conversely, Chinese black tea is more mellow and light and can be enjoyed without milk or sugar if preferred. Chinese black teas also have less caffeine and are more affordable due to a larger growing population.
Health Benefits of Black Tea
As it is one of the most popular forms of tea, black tea has good research behind it and has been shown to help with:
- Better heart health.
- Faster metabolism.
- Better cognitive function.
- Better weight management.
- Improved digestion.
Most Popular Flavors of Black Tea
Taylors of Harrogate Darjeeling Tea – For a smooth, measured and fresh blend of black tea, perfect for your afternoon cuppa and packed with flavor.
Bigelow Earl Grey Tea – Enjoy an aromatic and cup of tea with these individually-wrapped Earl Grey tea bags. Milk optional!
Taylors of Harrogate English Breakfast Tea – Start your day off right with this full-bodied tea blend, with the caffeine content to give you that kick in the morning.
More About Black Tea
Green is the other most popular form of tea and also comes from the same camellia sinensis plant as black tea blends.
The best green teas are often yellow or light green color and have flavor profiles that can range from sweet and mild through to bitter and earthy.
They are typically considered as very healthy teas and also contain about half as much caffeine as black tea.
Where Green Tea Comes From
The best green tea growing areas are primarily produced in Japan and China, with the Japanese variety typically being steamed soon after the harvest to stop oxidation.
As a result, Japanese teas tend to have a more savory flavor and a brighter liquid output.
And, during production, Japanese green teas are put in shade a few weeks before harvesting which is said to increase the levels of essential compounds such as caffeine, l-theanine and chlorophyll.
Tea products in China are typically pan-fired after their harvest to halt any oxidation, leading to milder teas that are softly golden in color.
How Green Tea Is Made
As soon as the tea is harvested, it is pan-fired or steamed to prevent oxidation. As mentioned above, it is this process that produces a lighter and more ‘earthy’ taste. Once this is done, the leaves are then pressed or rolled into their final intended shape and dried for shipping.
Health Benefits of Green Tea
Green tea is one of the most researched varieties of tea and is well-known and accepted to have many health advantages, including:
- Improving digestion
- Lowering cholesterol
- Eliminating bacteria
- Easing inflammation
- Managing diabetes
- Reducing Stress and blood pressure
- Losing weight
Most Popular Flavors of Green Tea:
Numi organic tea gunpowder green – One of the best green teas, full-bodied and fully organic, gently rolled for fantastic flavor and natural goodness.
Twinings of London jasmine green tea bags – The famous brand’s fantastic take on Jasmine tea, packed with goodness and fresh flavor.
Kirkland signature Ito En matcha blend – A Japanese tea blend with a soft, natural sweet brew, perfect for a relaxed hot drink.
More About Green Tea
This delicious tea is considered as one of the most delicate varieties of tea which is perfect for those who want health advantages and drinking pleasure, without the bitter or strong tastes.
With a light body and a crisp finish, it’s also lower in caffeine.
While white is less well-known than its black and green counterparts, it is gradually increasing in popularity as the production methods improve alongside global demand.
How White Tea Is Made
The processing, drying and packaging of this type of tea is minimal, which helps produce its delicate taste. Typically produced in China, this tea can sometimes be harvested before the leaves are fully formed. Oxidation is kept to a minimum and the soil is typically kept at a cool temperature with plenty of shade the close the tea gets to being picked.
Where White Tea Comes From
This delicate tea is mostly produced in the Fujian province, which is well known for its history in this particular variety. However, there are some other countries which are known for white leaves, including Sri Lanka, Nepal and Taiwan.
Health Benefits of White Tea
Because of the minimal processing behind the production of this tea, there are a number of health advantages, including:
- Rich in antioxidants.
- Reduce chances of heart disease.
- Weight management.
- Dental and oral health.
- Lower insulin resistance.
- Skin health.
- Better digestion.
Most Popular Flavors of White Tea
Taylors of Harrogate white – Light and delicate tea bags from a highly reputable and rated producer.
Numi Organic Tea White Rose – A fantastic blend of white leaves and rosebuds for a floral and aromatic hot drink.
Tealyra white silver needle tea – High-quality loose leaf tea, organically grown in China for a premium cuppa.
More About White Tea
Oolong is a curious one, as it is placed somewhere between black and green teas in terms of oxidation.
It’s a good choice for someone who is looking for something that strikes a good balance between the characteristics of black and green tea.
The oxidation can vary by as much as 80% and will therefore have a range of tastes and colors.
How Oolong Tea Is Made
There’s an entire sub-category of these tea blends, where certain types are grown in specific ways: sometimes for years!
This kind of crafting means that there are many different tastes and textures to explore, especially in loose leaf varieties.
In terms of oxidation, these teas have a range of different levels, depending on the producer and the overall flavor that they want to end up with.
In some cases, the oxidation can bring the flavor profile and color near to that of a black variety.
Where Oolong Tea Comes From
These teas are mostly produced in Taiwan and China.
In China, the most prolific oolong-producing regions include Anxi and the misty Wuyi Mountains, which are found in the Fuijan and Guangdong provinces.
Taiwan is known for specialty oolongs, including the famous and difficult to grow milk oolong variety.
Health Benefits of Oolong Tea
Although it’s not as synonymous for health as green teas, it has plenty of health advantages to enjoy along with a great flavor profile.
- Antioxidant compounds, theaflavins and thearubigins.
- Relaxation and stress relief
- Heart health and circulatory management
- Digestion and stomach
- Weight management
Most Popular Flavors of Oolong Tea
Twinings of London pure oolong – A high-quality and delicious product from best-selling teamakers, Twinings. Always a safe bet.
Black Dragon oolong loose leaf tea – One of the best organic loose leaf tea options, letting you infuse it your way for the ultimate cup of hot tea.
Bigelow oolong tea bags – Another famous tea brand’s take, with high quality leaves in handy tea bags.
More About Oolong Tea
Popular in Japan, matcha is a variety of powdered green tea that can be mixed with hot water, added to lattes, baked foods or even enjoyed on its own.
It has a rich and smooth flavor that lends itself well to desserts and depending on the concentration you use, features notes of bitterness and umami.
How Matcha Tea Is Made
What makes this tea different is that it’s produced from particular tea plants that are placed in shade for more than three weeks before being harvested.
This process ensures that there is more chlorophyll in the plants, resulting in a deeper and brighter green.
This also has an impact on the caffeine content, increasing it alongside l-theanine levels, which gives it that slight bitterness.
Once the plant is matured and shaded, the leaves are steamed to stop oxidation, before being shaped, dried and ground into a powder form.
Where Matcha Tea Comes From
The history of matcha and powdered green tea goes back to the Tang Dynasty in 12th century China.
It’s globalization began when Chinese monks traveled to Japan to spread the word of Buddhism, part of which is the ritual consumption of matcha.
The popularity of the powder soon spread to the upper classes, and in the following centuries it became a normal part of Japan’s famous tea ceremonies.
As a result, matcha is mostly associated with Japan, although its origins were in China.
Health Benefits of Matcha Tea
As it is made from powdered green leaves, matcha tea shares a number health advantages with it, including:
- High levels of antioxidants.
- A boost to metabolism.
- Assistance in removing toxins.
- A good spectrum of vitamins and nutrients.
- High levels of fibre for better digestion.
Most Popular Flavors of Matcha
Ito En matcha green tea – A sweetened version of pure organic matcha that tastes delicious and has many uses for drinks and foods.
Lipton magnificent matcha with mint – A fresh blend with a mint twist for a refreshing sensation that wakes you up and leaves you feeling great.
Pukka supreme matcha green – A convenient organic product that puts the powder into tea bags for easy infusing.
More About Matcha Tea
Most Popular Herbal Tea Flavors
Although herbal teas aren’t made from the camellia sinensis plant, they are often marketed as such and we consider them to be part of the tea family.
Herbal teas are instead a blend of herbs and spices, and are often caffeine free as a result.
The good thing about these teas is that there are many different varieties and blends to try.
We’re going to take at what we think are the most popular herbal tea flavors in brief, but of course the rabbit hole goes much deeper once you get into it.
Often used as a relaxation or ‘anti-stress’ tea, chamomile is a fragrant and aromatic herb that is part of the Asteraceae plant family.
Chamomile has been used for centuries for therapeutic purposes and is popular amongst people who want to relax more and unwind from the stresses of life.
Because it is caffeine free, the flavor can be described as floral, with the zing of apple and other subtle citrus notes.
The intensity will change if you try a loose leaf blend. If you want to try chamomile for yourself, read our Guide for the best Chamomile tea brands.
Coming from the same family of healthy spices such as turmeric and cardamom, ginger has a very strong taste and is often used for flavoring different foods and drinks.
In its ‘tea’ form, it can be in a blend with honey and other sweeteners for a more rounded profile and has been linked to therapeutic purposes for centuries.
Ginger tea is often spicy and strong, and is often blended with other herbs to soften the intensity. If you want to try ginger tea, our guide for the best ginger tea brands is where you should start.
Produced from the hibiscus plant that grows in Southeast Asia and North Africa, hibiscus tea has a strong taste that is often used to wake people up and give them a ‘zing’ to get on with their day. Hibiscus is also used in cold drinks to pep up cocktails and iced teas.
The flavor profile of hibiscus tea is tart and sweet, with hints of citrus. Think of cranberry juice, but in tea form. To learn more about it, check out our guide on everything you need to know about hibiscus.
Peppermint tea is one of the most popular herbal teas and can be found in any normal shop or supermarket.
Made from the leaves of the mint plant, it is a refreshing hot drink that has therapeutic applications, including helping with upset stomachs.
The taste is fresh, minty and refreshing, perfect for afternoon pick-me-ups or for relaxing you before sleep. Find out more by reading our article on 5 Minty Herbal Teas for the Respiratory System.
Best known for its red color and earthy, strong taste, rooibos (also known as red bush) is produced from the fermented leaves of the Aspalathus linearis shrub, which can be found in South Africa.
Some might say that it is an acquired taste because of its robust flavor, but at Tea Perspective, we love it!
For product recommendations and more info about rooibos tea, read our The Definitive Red Rooibos Tea Review.
Go forth and brew!
We know that the topic of the most popular tea is up for debate – after all, any tea fan will have their own opinion on what the best teas are, and we’re all for it!
There’s a lot of tea out there, so if you think we’ve missed out a category that belongs in our ‘most popular’ list, let us know. Thanks for reading!