Now, it’s probably quite clear that we love a cup of tea… but which ones have the best tea flavors? Let’s get personal!
Well, for us that’s almost like choosing between our favorite children, so we’re not going even to 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 leaves?
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…
It All Starts With The Tea Plant – Camelia Sinensis
Table of Contents
- It All Starts With The Tea Plant – Camelia Sinensis
- The Most Popular Types of Tea and Tea Flavors
- A Quick Note On Oxidation
- Black Tea
- What is Green Tea?
- What is White Tea?
- What is Oolong Tea?
- What is Matcha Tea?
- Most Popular Herbal Tea Varities
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. The first is known to grow in East Asia & 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 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 tea.
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 is Black Tea is Made?
To produce black tea, 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 smaller pieces using a method known as crush-tear-curl, or CTC.
The tea leaves are then fully oxidized, turning them brownish-black.
Where Does Black Tea Comes From?
The best black tea is mainly 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 growing population.
What are The 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.
Ok, so what about Green tea?
What is Green Tea?
Green tea is the other most popular tea form and comes from the same camellia sinensis plant as black tea blends.
The best green teas are often yellow or light green in color and have flavor profiles that can range from sweet and mild to bitter and earthy.
They are typically considered very healthy teas and also can contain less caffeine than black tea.
Where Does Green Tea Come 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 the 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 is Green Tea 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 pressed or rolled into their final intended shape and dried for shipping.
What Are The 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
So up next we have the ever so delicate White Tea, and no I am not referring to black tea with milk added!
What is White Tea?
This delicious tea is considered one of the most delicate varieties of tea which is perfect for those who want health benefits and drinking pleasure without 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 is White Tea 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 Does White Tea Come 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 that are known for white leaves, including Sri Lanka, Nepal and Taiwan.
What Are The Health Benefits of White Tea?
Because of the minimal processing behind the production of this tea, there are several health advantages, including:
- Rich in antioxidants.
- Reduce chances of heart disease.
- Weight management.
- Dental and oral health.
- Lower insulin resistance.
- Skin health.
- Better digestion.
Now, let’s explore the world of Oolong Tea.
What is Oolong Tea?
Oolong Tea 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 is Oolong Tea 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 Does Oolong Tea Come 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, found in the Fujian and Guangdong provinces.
Taiwan is known for specialty oolongs, including the famous and difficult-to-grow milk oolong variety.
What Are The Health Benefits of Oolong Tea?
Although it’s not as synonymous with health as green tea, 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
Ok, so you know a thing or two about tea, it’s time to explore Matcha!
What is Matcha 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 your concentration, features notes of bitterness and umami.
How is Matcha Tea Made?
What makes Matcha different is that it’s produced from particular tea plants that are placed in the 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 impacts 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 Does 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.
What Are The Health Benefits of Matcha?
As matcha is made from powdered green leaves, it shares several health advantages with it, including:
- High levels of antioxidants.
- A boost to the metabolism.
- Assistance in removing toxins.
- A good spectrum of vitamins and nutrients.
- High levels of fibre for better digestion.
Let’s jump away from the caffeine and go herbal!
Most Popular Herbal Tea Varities
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.
Often known as Tisanes, 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 blended 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 on a category that belongs in our ‘most popular list, let us know.
Thanks for reading!