You might be overwhelmed by the teas on offer in a loose tea shop if you are new to tea. Here is an introduction to the basic tea types that will help you find your way around the world of tea.
Chinese categorises tea by the tea leaf colour into 6 types, green, white, yellow, blue (commonly known as Oolong), red and black. The colour offers the easy visual difference, but it is the different levels of fermentation that gives each type of tea their distinct flavours and nutritional contents.
Green Tea is not fermented. Fresh tea leaf is roasted (Chinese) or steamed (Japanese) and then rolled. It is said to have the highest content of Catechin (a type of natural phenol and antioxidant) among the 6 types of tea. Hence the belief in the recent years that long-term drink of green tea can help anti-ageing or even prevent cancer.
White Tea is slightly fermented (5% ~ 10%). It is not roasted nor rolled, just either sun-dried or under lower heat.
Yellow Tea is processed similarly to green tea. In making green tea, when the rolled leaf is not dried properly or in time, the leaf loses its fresh green colour and turns yellow. These yellow leaf results in a new type of tea and a special stifling process to create it.
Blue Tea, best known as Oolong Tea, is fermented between 15% and 85%. The wide range of fermentation level reflects the variety of available Oolong tea from different growing regions.
Red Tea, commonly known as black tea in the West, is a fully fermented tea, around 95%. It is the second most consumed drink after water. It is can be drunk alone but it is also good for blending with other ingredients, like flowers and fruits, or other drinks, like milk or even alcohol.