All types of tea come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis.
What is different, is the manufacturing process.
The leaves and buds are harvested, often by hand to undergo either the traditional manufacturing or the machine manufacturing, called crush-tear-curl. The machine processing is typically used for mass market teabags.
Herbal infusions, also called tisanes, do not contain tea but are made of botanical ingredients such as herbs, fruit, or flowers.
Blended teas are mixtures of teas with other ingredients such as herbs, fruit, flowers. Popular variations include cinnamon tea (black with cinnamon), ginger tea (black tea with ginger), turmeric tea (black tea with turmeric).
Another variation are flavored teas where natural essential oils were used to add a flavor to the tea. The best know flavored tea is Earl Grey which is typically black tea with the natural bergamot flavor (bergamot essential oil). Blended teas can also obtain an enhanced flavor from the natural oils.
The five basic types of tea are the following:
- Black Tea – this is tea which has undergone the most processing, mainly oxidation resulting in dark brown or black leaves and dark color brew (liquor). Ceylon tea coming from Sri Lanka is worldwide recognized for its excellent qualities.
- Green Tea – this tea was not oxidized and the leaves retain the green color. Different methods are used to stop oxidation during the manufacturing. Green tea coming from China or Japan is the best known but also Sri Lanka produces excellent green tea. The leaves may be rolled or twisted, depending on the estate.
- Oolong Tea – this tea has been only partially oxidized. This tea comes from China or Taiwan.
- White Tea – this tea has leaves which were after picking just withered and dried. Sometimes baking or firing is used. This tea used to come only from China but nowadays there are several other regions in the world, including Sri Lanka which produce white tea in limited quantities.
- Pu-erh Tea – comes from a Chinese city of the same name and is made with closely guarded secret processing where enzymes in tea are used to ferment and age.