There are so many different types of tea out there, it's easy to spend a lifetime tasting through everything. In this guide, we’ll explore all the basics so that you’ll be ready to dive in and find your next favorite!
Why do all types of tea taste different? Tea farmer Master Zhang Rongde explains that it is all about collaboration between the weather, the plant itself, and the skill of the craftsperson.
As the end of the day, different types of tea are defined by the craft applied. By learning what makes each tea different, you can better understand what you like.
"Different types of tea are defined by the craft applied."
What is Tea?
Many argue that tea is only the picked leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, but on a cultural level, tea can refer to many plants, especially if we focus on the craft involved in finishing and steeping the leaves.
For our purposes here, we’re talking about the incredible variety of tea that comes from just the Camellia sinensis plant, while acknowledging that tea culture is deeper than botanical classifications.
So where does tea ( Camellia sinensis ) come from?
Tea is an evergreen plant native to Southeast Asia. The plant was first documented in Emperor Shen Nong’s encyclopedia of medicine. The discovery of tea’s stimulant effect led to widespread cultivation, and over time, the development of preparation rituals and finishing techniques that go beyond simple picking and drying.
From a humble wild-foraged medicine to one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, tea has had thousands of years to develop into the types of tea we are used to today.
tea grows in rows and greenhouses in Laoshan
the Li Family's Old Tree Shui Xian in tall groves
giant tea trees tower over Qianjiazhai
Understanding Tea Varieties
What plant does tea come from? All traditional tea comes from the same plant - Camellia sinensis. Despite this common source, we see thousands of different teas consumed across the world. These types of tea are distinct because of the growing region, the specific varietal of tea used, and the finishing techniques applied to the leaves.
• Tea type is defined by craft
• Flavor and aroma can vary within a single tea type due to growing region and varietal
• Even within a tea type, the craft choices of each producers can dramatically change the flavor of any tea
fresh tea leaves in the He Family's workshop in Laoshan
the same Laoshan leaves finished two different ways