Hundreds of varieties and flavors of tea exist. In How to Brew Tea we briefly discussed some of the differences between black tea, white tea and green tea. Two of the more commonly known groups of black teas are breakfast teas and afternoon teas. Breakfast teas are robust and full flavored. Breakfast teas are often composed of a variety of tea leaves, resulting in distinctive flavors. The basic difference between an afternoon tea and a breakfast tea is the flavor intensity. Although flavorful, afternoon teas are usually a little less robust than a breakfast tea.
There are several types of breakfast teas. Each breakfast tea is created by using different types of tea leaves. Both the tea plant variety and the leaf size and age will vary with each breakfast tea resulting in different flavors. Typically, English breakfast tea is a blend of several small leaf teas from India and Ceylon. Irish breakfast tea is a blend of small and large leaf Assam. The Assam leaves give Irish breakfast tea a slightly malty flavor. Scottish breakfast tea, also full flavored, is a blend of Indian, Ceylon and China teas.
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Afternoon teas are usually lighter and more subtle in flavor than a breakfast tea. Darjeeling tea, from India tea leaves, is a full bodied afternoon tea. Earl grey tea usually made with Indian and Ceylon teas or China that is then flavored with oil from Bergamot Orange. An endless number of varieties of tea product can also be created by the addition of flavorings of fruit and spice.
White Tea is a delicate tea and is more rare than most teas. To create white tea leaves are harvested within the two days between the time when the first buds become fully mature and the time they open. White tea has minimal processing. The leaves are then allowed to wither to allow the natural moisture to evaporate before being dried in the open air.
To produce green tea, the leaves are put into a steamer immediately after harvesting. The leaves are not allowed to wither or ferment. The dried leaf keeps its green color and maintains the same chemical composition. Though all teas have antioxidants, green tea and white tea have the highest levels. Oolong tea is semi-oxidized. It is “in-between” green and black teas. After harvesting, it is allowed to oxidize, producing a brown leaf.
Herbal teas are not brewed from leaves of the tea plant Camellia Senensis. Herbal teas are actually brewed from herbs, spices, fruit pieces and flavorings. Herbal “teas” come in many unique flavors and are naturally caffeine free.