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Black Tea, Green Tea and White Tea – What is the Difference?

While exploring the rich and wonderful world of tea, you will likely come across a number of varieties, most often black tea, green tea and white tea, as well as other less common varieties such as oolong and pu’erh.

The different forms and characteristics that tea leaves take on after processing are generally the result of oxidisation, with each variety being processed and oxidised in different ways. These varied methods of processing tea leaves result in a great range of flavours, aromas and colours in the brewed teas, as well as varying levels of antioxidants and caffeine.

Black Tea

The most common tea variety, black teas make up around 90 per cent of all tea consumed in the Western world. A black tea leaf will be fully oxidised, making the brewed tea dark brown in colour and higher in caffeine than other varieties. Black tea leaves are also thinner and smaller than other varieties.

Black teas are known for their fantastic depth of flavour and are often enjoyed with milk, a combination that has made varieties such as English Breakfast a much-loved staple.

Green tea leaves undergo an additional drying stage during production, and it is this unique method of processing that causes oxidisation to halt. This stopping of oxidisation preserves the green and leafy appearance of green teas, as well as the antioxidant levels. The process also inhibits the development of caffeine, so that green teas are often hailed as the healthy tea of choice.

Green tea was the first variety to be developed, and to this day it is produced in large quantities in Japan and China. Different countries use their own drying methods during production of green teas, with some choosing to pan-roast the leaves and others opting for steaming, giving each variety its own unique flavour and appearance.
The least processed tea variety, white tea leaves are hand-plucked during the first harvests of the year and then gently dried. The ideal white tea leaves to pick are those that are at the top of the plant, or even just the shoots.

Mainly produced in the Far East, particularly in the Chinese province of Fujian, white teas are light in colour and often leafy in appearance. They are usually the most delicate variety in taste and aroma and are nutrient rich and low in caffeine.

Our Black Tea Picks

Lapsang Souchong Tea – From £10.99
Sourced from the beautiful Wuyi Mountain region of China's Fujian Province, this fine black tea has a distinct smoky aroma and taste, created from methods used during the drying process. Leaves are dried over pine wood fires to develop complex woody notes, complementing their natural flavours, and resulting in a delicious, well-balanced and robust tea.

Ceylon Orange Pekoe Tea – From £9.99
Offering up complex flavours, a subtle sweetness and a lovely crisp bitterness, Ceylon Orange Pekoe is well-balanced and can be enjoyed all through the day. Made from golden-tipped Pekoe leaves, this is best served as a black tea, but can also be enjoyed with a drop of milk.

Our Green Tea Picks

Japan Sencha Green Tea – From £13.99
This classic green tea is delicate and well-rounded, offering lovely grassy notes, a hint of bitterness and a smooth finish, and is ideal to be enjoyed all through the day.

This delicately flavoured, semi-fermented green tea from China contains the petals of the Jasmine Flower and reveals wonderful, intense scents of flowery jasmine blossoms.

Our White Tea Pick

Pai Mu Tan Tea – From £14.99
This sweet and mild white tea is made from unopened tea buds and the two newest leaves to sprout. Freshly harvested leaves are allowed to dry in the sun, and the natural oxidation that occurs gives Pai Mu Tan beautiful and complex flavours. Floral aromas of fruit blossoms combine with clean fruit flavours, sweet melon and a well-rounded finish to make this a favourite of tea-lovers.