A user’s guide to 10 teas, from the aristocratic, pure pu-erh to the populist blended teas like chai and scented ones like Earl Grey.
The Tea Plant: Camellia Sinensis
Tea owes its complexity to subtle variations in the leaves.
Leaf Buds Prized white teas are made from newly sprouted, fuzz-covered leaf buds of Camellia sinensis.
Young Leaves Quality producers handpick only the most recent growth: the top two leaves and the leaf bud.
Lower Leaves Commonly machine-plucked, the tea plant’s lower foliage is used for mass-market teas.
10 Tea Names to Know
Oil of bergamot, a citrus fruit, is used to flavor this blend of black teas.
This powdered form of Japanese green tea is whisked in after the water is heated.
Green tea combined with roasted brown-rice kernels, some of which have popped.
For chai, black tea is blended with Indian spices like cardamom and cinnamon, then boiled with milk and honey.
Iron Goddess of Mercy
This curled-leaf oolong from China has a sweet, musty taste. Also known as Ti Kuan Yin.
South Africans refer to nutty, earthy rooibos as “red tea”; technically not a tea at all, it comes from a native African bush.
The flowerlike shape of the two leaves that cradle the bud of this toasty Chinese white tea inspired its name.
A popular caffeine-free herbal drink, it’s brewed from the daisylike flowers of the chamomile herb.