We love teas at Adventure Cafe. But what actually is it?

White, green, oolong, and black tea are all products of Camellia sinensis leaves and buds, the only difference is how they are processed. You can turn the plant matter into any of the varieties. Different sources will give different accounts of the processing steps, but in rough order of least-to-most processed:

White tea is minimally processed and not oxidised, meaning it retains the natural antioxidants, but does not develop as much flavour, colour, or caffeine. Sweet or flowery flavours are characteristic.

Green tea has a minimal amount of oxidation, halted by additional pan-frying (Chinese teas) or steaming (Japanese) steps. The additional processing brings out more flavour, and allows for caffeine to develop, at the cost of a reduction in antioxidants. Characteristic flavours are grassy, vegetal, and earthy, with sweet notes.

Oolong tea gets partial fermentation, and often an additional shaking/bruising step that release additional flavours. Oolong can range in colour from dark green to black. The combination of bruising and partial fermentation give many oolongs distinct flowery & earthy flavours. Darker oolongs may have buttery or smoky tastes to them. It has somewhat more caffeine and less antioxidants than green tea.

Black tea is fully fermented, which blackens the leaves and causes the formation of caffeine and tannins. It generally possesses the most robust flavour and highest level of caffeine, but the least antioxidants.

Pu-erh is tea that is pressed into cakes and post-fermented, meaning that after processing and drying it undergoes an additional ripening/fermentation. Microorganisms work on the tea, changing it chemically in a similar fashion to ageing cheeses. Traditionally this is accomplished over years in controlled climate conditions (10-15 years being ideal), but in recent decades a several-month fast ripening process is sometimes used. Pu-erh develops a richer, more complex flavour, and has the widest range of flavours of any of the varieties. Before post-fermentation, it may resemble a white, green, or oolong tea, but the ripening process can impart darker black-tea flavours, giving a unique character.

Rooibos, sometimes called red tea, is made from another plant entirely, Aspalathus linearis. It is a traditional South African infusion, prepared like a black tea but without caffeine. There are two varieties, green and red. Green is un-oxidised, where red is oxidised. Rooibos is characterised by a sweet, woody/malty flavour. Health-wise, it is a source of anti-oxidants, may aid in digestion, and some say it may aid with nervous tension and allergies.

Yerba mate is from the South American plant Ilex paraguariensis, whose leaves are steeped like tea. It is generally toasted in processing, and produces a brew with caffeine similar to coffee. Despite its caffeine, mate is actually relaxing to smooth muscles, so you don’t get jitters, and it also helps control appetite. The flavour is vegetal and herbal, and can be bitter if brewed hot. Although it contains antioxidants, this is balanced by traces of carcinogens from the toasting, and the jury is still out on whether mate overall increases or decreases cancer rates.

Tisanes or herbal infusions these are various blends of dried herbs, fruits, spices, and flowers which are steeped like teas, but do not contain tea leaves. Generally, the ingredients are dried, although fresh ingredients can be used too. To confuse matters further, black and green teas may also have flavourings added to them, giving a similar result.

Make tea not war.