Spilling the Tea: Different Types of Tea

Words: Robyn Samuels

There’s nothing more stirring than hearing the kettle whistle, immediately signifying teatime. It’s safe to say that after the Brits, South Africans have colonised the tradition of sipping sweetly. We will drink tea with just about anything, at any time, whether it’s a rainy day, Monday or sweltering Sunday. Rooibos and honeybush will always grace our cups and cupboards, but if you think yourself a connoisseur, you really should explore all the different types of tea and their benefits. Switch on the kettle and brew your best, as we spill the tea.

different types of tea

Black Teas

All black tea is produced from Camellia sinensis plant leaves. The distinct black colour is given by the fact that it’s more oxidised compared to yellow, white and green tea. Black teas generally contain higher levels of caffeine and antioxidants.

types of black tea


One of the more popular teas, Ceylon, isn’t one specific type of tea, but rather a house of teas containing either black, green or white tea leaves from Sri Lanka – formerly known as Ceylon. It’s believed that Ceylon has antibacterial properties.


A type of black tea produced in Assam, India, a region well-known for its tea and silk. Assam tea is made from the Camellia sinensis variant, assimca. Assam tea is known to boost immune, heart, as well as brain health. It is purported that Assam tea has the lowest levels of caffeine of all the Indian black teas.


Darjeeling tea has citrus and floral notes and tastes sweeter compared to other types of black teas. Although a black tea, Darjeeling has more of a bronze colour. Darjeeling tea helps improve gut health due to its polyphenols (plant-based compounds).

Earl Grey

A blended black tea infused with the bergamot citrus fruit of Southeast Asia. Earl Grey’s distinct citrus flavour is extracted from the rind of bergamot and added to black tea leaves. Overall benefits include supporting heart health and preventing cell damage. If you’re looking for the perfect teatime treat, try this Earl Grey Pots de Crème recipe.

English Breakfast tea

English breakfast tea differs from ‘regular’ black tea and contains a blend of at least four different types of black teas, producing a full-bodied and stronger brew. The leaves are typically sourced from East Africa, Ceylon, Assam and Indonesia. One theory recalls a Scottish tea master wanting a stronger blend and thought to brew multiple tea leaves together. He figured it was perfect for morning tea, which makes sense, as it is more caffeinated compared to other teas. English Breakfast tea can improve one’s ability to concentrate, due to the high levels of flavonoids.


Keemun is a black tea blend originating from Qimen, China, and has floral, stone-fruit and woody notes.The floral notes are given by the high levels of geraniol, a primary component of citronella and rose oil. The distinct taste of this tea is given by the lengthened withering and oxidising process of the tea leaves, leading to a more unique aroma.


A traditional Chinese tea which is semi-oxidised by method of sun-drying, followed by a leaf curling and twisting process. Tasting notes can differ, depending on the method of cultivation and ranges from sweet to fruity, with aromas of wood and honey. Oolong tea contains high levels of L-theanine, useful for improving sleep, cognitive abilities and anxiety.

Green Teas

All types of green tea are made from the Camellia sinensis plant, the same plant species used to make black tea. While black tea is oxidised, green tea is unoxidised. Although consumed in most parts of the world, green tea is especially significant in Japanese culture. Ryokucha, meaning ‘green tea’ in Japanese, includes five different types of green tea — bancha, gychoro, sencha, hojicha and matcha. Although these all originate from the same plant, the difference lies in the methods of preparation, which impacts the flavour of the respective types of green tea.

types of green tea

Bancha tea

Bancha tea is the second most popular green tea in Japan. It’s made using bancha tea leaves, which are a great source of iron and energy. Bancha green tea is also commonly consumed as a post-workout drink, as it helps minimise muscle pain/lactic acid build-up.


Similar to matcha green tea, gychoro is grown under a shade cloth before harvested. This type of green tea also contains less tannins, meaning that it’s less bitter compared to other types of green teas. Gychoro isn’t as popular as its counterparts, but it is more expensive and rare to find.

Sencha green tea

A Japanese green tea prepared by placing the whole, processed leaves in hot water. Although it is a green tea, the water turns yellow when infused. Sencha leaves are grown in the sun, making them higher in antioxidants. Sencha green tea leaves are used as an ingredient in certain botanical gin brands.

Matcha green tea

A powdered type of green tea, as the name suggests — ma meaning ‘rubbed’ and cha meaning ‘tea’ in Japanese. Matcha green tea leaves are grown in shady areas. The leaves are processed before being ground to form a powder. The bright green matcha powder is mixed with hot water to form a paste before adding more water. Matcha has become a popular ingredient used in matcha lattes. Matcha tea has great health benefits, try this Match Green Tea & Kale Soup recipe.

types of green tea


A type of green tea originating from Kyoto, Japan. Hojicha tea is made by roasting bancha tea leaves, whereas other Japanese teas are normally steamed. The leaves have a reddish colour, as they are roasted over charcoal at a high temperature to prevent oxidation. It also has a nutty, slightly caramel taste. Hojicha is high in catechins (phenolic compounds commonly found in green tea/berries) and antioxidants, which aid digestion, relaxation and improves skin health.

Herbal Teas

Herbal teas/infusions differ from true teas (white, black and yellow), which are derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. Unlike most black teas, herbal teas are usually decaffeinated and come from a range of different plants, roots or flowers.

types of herbal tea

Butterfly Blue Pea

Also known as ‘blue tea’, butterfly blue pea has a distinct blue colour. This flower originates from Asia and is prized for being rich in antioxidants. Blue pea tea is normally brewed in hot water, along with lemongrass, honey and lemon. It’s known to boost skin health and protect against cell damage.


Chamomile is one of the most ancient types of tea; it’s made from the daisy-like flowers of the Asteraceae family. Chamomile is especially great for those who struggle with sleep and anxiety. It’s also said to reduce menstrual cramps with frequent use.


Also known as ‘sorrel tea’ or ‘sour tea’ due to its tart flavour profile, which almost tastes like cranberry. Hibiscus tea is made from magenta-hued calyces of the roselle flower. Among all the tea types, hibiscus has one of the highest levels of antioxidants; other benefits include boosting the immune system.

floral types of tea


This type of tea is made using jasmine blossom, and is commonly consumed in Chinese tea culture. Jasmine tea normally contains green tea when packaged as teabags. Making jasmine tea requires an element of patience, as it takes up to four hours to draw the jasmine fragrance to get the full range of benefits.


Lavender tea is said to induce calming effects, aid sleep and is used in aromatherapy. It’s made by brewing lavender buds of the Lavandula angustifolia plant.


Fresh mint tea is made by brewing mint leaves in boiling water. Packaged mint tea normally contains a blend of peppermint and spearmint leaves. This type of tea improves sinus issues and is said to be helpful in treating headaches and migraines.


Peppermint is actually a hybrid between wild mint and spearmint leaves. Peppermint tea is made by brewing fresh peppermint leaves in hot water. This type of tea is useful for alleviating digestive issues and menstrual cramps.


Made from the rose petals and buds of the rose bush, rose tea is a good source of antioxidants. It’s also caffeine-free and generally good for dealing with skin issues. It’s fragrant and similar in flavour to rose water, but less intense.

Yerba Mate

Yerba mate tea is made from the leaves and twigs of the Ilex paraguariensis plant, which has South American roots. The tea leaves are dried over fire before brewed in hot water to make tea. Yerba mate is popular for its coffee-like properties, while having the health benefits of tea. This herbal tea contains more caffeine compared to most types of teas, and is used to boost energy and improve mental concentration.

Local Teas

Although rooibos will always be a firm favourite, these local and herbal teas are definitely worth adding to your tea collection.

rooibos tea


Buchu is the common name for Agathosma, a medicinal plant indigenous to South Africa. Buchu leaves are used to make herbal tea, which offers many health benefits. It’s commonly used to treat UTIs, inflammation and kidney infections.


Also known as ‘kankerbos’, Sutherlandia frutescens (cancerbush) is extracted from a medicinal flower shrub. There are many benefits to drinking this tea; as the name implies, it allegedly ‘cures cancer’, but is generally used as an immune booster.


This type of tea is made from Cyclopia intermedia shrubs, a plant indigenous to South Africa and closely-related to rooibos. The leaves are dried before placing them in hot water for brewing. Cyclopia shrubs are woody and contain yellow flowers, which have a honey aroma and naturally sweet taste, hence ‘honeybush’. It’s high in antioxidants and well-known for helping with respiratory symptoms, due to its expectorant properties.


A well-known tea, with roots in South Africa, rooibos directly translates to ‘red bush’. Rooibos has loads of remarkable benefits. Not only great as a beverage, rooibos tea can be incorporated into desserts and savoury dishes.

Other Types of Tea

These teas are definitely worth trying too…


Kombucha is a type of sweet-sour fermented tea, made from tea leaves, bacteria, yeast and sugar or juice. Tea leaves commonly used include rooibos and black tea. Health benefits include aiding digestion, as it contains probiotics. Although commonly store-bought, homemade kombucha tea is actually easier to make than you think.

Making your own Kombucha


A unique tea made with leaves from the ‘wild old tree’ from Yunnan province of China. What makes this tea unique is that the leaves are fermented and not brewed like most teas. Pu-erh is normally sold as ‘cake rounds’ where the leaves are compressed, but they are also sold as loose leaves. Much like kombucha, this fermented tea helps with digestion and is also said to improve cholesterol levels, in some cases.

Masala Chai

Masala chai is pretty much what it sounds like, Masala meaning ‘spiced’ and chai meaning ‘tea’. Masala chai is made using a blend of cinnamon sticks, cardamom, star anise and brewed with hot water and milk. Many of the spices used in masala chai are great for reducing inflammation and assisting with high blood pressure.

Prefer coffee but trying to cut down on caffeine? Try these unique coffee alternatives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>