Even longtime tea drinkers might not realize that green tea, white tea and black tea all derive from the same source. That’s right, all three types of tea come from the leaves of the Camellia Sinenses plant. The reason these three teas look different when you buy them from a store is that they have been processed differently. The longer they are processed, the darker the tea leaves become, and the more flavour and aroma the resulting tea will have.
Flavour & Aroma
Thus, we can already isolate the first major difference between green tea, white tea and black tea: flavour and aroma. Generally speaking, black tea will have the strongest flavour and aroma, followed by green tea and white tea. That’s why, if you are looking for the “strongest” or “most fragrant” tea, you’ll generally wind up with a black tea.
This enhanced flavour and aroma is a direct result of the way that the tea leaves have been processed. Black tea comes from tea leaves that have been fully oxidized and fermented. Once these leaves have been fully oxidized, they are then dried. The full scope of this processing is what turns the leaves brown or even black in some cases.
An important point to keep in mind is that this enhanced flavour and aroma comes with a trade-off: the number of healthy antioxidants that are contained within the tea. Generally speaking, the presence of antioxidants in tea are inversely correlated with the amount of processing of the tea leaves. Put another way: the more you process the tea leaves, the more antioxidants you are going to lose along the way.
Green tea undergoes a process of minimal oxidation, while white tea undergoes no oxidation at all. As a result, if you want the very highest level of antioxidants in your tea, you might want to opt for a white tea. The compromise here, however, is that you won’t get the same flavour and aroma as you would with green tea.
For many people, the choice of which tea to drink comes down to a decision about how much caffeine they would like in their tea. White tea has the least caffeine, and is not a good choice if you are looking for a boost of energy or alertness, especially in the morning. That narrows the choice down to green tea and black tea. Black tea has more caffeine than green tea, which is why many people perceive black teas to be “bolder” than green tea.
So the next time you are shopping for a new tea and are curious about the difference between various types of tea, now you know how green tea, white tea and black tea are different. They all derive from the same tea plant, but a vastly different processing (i.e. finishing) of the tea leaves leads to differences in color, flavour, aroma, caffeine and antioxidants. Green tea represents the perfect solution for many tea drinkers, delivering a moderate amount of caffeine, but plenty of antioxidants, flavour and green tea aroma.