The simplest kind of tea is white tea, which the Chinese call yellow tea, though despite its simplicity it is a gourmet taste, full of flavour. It is made from the leaves or buds of Camelia, but they are barely processed, just allowed to dry out naturally in the sun. White tea is not the tea most commonly drunk, for the barely processed leaves need to be used quickly before they lose flavour.
Green tea, which I drunk this morning, is processed a little more than white tea is, and so it stores longer. I bought myself a small box of tea bags to drink because of its health benefits. It is full of anti-oxidants known as flavenoids that are claimed to benefit health by attacking dangerous free radicals. Like white tea it does not keep for a long time, so it must be drunk within a year of being bought. Like white tea it is often taken without milk, which is the way in which tea is taken in continental Europe. British are lovers of tea taken with milk, but a word to be heeded here! Unlike coffee tea does not taste good with cream. I like mine with skimmed or semi-skimmed milk. Another tip for you is whatever tea you take, ensure that the water is boiling when you pour it on the leaves, as this gives you the best flavour.
[Here the writer pauses to brew a mug of green tea.Well, he is British, isn't he!]
A traditional Chinese tea that lies between green and black tea is oolong. While green tea has undergone oxidation in processing oolong has undergone semi-oxidation.The leaves are not shredded, but can be rolled into small balls or rolls. Like white tea it was not meant to be stored for long, so it is a gourmet taste for Europeans and Americans. There is a large range of oolongs depending on the area from which they come.
The commonest tea is black tea, which stores well because it is well-dried. It will keep for years. Most of the common blends sold in the UK and Europe are black teas. This tea is commonly taken with milk, though some take it black [milkless.] Tastes vary, some like it strong, and to get the tea this way leave it to brew in the pot or cup for a couple of minutes. Some people press the teabag with a spoon to release flavour. However, tea kept too long "stews" in the pot and is not pleasant. Some drinkers like tea sweet, and two spoonfuls of sugar per mug is about all that you need, though I prefer mine unsweetened.
A point to be noted, redbush, known as rooibos, is a tea, but it is not char. It is a caffeine free leaf from the South African shrub Aspalanthus linearis. It is a drink popular with people concerned about their caffeine intake, though you can also get decaffeinated tea.