What is the difference between Black Tea, Green Tea, White Tea and Oolong Teas?

Whatever the kind, white, green, oolong or black, all tea comes from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis. It is simply the way the plucked leaves are processed, that changes its character, chemical composition and appearance.

White tea, the youngest leaves

White tea is considered to be one of the highest prized teas you can drink. It is always handpicked, so it is treated reverentially with such care. It ensures a natural withering process and drying process for the leaves. The silver hairs on the new buds give the young leaves a white appearance, hence the pale colour. The light, refreshing taste of white tea is enjoyed best without milk. 

Green tea is one of the least processed teas. The leaves are plucked when fully formed but still young. Green tea retains high levels of antioxidants, often referred as ECGC or Catechins. Their abundance provides us with specific green tea health benefits such as boosting your metabolism and burning fat to aid weight loss. Green tea is a pale tea, taken without milk. 

View our range of green teas here.

 Oolong tea

Oolong teas are classed as ‘semi-oxidised’, meaning the tea leaves have been left to winter to produce a chemical change. The leaves curl and turn coppery around their edges. The oxidation process stops before its complete, making the leaves ‘semi-oxidised’. The point when the oxidisation is stopped (down to the skill of the tea master) and the geography of where the leaves are grown, combine to provide many flavour profiles for this group of teas.

Colour and taste of oolongs obviously vary but are often referred to as light or dark oolongs. Oolong teas also provide health benefits and are known to boost your metabolism and burn fat as an acid to weight loss.

View our range of Oolong teas here.

Black tea

Black tea leaves are fully matured, but not old. Once plucked, the leaves are rolled and crushed in the hands until they start to darken and turn red. They are then spread out to cool and fully wither (oxidise). They are then dried in an oven to make the leaves darken to a deep brown hue.

It is this drying and processing that makes the leaves darken to the deep brown hues recognisable as black tea that provides the signature flavour profiles. There are many variations of methods and processes hence the wonderful variety of colour and flavours.

Breakfast teas are blends of two or more black teas from different countries. Darjeeling teas are from single tea estates in India, which is often referred as the ‘Champagne of Teas’. 

View our range of black teas here.

How much loose-leaf tea shall I put in a cup?

General wisdom states that 1 teaspoon plus 1 for the pot is required when using loose leaf tea, but this generalisation not take into account the variation between black, green, white and oolong teas let alone fruit and herbal infusions.

Black tea

 if using good quality tea such as those available from Two For Tea 1 good teaspoon per cup should be sufficient to provide a the full flavour of the tea.

Green tea

 This one is a little more down to personal preference and when the tea is being consumed. As a light after dinner drink 1 teaspoon per cup should be sufficient.  But if it is to be drunk with a meal particularly spicy food then 2 teaspoons should be used. It should be noted that in all cases the leaves are left in the cup and not strained prior to drinking.

White tea

Similar to Green Tea, The delicacy and subtle flavours of white tea are best appreciated when it is not made too strong, so in most cases 1 teaspoon per cup should provide the optimum cup of tea. Once again it is not strained prior to drinking.

Oolong tea

 To be fully appreciated 2-3 teaspoons per cup are used, but it is important not to burn the leaves, so allow the water to cool for a few minutes and only steep for a couple of minutes having rinsed the leaves in hot water first.

Fruit and herbal tea

 As fruit teas tend to be bulkier than leaf teas, to ensure that the complete taste profile is achieved it is recommended that 2 good teaspoons per cup are used.

How do you brew loose leaf tea? 

To fully appreciate your loose-leaf tea, it is essential you choose a good quality of tea and water. Ensure you understand the preparation guide for the tea you are using. Ensure your water is at the correct temperature and if you are infusing or brewing your tea. There are many options available to ensure your tea suits your personal needs. Here are some methods to help you and your personal preference.

Traditional Teapots with built in Spout Strainer

Traditional tea pots have numerous holes punched in the body to allow liquid to flow out, whilst retaining the leaves. Although these have a tendency to clog up with tea leaves and holes tend to be on the large side, they allow small fragments of tea to pass through. Not perfect but will suffice.

Tea Strainer 

There’s nothing wrong with the humble tea strainer, they have served us for many years. Simply pour out of a teapot through your strainer to catch the leaves. However, any residual leaves left in the teapot will continue to infuse. This may cause a bitter taste, unless all the contents of the teapot is put into cups when ready.

View our tea strainers here.

 Paper tea bag filters. 

If you like the convenience of tea bags, then paper tea filters are the best for you. These are ingenious, biodegradable, chlorine free and designed for your loose-leaf tea to move around while infusing. Once used, simply throw away your filter bag in your compost. This tea comes in a range of sizes to fit your cup/teapot.

Teapots with inbuilt infusers 

These are a modern alternative to teapots, with a removeable infuser and come in many great designs. Simply spoon your loose-leaf tea into the mesh infuser inside the teapot, pour on the water at the correct temperature; wait for the appropriate time for your tea to infuse. Then, simply dispose of the basket of leaves from the infuser in your compost or bin. Now your tea is ready to be served. Don’t forget to give your infuser a quick rinse.

Remember, care must be taken care of when infusing tea. Instead of achieving depth of flavour, it can lead to a bitter taste when left too long. Check out our ‘How long to brew loose leaf tea’ section for advice on care when infusing tea. 

View our infusers here.

Mesh infusers 

Mesh infusers come in all shapes and sizes, from a single cup size to one that can be used in a large teapot. Whatever size you choose, make sure you buy quality stainless steel.

Infusers come in all shapes and sizes. Some being a simple mesh ball (or other shape) often with a chain; others, with a long-fixed handle, often sprung to allow opening and closing.

The crème de la crème of infusers (in terms of ease of use) are cradles that sit in the top of your cup or teapot.  You simply place the mesh infuser (holding the leaves) into your cup or teapot, wait the required brewing time then remove the infuser. After use, simply discard the leaves and wash your infuser by hand as the chemicals used in a dishwasher are very powerful and will in time damage your infuser. Cradle infusers are a cost effective re-useable method to infuse your tea.

Glass infuser mugs 

Glass infuser mugs are ideal if you are making tea for one. Simple place your loose-leaf tea in a glass infuser inside the mug. Then, pour on your water at the correct temperature and watch the leaves begin to unfurl and swirl! Once the tea has infused, remove the glass infuser and enjoy!

Glass tea pots 

Glass teapots come in various shapes and sizes. Those that don’t have infusers are used for flowering teas (a tea experience on another level). Where the teapot with an infuser, enables you to place your tea leaves in and boiled water is added.

View our glass teapot here.


How long should loose leaf tea be brewed?

There is no straight forward answer to this as it varies between types of tea and personal taste. But as a  guide.

Black tea Use Boiling water and infuse between 3- 7 minutes

Green tea Use fresh boiled water cooled to 85 oC  infused for 2- 4 minutes, do not strain

White tea Use fresh boiled water cooled to 85 oC  infused for 2- 4 minutes, do not strain

Oolong tea Use fresh boiled water, cooled for a few minutes. Rinse the leaves with the cooled water prior to infusing for 1- 2 minutes

Fruit and herbal tea Use fresh boiling water and infuse for 5 – 7 minutes

Rooibos tea Use fresh boiling water and steep for 3- 7 minutes

Care must be taken when infusing tea for times towards the later end of the time window as the Teas, rather than achieving depth of flavour may just become more bitter or astringent and therefore less flavoursome. It is best to start with a shorter period and extending it until you find what works for you.


Can loose leaf tea be reused? 

Green, White and Oolong teas can be reused, with water of the appropriate temperature used to top up the pot or cup, but each successive use will require a longer steep time to achieve the flavour required.


Is loose leaf tea better?

 The success of the traditional teabag has of course been speed and convenience. The trade-off for this has in most cases, been the quality and taste of the tea. Primarily Loose tea leaves are much bigger and have undergone less processing than those found in conventional teabags. The bigger leaf section enables a larger, more complex and complete flavour profile to be retained. With all the subtle flavour released, the leaves are given room to unfurl and swirl, be in a pot, a larger pyramid bag or tea filter bag.

From an environmental perspective, the lack of packaging makes loose leaf tea a more ethical choice as the smaller volumes require less fuels to transport them.


Does loose leaf tea contain caffeine?

All true tea, that is to say tea made from the Camellia Sinensis plant will contain caffeine to some extent, whether it is Black, Green, White or Oolong. However, it will vary dependant on type of tea, brew time and temperature; more caffeine is released at the higher end of the tea temperature spectrum.

  • Black tea in the main falls into the moderate category of caffeine content with 27-35 mg per 200ml cup
  • Green tea are generally classed as low on the caffeine scale with the majority of teas having 20mg per cup
  • White tea are considered to be very low in content, with less than 20mg per cup which is equivalent to a lot of teas described as decaffeinated.
  • Oolong tea are primarily considered to be low with 20mg, but some blended Oolongs are moderate with 27-35g per cup.
  • Fruit and herbal tea are usually caffeine free with the exception of those that include “true teas” in the blend. It should be noted that some blends created to increase energy, that include Mate or Matcha will be considered high in content, equivalent to a full cup of coffee.

All teas listed on this website include a full profile including caffeine content and caffeine scale grading.