Green vs. Black Tea – What’s the Difference?

Green vs. Black Tea – What’s the Difference?

Black and green tea: The difference is more than just color

More than 80 billion cups of tea were consumed in the U.S. last year, with green and black tea coming in as the nation’s top two favorite tea types. However, most tea drinkers may not realize that both of these teas come from the same plant. In fact, this is true of all teas—it’s just differences in preparation and oxidation that give them their unique flavor profiles.

Here’s a primer on the difference between green and black tea:

Black Tea

To prepare tea leaves for black tea, whole leaves are cut at peak freshness from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, and allowed to wither. Withering naturally reduces the amount of water in the plant, then the leaves are set aside to dry and oxidize in a process called fermentation. The chemical composition of the tea leaves changes through fermentation: the longer the leaves are allowed to oxidize, the darker the leaves will be. A lengthy oxidation process is what gives black tea its distinct, bold flavor.

Green Tea

While the preparation process for green tea begins in the same way, the amount of fermentation is different, yielding drastically different results. Green tea leaves are sometimes allowed to wither slightly—but are then either pan-fired, oven-dried or steamed to prevent oxidation from taking place. Since the leaves don’t undergo fermentation, they retain their green color and produce a lighter, more grassy taste.

Knowing the difference between green and black tea is a great first step toward understanding tea as a whole. Interested in learning more? Check out our short documentary, Journey with a Tea Master, to see the tea-making process from start to finish.