All tea leaves begin as essentially white teas. A freshly plucked unrolled tea leaf is considered a white tea, and if it is fired immediately (usually cooked briefly in a wok) it will stay classified as a white tea. If the leaves are instead rolled, certain enzymatic processes begin which cause the leaves to be classified as green. At this point they remain green if they are fired (or steamed as is often the case with Japanese green teas). If instead the leaves are allowed to oxidize they become oolongs. If oxidation is ended early (usually 20-30% complete) the result is a greenish, or light, oolong. If the leaves are fired after oxidation is about 50-70% complete they are classed as dark oolongs. Once oxidation is complete the leaves become black tea. Generally speaking, more oxidation leads to more body, more caffeine, and a deeper, heavier flavor in the cup.
Each tea has its own special steeping requirements to bring out its ideal flavor. We recommend using 1 gram of tea leaves per 3 ounces of water, or 1 teaspoon of leaves per 8oz. water. (about 2 teaspoons per 8oz for white teas, which are lower density). Steeping times are mostly determined by leaf size. Smaller leaves have more surface area per unit volume and therefore steep faster. Larger leaves need more time, and tightly rolled large leaves need the most time.
Ideal water temperature varies as well; black teas taste best when made from water at or ear boiling. Oolongs taste best steeped at 180-190F, greens steep best at 160-170F and white teas steep best at 150-160F.
It is best to use a prewarmed teapot and a coarse mesh strainer large enough to allow the tea leaves to fully expand.