Black tea is the most commonly consumed tea around the world, while green tea is very popular in Asian countries and gaining attention in the western world as well. Even though their flavor profiles are very different black tea and green tea actually come from the same plant, Camellia Senesis. The biggest difference between the two teas is related to the processes the leaves go through after are picked.
While the geographical location of where teas are grown contributes to the taste of tea, a much bigger factor is the amount of fermentation the leaves are allowed to go through. Technically ‘fermentation’ isn’t an entirely accurate term. “Enzymatic oxidation” is a more correct description. Essentially the leaves are allowed to naturally begin the process of breaking down. This ‘fermentation’ process is halted by steaming or pan-frying the leaves. This neutralizes the enzymes that would otherwise break down the leaves. Black tea is a result of a process that allows the fermentation process to go on for a longer period of time. This is what creates the strong and unique flavor you find in black teas.
Green tea tastes more earthy or grassy. This is because green tea doesn’t go through the fermenting process. Once they have been dried, the tea leaves are steamed or pan-fried to prevent any fermentation. This heat process switches off the enzymes which cause fermentation.
Obviously the flavor and the way they are produced are the two key differences between black tea and green tea, however, the differences don’t end there. For a long time it was the health benefits of green tea were being lauded, while black tea became almost the poor relation. However, they in fact both possess different and beneficial qualities.
Green tea’s health benefit claims came about due to it containing the antioxidant ‘EGCg’ in vast quantities. Antioxidants are known to help promote good health in our bodies. However, in black tea, this antioxidant is broken down during the production process. While not considered to be nearly as potent or beneficial to our health, black tea has a higher percentage of theaflavins and thearubigens which are beneficial antioxidants in their own right.