Tea Basics

Tea is the world's most consumed beverage after water. All types of tea come from the same plant, Camellia Sinesis. The differences in tea depend on the geographical location where it is grown, growing conditions, and how it is harvested and processed. There are over 3,000 varieties of tea. These varieties can be classified into five main types of tea: black, green, oolong, white, and pu-erh. There are other teas, such as herbal and rooibos that are not made from the tea plant, Camellia Sinesis. Herbal teas, also called tisanes, are made from herbs, spices, dried fruits, and other plants. Rooibos is made from the South African red-bush, Aspalathus linearis. Rooibos and herbal teas are naturally caffeine free.

When the tea leaves of the Camellia Sinesis plant are harvested, they are taken to the factory where the process of withering, rolling, oxidation, drying and sorting take place. It is this process that determines the different types of teas that are developed.

Black tea is developed by allowing the leaves to fully oxidize. This produces a stronger flavor and higher caffeine content. Black tea is the most popular tea on the Amercan market.

Green tea is a mild flavored tea that is steamed or pan-fired to stop the oxidation proess. Green tea is a favorite in China and Japan but has become increasingly popular on the American market due to its many health benefits.

Oolong tea falls between green tea and black tea in the amount of time the tea leaves are allowed to oxidize. Because it is not fully oxidized it imparts a lighter flavor than black teas. When steeped, beautiful, large leaves are unfurled and may be enjoyed for multiple infusions.

White tea is produced from the young, delicate buds of the tea plant. The leaves do not go through oxidation at all. This lack of oxidation produces a lighter, naturally sweet infusion.

Pu-erh tea is the most oxidized type of tea. It is aged and allowed to ferment like fine wine and can be very expensive.

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