Education: Tea Basics

Tea technically comes from a plant called Camellia Sinensis (usually a bush) originally from China and Camellia Assamica (usually a tree) a mutation from India. Once safe guarded to grow exclusively in China, this plant was smuggled out and now the top tea growing regions are China, Sri Lanka, India, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Argentina (40%!), and Kenya.

Black, White, Green, and Oolong teas are all from the Camellia plant, but are the result of some slight differences in processing and the levels of oxidation that are allowed to take place. In general, Green teas are unoxidized and White, Oolong and Black teas vary in their degrees of oxidation. Green teas typically come from China or Japan, the most popular green teas being: Gunpowder (China), Dragonwell (China), Sencha (Japan), Matcha (Japan). Oolong teas typically come from China or Taiwan and dance somewhere between a black and green tea in oxidation. The most exquisite black teas typically come from India or Sri-Lanka and some examples are: Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri, Ceylon.

Flavored and blended teas:

All of these teas can be flavored and blended with fruit, spices or herbs. The flavors used are often essential oils or natural flavoring, although some teas are flavored with artificial flavoring as well. Masala Chai and Earl Grey are probably two of the most famous of all flavored teas. Masala Chai consists of black tea, cardamom, cloves, black peppercorns, ginger root and vanilla. ‘Masala’ is hindi for blend of spices and ‘Chai’ simple means tea. Earl Grey is black tea scented with oil of bergamot (a Mediterranean orange). Teas are often blended together to create specific blends. An example of a famous black tea blend is English Breakfast Tea.

NON-TEA TEASE:

Sometimes herbal infusions and tisanes are referred to as tea, but they are not made from the Camellia plant. The following ‘teas’ are not actually considered tea, but since they are steeped, they are often referred to as such. Many of them are naturally caffeine free and are considered to have many health benefits.

Rooibos: Made from the Aspalathus Linearis plant in South Africa. Rooibos means ‘red bush’ in Afrikaans. It is packed with vitamin C, proteins and even more antioxidants than green tea. It begins green and undergoes a process of oxidation that turns it red.

Yerba Mate: Made from Llex Paraguariensis plant in South America. It can come green or roasted. It has something similar to caffeine called mateine, which is like caffeine but less disruptive to your metabolism. It is traditionally enjoyed in group and sipped from a prepared gourd.

Tisanes: Caffeine free blends of fruit and often hibiscus flowers.

Herbals: Caffeine free blends of flowers, berries, seeds, peels, leaves, and roots of different plants. Often used are: Chamomile, Peppermint, Lemon Grass, Spearmint, Verbena, Vervain, Anise and Raspberry Leaves. Many herbals are believed to be have particular health benefits.