What is Tea?
Understanding the “Art of Tea” in its entirety is an age old question that we are still continuously exploring today. With brand new tea knowledge and discoveries unveiling themselves each day, the journey into the world of tea is an exciting and limitless adventure with room for us all to explore, connect and interact.
Being an engaged crew of tea educators, we have been fortunate enough to receive many wonderful insights on tea from its history to its preparation, all the while diving deeper into the various varietals that stem from the miraculously versatile camellia sinensis plant. While we can’t begin to know everything about tea, we hope that we can help guide you with our extensive knowledge of what we do know about tea in this section.
We know the importance of building a dynamic learning environment where you have all the tools you need to create your own personal tea journey. In addition to this, we know it is equally important to have a community forum where you have a voice to collaborate and share your ideas about tea and all its wonder. We look forward to your visits and your feedback as we share and discover the many facets of tea together.
What is Tea? (cont.) There is a separate category for herbal blends and fruit infusions, which are more properly characterized as tisanes. A tisane refers to a caffeine-free blend consisting of herbs, botanicals and/or fruits prepared like a tea, but technically not a tea. If the drink does not have tea leaves from Camellia Sinensis, it is not a tea. It is most likely a tisane. Therefore, it would be an oxymoron to call something an herbal tea because it can only be one or the other.
All tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, a warm-weather evergreen. How the fresh leaves of the tea plant are processed and their level of contact with oxygen determine resulting types of tea. During oxidation, tea leaves undergo natural chemical reactions that result in distinctive color and taste characteristics. Green tea is not oxidized at all—the leaves are steamed, rolled and dried while black tea is allowed to oxidize for two to four hours. Oolong tea falls somewhere between green and black teas, in that the leaves are only partially oxidized.
Tea is grown in thousands of tea gardens or estates around the world, resulting in thousands of flavorful variations. Like wines, each tea takes its name from the district in which it’s grown, and each district is known for producing tea with unique flavor and character. Tea is also divided by grades, determined by leaf size. Smaller sized leaves are used in tea bags while the larger sized leaves can be found in packaged loose tea.
Herbal teas do not come from Camellia sinensis, but are an infusion of leaves, roots, bark, seeds or flowers of other plants. They lack many of the unique characteristics of tea and are not linked with the research on the potential health benefits of traditional teas.