A Tea Primer
Tea is an amazing beverage. From its high levels of antioxidants to its abundance of vitamins and minerals necessary for our bodies to function correctly, tea is one of the healthiest drinks on the planet.
But what most people don't know, is that all types of "Tea" come from a single plant: Camillia Sinensis.
Is it a Tea or a Tisane?
Tea is one of the most oft-consumed beverages in the world, second only to water. As stated above, “Tea” is a beverage that is brewed using a single plant called the Camellia Sinensis.
All other types of drinks that use another type of plant or herb are usually called Herbal Teas, or more accurately, Tisanes (Ti-zahn).
It’s Latin to Me:
The Camellia Sinensis plant got its “given name” from the Latinized name of Reverend Georg Kamel, who name was used to honor his contributions to the science of botany. The tea plant’s surname means “from China” in Latin.
What is a Tea plant?
The Camellia Sinensis plant is an evergreen shrub or small tree that stands up to 6 feet tall when cultivated. It grows best in mountainous areas with good sun exposure, rich soil, and plentiful amounts of rainfall. Tea leaves contain about 4% caffeine and a compound called Theobromine. Theobromine is commonly found in cocoa and chocolate, so tea actually gives us the same positive physical reactions that we get from eating chocolate!
Why do teas look and taste so different?
Tea tastes, looks and smells different based on the process the leaves undertake before they are ready for consumption. Tea leaves are typically plucked from the top two leaves and the top-most bud of the plant. All tea leaves are picked, washed and sorted. Different teas are also picked at different times in the growing season, called first flush (picked in Spring), second flush (picked in Summer), and third flush (picked in the Fall). We will get into the differences in the way teas taste based on when they are picked and how they are processed in our next installment.