As tea is being reintroduced to the western world, you may have some fairly basic questions about the plant. Where does it come from? What is it exactly? How are different teas made? Perhaps you've neglected to pose your questions for fear that you may sound stupid. Here at Tea End Blog, no question about tea is stupid!
In this article, I will provide simple responses to 3 very basic questions about tea that you may have asked yourself.
What Is Tea?
In the modern day, the term "tea" is used to describe a lot of beverages. We call herbal concoctions and infusions tea as well as spiced remedies or cocktails. However, what is tea really? Camelia Sinensis, or tea, is a species of evergreen shrub or small tree. The leaves are used to create the beverage we call tea. All tea (white, green, oolong, pu'erh & black) is made from this plant.
Do this mean that herbal and spiced blends aren't tea? Well, the answer is yes and no. These types of beverages have been adopted as 'teas' but since they do not contain Camelia Sinsensis then they can't be expected to have the same nutritious effects as tea nor should they be titled as such under scrutiny. In other words, it's OK for you to call them teas, but just know that only a blend that actually contains Camellia Sinensis is rightfully a tea.
How Is It That All Tea Is Made From One Plant?
You have most likely already ascertained that there are thousands of different tea blends to choose from, however, all of these teas (if containing Camellia Sinensis) are derived from just one plant.
Black tea does not come from the "black tea tree" but rather comes from the same tea tree, Camellia Sinensis, that white tea comes from. What makes the difference? The way that the tea leaf is treated.
In another article, I plan on going into detail about the processes that create all tea types, for now, I will simply explain it this way: There are different tea types (black, white, green, etc.) because there are different ways to process the leaf after picking or harvesting. As an example, white tea is a result from the minimum process method. The tea leaf is picked carefully so as to not bruise the tea leaf. If the tea leaf were bruised, the juices from the leaf would cause oxidation*, possibly turning the leaf into what would become a black tea.
To sum it up, all tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis Tea Tree but depending on how it is treated or processed will determine what type of tea it will be.
*Oxidation (n): the process or result of oxidizing or being oxidized. In the example of tea, the juices from the tea leaf, when it reacts to the air, will turn the leaf brown.