What is Tea?
Being that we have an entire blog dedicated to the art of tea, I thought that it might be interesting to take a step back to discuss what exactly tea is.
If someone was to ask you what tea was, what would you say? A warm comforting pot shared with a friend? A delicious thirst quencher on a hot summer day? Perhaps a healthy elixir that makes you feel centered and focused? You would all be right, but when we speak of the word tea specifically, we are referring to the Camellia Sinensis plant. The word is Latin in origin and translates to Chinese Plant. Legend has it that China is where the discovery of tea began, when a leaf of a Camellia Sinensis plant blew into the Emperor’s cup of hot water by chance.
Many botanicals and other plants are considered tea. Technically speaking, however, anything that is not originated from a type of Camellia Sinensis plant, is better defined as a Tisane, or herbal infusion. Some examples of tisanes are Egyptian Chamomile, Mint Teas, and Rooibos Tea, which comes from an African red bush.
We have now narrowed down the true sense of the word tea to only teas from the Camellia Sinensis plants, but I know what you are saying, “Dave, All this talk about tea is making me thirsty.” Fine then, I will wait ‘til you grab your favorite cup of tea or tisane.
OK. As you are searching your favorite cup of tea, you have probably noticed that this one tea plant is responsible for literally thousands of different varieties. To go into detail of each of them would take quite some time, so let’s break them up into four categories: White, Green, Oolong and Black. In a nutshell, the main component that determines what type of tea the Camellia Sinensis plant becomes, is oxidation. We won’t get into this now, but we’ll be back to fill you in on what oxidation is, and what happens to tea during this process.