What is tea?

Tea is the second most popular drink in the world, coming in just behind water. All teas, including Black, Green, Oolong, White, and Pu'erh, come from the Camellia sinensis plant. This sub-tropical, evergreen plant is native to Asia but is now grown globally in sub-tropical climates with loose, deep soil and high altitudes. So, in short, "tea" is anything derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. Anything else, while sometimes called "tea", is not really "tea" at all. It is more accurately referred to as herbal tea or tisane. Tisanes include chamomile, rooibos and fruit teas. We'll learn about those later on.

Tea plants can be found in small family gardens or on massive estates, and the best tea is often grown on steep slopes at higher elevations and hand-plucked. However, some of the finest teas come from flat fields and lower altitudes too. The processing of tea leaves can be done either through the traditional Orthodox method or the Unorthodox method, such as the CTC (crush-tear-curl) process.

Brewed tea is made up of essential oils that provide its aroma and flavor, polyphenols that give it the "brisk" taste and hold most of its health benefits, and caffeine that gives tea its natural energy boost. The way the tea leaves are processed determines its final classification as black, green, or any other type of tea. In the next lesson, we'll dive deeper into the different styles of tea!

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