All "true" tea comes from the same species of flowering evergreen, Camellia Sinensis. All other teas are considered tisanes. There is no specific Camellia Sinensis plant for each individual tea like white, black, or green. What creates the specifics in tea is how the leaves are processed. Oxidation is one of the most important steps in creating true teas.
While Camellia Sinensis can be found all over the world, it’s native to China. It does well in subtropical climates and is easily grown and cultivated through stem cuttings or seeds.
Herbal teas are not technically teas because they do not come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. These herbs are called herbal infusions or tisanes. Hibiscus comes from the roselle plant, chamomile comes from the chamomile flower, peppermint from the peppermint plant, and etc. Majority of all herbal infusions are caffeine free aside from yerba mate and guayusa.
Camelia SINENSIS Var. VS Camellia Sinensis Var. ASSAMICA
The two main taxonomic varieties used to make the tea that we drink are Camellia Sinensis var. Sinensis and Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica. Sinensis has smaller serrated leaves and prefers slightly cooler climates. It can grow to about six feet tall. Assamica has broader leaves with less serration and grows best in warmer climates. It is typically found in Assam and Yunnan. Left to grow in its natural state the Assamica tends to grow into a larger tree. It can get to be over 50 feet tall. The two varieties hybridize readily.
How Many Types Of Tea Are There?
There is no definite answer to just how many there are. There are still so many still being discovered that depending on who you ask, could have many different outcomes. These are the categories in which the majority of teas are separated.
Did you know that all "true" tea comes from the same plant? The Camellia Sinensis plant. Depending on how the leaves are processed with effect what the tea becomes!
Common Tea Categories
Green tea is processed by having heat applied to the leaves as soon as they are harvested. This process brings oxidation to a halt to be able to preserve them in their green state. There are a few ways this is done, the Chinese prefer to pan fire them vs Japanese who prefer to steam the leaves. There have also been cases where manufacturers have blanched them.
White tea isn’t as rare as we are led to believe. After picking, the leaves are laid out to dry in the sun. The green naturally fades during this process and some whitering occurs. Some common white teas are White Peony, Gongmei, Silver Needle, Noble, and Fujian New Craft (these all have specific Chinese names). White tea is known for its mellow and delicate flavor, you can expect a frsh, floral, fruity profile.
Though the process is similar to that of green tea, the leaves undergo another step which is that they are wrapped in paper or fabric between each heating step. Doing this takes days but results in a less earthy and grassy taste. Yellow teas include, Huoshan Yellow Bud, Junshan Yellow Needles, Mending Huang Ya, Wei Shan Maojian.
The taste of black can vary quite a bit depending on the region and how the tea is made. Black tea leaves are completely (or very nearly) oxidized. They undergo the same process of oolong which ad both the leaves and the brewed tea have a reddish brown coloration. Some popular black teas are Darjeeling, Earl gray, Irish breakfast, and Ceylon black tea.
This is the largest category of true tea and the flavors may vary.You may find oolong tea to be a mix between green and black tea as these leaves are oxidized as well. This is tricky as the manufacturer needs to apply heat at precisely the right moment in order to prevent the leaves from oxidizing completely. Again, how the leaves are processed will decipher what type of oolong tea the leaves will ultimately become.
DARK TEA OR FERMENTED TEA
Dark tea is known as hei cha, any tea that is fermented. Puerh falls under this category as do similarly processed teas from regions of China other than Yunnan.The fermentation process is not similar to that of alcohol. The tea leaves are heated in a similar fashion but the leaves are dried in the sun rather than by hot air. They retain some of their natural enzymes and bacteria which will allow the tea to gradually oxidize as well as ferment over time.
HERBAL TEA / TISANE
Herbal teas or rather tisane is the proper term as they are not derived from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Herbal teas are made from tisanes, which are blends or infusions of dried fruits, flowers, spices, roots, or herbs in water. Remember only true tea is from the tea plant itself. Some examples of herbal tisanes are chamomile, hibiscus, cinnamon, ginger, nettle, dandelion, etc.
So if you are asking if all tea comes from the same plant, I hope this gives you a little clarity. There are so many varieties of tea as well and I hope you get a chance to experience them all!
Do you have a favorite type of tea or tisane?
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