What is Tea?

What is Tea?

Were you aware that all tea comes from the same plant? Years ago when I first started to become interested in knowing about tea I was surprised to learn this fact. Of course there is an endless array of plants used to make hot beverages, but all tea comes from just one. Camellia sinensis is the botanical name for tea, an evergreen plant, indigenous to southeast Asia, whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce tea. 

There are 82 different species of Camellia, with 2 major varieties and almost 500 recognized cultivars. The most commonly recognized varieties of Camellia sinensis used for tea are C. sinensis var. sinensis (China bush or Chinese Tea) and C. sinensis var. assamica (Assam bush or Assam Tea).

Tea is defined by the “two leaves and a bud” that are plucked during the tea harvest. The upper leaf bud and the next two leaves, the youngest ones of a sprout.  The young light green leaves have short white hairs on the underside. Older leaves are deeper green.  Different leaf ages will produce teas of different qualities because the chemical compositions are different.

The taste of the tea, like the taste of wine, is largely affected by changes in temperature, rainfall, sunshine, wind speeds and conditions of the soil it’s grown in. We will get into that in more detail in another blog posting.

Infusions can be made from just about anything. Most commonly they are made from herbs and fruit. Infusion is the process of steeping (soaking) herbs in water until the water absorbs the oils and flavors, then drinking the liquid for the taste or for the medicinal value.

The earliest verbal record of herbal teas dates back to 2737 BC in China. In written history, we can find records of herbal tea that go as far back as the third century AD. These teas spread from China to Egypt to Japan, and then to Europe and beyond. You may hear herbal tea called a “tisane” in Europe and technically it should be referred to as an infusion, not a tea.

At Tea4usa we invite you to try our beautiful selection of Ceylon teas and infusions.

I hope that you continue to enjoy a tea journey with me.


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