What is Tea?
Tea is made from the dried and processed leaves, buds, and other parts of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, which are then steeped in water to infuse the water with the plant’s flavor and nutrients.
Camellia sinensis is a shrub-like plant that grows in warm climates and is native to regions in East, South, and Southeast Asia such as China, India, Japan, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.
There are seven main types of tea, and the variations between the types are created by varying the way that the leaves are prepared and processed:
- Dark (also called pu’erh)
- Herbal (also called tisane)
Of these seven types, the first six are made from the Camellia sinensis plant, while the last type, herbal tea, is made from a large variety of other plants. Some common herbal teas are chamomile, peppermint, and rooibos. It would be more accurate to call these “herbal infusions” rather than herbal teas because they aren’t actually made from the tea plant. However in common usage it’s convenient to call them tea because they are steeped in the same way as tea just with different ingredients. All of these types are infusions of plants, but only black, green, white, yellow, oolong, and dark teas are infusions of the tea plant.
In the next section, we will go into more detail about these types of teas—their different characteristics, how they’re made, and examples of common types of each.