What Exactly is Tea?

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What exactly is tea, anyway? It seems like you just put any (non-poisonous) plant or herb put into hot water and – VOILA! – tea!

Easy an answer as that would be, that’s not exactly how it works.

Actual tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, a tree native to China. The coolest thing about tea, in my personal opinion, is that all different teas (white, black, green, oolong, pu-erh, etc.) are made from the same plant. The only difference is how the leaves are prepared for use. It’s a pretty remarkable plant, if you think about it that way.

The tea that we drink is made from the youngest leaves of the tea tree (or bush). Sometimes just the unfurled bud is plucked, other times it will come with one or two of the next leaves on the stem.

tea-plants

You may notice I didn’t mention herbal teas like chamomile or mint. That’s because those aren’t technically teas. Those are called tisanes, meaning infusions of non-tea herbs in hot water for consumption. That is to say, putting plants in water to drink the juicy goodness thereof. Some of the most common tisanes are chamomile, peppermint, and rooibos. Most people just aren’t familiar with the concept of the tisane vs. tea, so these options are widely marketed as teas or, on occasion, infusions.

Long story short, tea is the dried leaf of the Camellia sinensis plant processed using varying methods (depending on the intended outcome). It is then steeped in hot water to produce one of the most delicious beverages known to man. There’s a reason tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world, second only to good ol’ fashioned H2O!

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