All tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, an evergreen shrub that may grow up to sixty feet in the wild. When cultivated for harvest, tea bushes are kept to a height of about three feet.
There are over 3000 varieties of tea, each with its own specific characteristics. The naming and growing of teas is in many ways similar to wine. Just as Bordeaux wine is named after the Bordeaux region in France and Champagne can only be produced in the province of Champagne, many teas are also named after the area they are grown in. For example, Assam tea is named after the Assam region in India and Yunnan tea is named after the Chinese province. Like wine, where the tea is grown, the climate, soil conditions and how the tea is processed will altogether determine its flavor characteristics.
While there are literally thousands of teas in the world, as a subject of classification tea can be broken down into six main types: black, green, oolong, white, yellow and pu-erh.
Black tea is withered, fully oxidized and dried. Black tea commonly yields a hearty, amber-colored brew. Some of the most popular types of black teas are bold breakfast teas (e.g. English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast) and Darjeelings.
Green tea production endeavors to avoid the oxidation of the tea leaves, in order to retain its natural green color and fresh flavor. In Japan, the leaves are steamed, while other countries will pan-fire or dry it through other methods. It has a more delicate flavor than black tea and often brews up pale green or golden in color.
Oolong tea is produced mainly in China and Taiwan and is only partially oxidized. It can range from tasting similar to a fresh green tea, to tasting darker and more robust like a black tea. The flavor can vary widely, depending on where the tea leaves are grown and how the tea is made.
Originally from China, white tea is simply withered and dried, causing a very light oxidation. Its flavor is most similar to that of green tea, but is usually more creamy, soft and sweet.
Yellow tea is the rarest type of tea. It is similarly processed to green tea, but is more slowly dried to make the leaves take on a yellow color. The taste of the tea is mild, often described as being somewhere between white and green tea.
Pu-erh (also spelled pu'er) comes exclusively from China and is famous for its distinctively earthy flavor. Pu-erh is tea that has been fermented, often stored underground for several years. Traditionally, pu-erh is compressed into round cakes and can be very expensive.
Tea is not to be confused with herbal infusions. While herbal tea or infusions are packaged like tea, infused like tea and enjoyed like tea, they actually do not contain any tea leaves.
Herbal tea is simply the combination of boiling water and botanicals like fruits, flowers, barks, herbs, mints, spices, roots, berries and seeds.
Yerba Mate & Guayusa
Yerba Mate and Guayusa are naturally caffeinated herbal infusions from South America. They are treasured for their unique balance of caffeine and smooth, energizing effect. Yerba Mate is herbaceous, vegetal and grassy with a bittersweet flavor, while Guayusa has an earthy, rich, naturally smooth taste and a slightly sweet finish.