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So, What exactly IS tea?

Posted on August 09 2016

Hello, curious mind!

Thank you for taking a moment of your day to learn about where all tea comes from. Many I’ve spoken with often don’t realize the home-point connection between the various types of tea – White, Green, Oolong, Yellow, Red, Pu’er. Some think the different teas come from different plant varieties, which is a fair guess, they are so vast in their difference of flavor and color! I had actually never thought about it until maybe a year or so ago. It is always interesting when you realize just how little thought or attention we give to things in our everyday lives!  A couple of years ago, while I knew cooking the leaf was involved somehow (one can deduce this by simply looking at loose leaf tea) but I, too, thought they came from several different plants.

It wasn’t until I did some poking around that I started seeing a common word when learning about the teas I was enjoying – Camellia sinensis. This looks like a Latin word which made me think of plant species – so into the world of botany I went! Camellia sinensis is indeed a species of plant. It is a single plant that has evolved by it’s region to ultimately produce four different varieties of Camellia sinensis – C. sinensis var. sinensis (primarily China, global use), C. sinensis var. assamica (primarily India, global use), C. sinensis var. pubilimba (local China use), and C. sinensis var.dehungensis (local China use). In a nutshell, all tea comes from the same plant!

Two varieties of this plant are primarily responsible for nearly all of our lovely White, Green, Oolong, Yellow, Red and Pu’er tea – var. sinensis and var. assamica! Within these varieties are hundreds of cultivars (plants selected for desirable characteristics that can be maintained) of the “tea bush”. This is one of the ways certain regions of China are able to process reoccurring “traditional” types of tea such as Long Jing (Dragonwell).

C. sinensis is native to East and Southeast Asia but is now grown in various tropical and subtropical areas around the world where it thrives as either a bush or a tree. While tea can be plucked from these trees and bushes all year around, the prime annual season for plucking is around the Spring time. Once tea is plucked from this incredibly versatile plant, each region, province, county, city and farm will process the leaves to their liking and traditions creating hundreds of different varieties of tea that we all enjoy today! Naturally, there are many things that go into producing the different types of tea, but that is a story for another day.

Be happy. Drink good tea.

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