Tea 101

“Where there’s tea, there’s hope.”

Arthur Wing Pinero

The history of tea is almost as long as written history itself. As legend has it, in 2737BC, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung was getting ready to enjoy a brew or two. While preparation was underway, some leaves made the fantastic choice of falling from the tree above and directly into the water. There, they infused the boiling water with their aromatic nuances and irresistible notes we know only so well today. 

The emperor’s verdict? Thumbs up. 

And the rest is very much enjoyed history 

As tea wound its own story through time, it found itself tied to festivities, celebrations, social class, medicine, folklore, and so much more. In short, where there are humans, there will almost certainly be tea.

And we have the figures to back that claim up. To date, around the world, 2 billion people will drink tea every morning. 3 billion tons of tea are produced worldwide every year for consumption. 1 pound of loose tea leaves alone will create up to 200 cups of tea. That’s a lot of tea. And, you just have to take a stroll through your local supermarket to know it comes in many flavors, shapes, and colors. 

In fact, there are over 3000 varieties (some people argue 20,000) of tea, each with its own specific characteristics that we’ll get to later.

So what makes tea, tea?

Tea aficionados consider the Camellia sinensis plant a sort of mother to all teas. It is from this unassuming evergreen, flowering plant that every mug of legitimate tea comes. And how can so many flavors and varieties come from a single plant species? Quite easily.

The art & craft of tea processing has evolved through centuries of tradition and experience across many cultures, but the primary process remains the same.

How tea is made

Basic steps for making tea from the Camellia Sinensis plant:

Grow Camellia Sinensis plant: This is a delightfully undemanding task considering the exquisite reward you’ll reap. You see, as to be expected considering its origins in the Chinese mountains, this unique plant favors cool, damp climates. In most moderate-temperature countries, it can be grown outside. However, in warmer climates, it’s best to keep inside and watered regularly. 

Once the plant is fully grown: Harvest leaves from the plant.

Spread the leaves out to wither somewhere dry. The time left to dry will determine what type  of tea is produced alongside some other processes such as roasting, heating, rolling, etc.

And voila! You have your own freshly made brew! It really is that easy.

Tip: Avoid adding boiling hot water to your tea leaves lest you burn the leaves – a bitter, less-than-ideal taste is the expected result. 

What decides tea type? 

The flavor of teas, like wines, depends on where they grow and how their component materials are treated. Different tea types can also be blended to produce a new flavor and aroma profile.

Sub-varieties and cultivars also come into play. Then, of course, there are also indigenous varieties that are not widely commercially consumed or are subject to varying popularity from country to country. And just like with coffee, not all tea varieties are suited to all tea-producing climates.

A quick but important fact: Did you know that mint tea isn’t actually a tea? It’s an infusion! The same can be said for other such herbal or fruity (read: raspberry) teas.

Now that’s out of the way, we can get down to the nitty gritty.

The Six Types of Tea

We’ll tell you all you need to know the 6 primary tea types. So why not make yourself a brew, get comfortable, and prepare to learn the difference between your Matcha, Oolong, and English Breakfast.

Spilling the tea on tea

White Tea

Visual profile:
Subtle pale-gold shades
Subtle, well-rounded

Green Tea

Visual profile:
Green, yellow, light brown
Grassy, vegetal

Yellow Tea

Visual profile:
Honey-ish color
Smooth, mellow

Oolong Tea

Visual profile:
Golden to brown
Floral to grassy

Black Tea

Visual profile:
Amber to red / dark brown
Savory to sweet

Dark Tea

Visual profile:
Oaky woods
Earthy herbs, hay

Honorable tea mentions 

Tea Takeaway 

We hope you’ve enjoyed your journey through the world of tea and learned a thing or two. Why not sample every variety of tea? Life’s too short to not drink great tea!

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