Let's Talk Tea - An Introduction
This is the first installment in a series we’re beginning discussing the origins of tea. In this introduction, we talk about the tea plant, harvesting and processing, and share some of our favorite learning resources.
So what exactly is Tea?
Tea leaves are actually from the Tea plant. Scientifically named Camellia sinensis, the tea plant is native to China and has been in their recorded history for over 6,000 years.
Camellia sinensis is an evergreen shrub grown on large tea plantations around the world. In the wild, the plant has the potential to grow into large trees, but plantation workers will maintain the plants to keep them around waist height for ease of picking.
Tea flavors are impacted by soil in the same way as growing wine or coffee. Where a tea plant is grown will directly influence its taste. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to try a tea grown in India, it’s taste will be different from one grown in China.
Harvesting & Processing Tea
Tea is harvested by hand. The familiar tea types we know and love will likely include Black, Green, or White tea. These all come from the same plant, the difference is in how its treated and when it’s picked.
White tea has the most delicate flavor. Often grown in the shade, this tea is less astringent and is smoother than green or black teas. White tea is picked when the leaves are very young; either just beginning to bud or slightly opened.
Green tea is picked from young leaves and is either steamed, fried, or cooked within a few hours of being picked. This helps to prevent oxidation and preserves the flavor. Commonly, Japanese teas are steamed and Chinese teas are pan fried.
Black tea is picked from the mature leaves of the tea plant and is a fully oxidized tea. Some black teas are fermented, allowing them to develop deeper or more complex flavors than Green or White teas. Black tea has the strongest flavors.
Where can I learn more about tea?
We LOVE this question! Tea is one of our favorite topics, and there is a whole world of information to dig into. Here are some of our favorite resources:
The Fiery One Co
Sustainably Sourced Botanical Apothecary