Quick Tea Facts

True tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. All the various types of tea - black tea, green tea, and wu-long tea, are made from this one plant. The major difference between these types of tea is how the tea leaves are processed after picking.

Herbal teas are sometimes called tisanes. They do not contain tea leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant, but instead are made from herbs and spices. Most herbal tea does not contain caffeine and many have medicinal properties.

It is best to store tea in a cool, dry, dark place like an opaque tin or jar. Do not store it in the refrigerator or freezer as the repeated heating and cooling it undergoes each time it is removed causes condensation to build up - causing the tea to lose flavor.

An average cup of tea has about 40 mg. of caffeine. The amount of caffeine depends on how long the tea is brewed and (to a lesser extent) the type of tea. All true tea from the Camellia sinensis plant has caffeine. Most herbal tea is caffeine-free.

Certain teas like wu-long tea can be brewed multiple times. The tea leaves are allowed to steep for less than a minute before all the liquid is poured off into a serving container. This method of making tea can reduce the amount of caffeine in each serving.

The plant which produces all types of true is called Camellia sinensis . It can grow over 30 feet in height, but most tea plantations keep the plant trimmed to about waist-height so the leaves can be plucked easily at harvest time.

There are many factors which affect the taste and quality of tea. Variables include the growing conditions (elevation, climate, soil type and age of the tea plant), the harvesting methods, the processing methods, and the level of skill of the tea workers.

Tea is grown in a total of 36 countries around the world. The most famous tea producing regions are India , Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, Kenya, Japan, and Taiwan, and lesser-known areas include Bangladesh, Uganda, Malawi, Turkey, Iran, Argentina, and Brazil.

India is the world's largest tea producer but is also the largest tea consumer. Therefore, only 15% - 20% of Indian tea is exported. In 2005, India produced 51% of the world's tea, while Kenya and Sri Lanka each produced about 18%.

There are many ways to classify tea - by region, by grade, or by processing method. Most people are familiar with tea categories such as black tea or green tea. These are processing terms, and others include wu-long, white, yellow, and pu-erh.

Tea should be made with natural spring water with a high mineral content. If chlorinated tap water is used it should be left standing for an hour or two to let the chlorine escape. Otherwise it can adversely affect the taste of the tea.

Black tea, green tea, and oolong tea all come from the same plant - Camellia sinensis . The major difference between these three types of tea is their level of oxidation. Black tea is fully oxidized, green tea is un-oxidized and oolong tea is semi-oxidized.

Herbal tea is made from the roots, stems, flowers and seeds of various plants. Herbal tea does not contain leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant, so it is not "true tea." Most herbal tea is caffeine-free and has medicinal properties.