What is tea?
Tea is a beverage prepared by infusing the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant in water. Infusions made with other plants are called “herbal teas” or “tisanes.” Tea has been enjoyed across the world for centuries, starting with its discovery and inception in China; the earliest record of drinking tea was dated back over 2,000 years ago in the Han Dynasty (202 BCE - 220 CE). Tea is ultimately the result of generations of passion to produce the best experience in each cup of this beloved drink.
Tisanes (Herbal Teas)
As previously mentioned, “tea” in its strictest sense refers only to C. sinensis. For infusions made using other plants such as chrysanthemum, chamomile, rooibos, ginseng, barley, and so on, the term “tisane” (or “herbal tea”) is used. These tisanes come in a variety of different forms with a multitude of different flavors and even medicinal properties. Most tisanes are also caffeine-free, making them a suitable alternative for caffeinated beverages.
The Tea Plant, Camellia sinensis
Camellia sinensis is a species of plant native to southern China and parts of India and Southeast Asia. C. sinensis comes in two main varieties: C. sinensis var. sinensis, which has smaller leaves and is more commonly grown in China; and C. sinensis var. assamica, which has larger leaves and is more commonly grown in India.
It is also worth noting that some teas, such as some pu'er from Yunnan province, are made with the leaves of the Camellia taliensis plant. C. taliensis is a close relative of C. sinensis, and teas made with this plant are still generally accepted as “true” teas.