For as long as I can remember, tea has always been apart of my life. To drinking it cold and sweet during hot Texas days to playing make-believe with my grandmother and to now, sipping an earl grey, it’s always been there. It wasn’t until later I learned that not a lot of people knew about the benefits of tea. As I grew up, I had already learned that chamomile tea is an excellent aid for when you’re tired and black tea is a great alternative to coffee.
It wasn’t, however, until much later I decided to look at teas and see how different each cup is. For instance, I had no idea that tea is the second most popular drink in the world right after water. I also had no idea how large the tea community is.
But what is tea?
Tea or camellia sinensis grows in China, India, and in other parts of the world. It has two variations, camellia sinensis var sinensis, and camellia sinensis var assamica. Var sinensis is mainly grown in China but is found as far north as Vancouver Island and as South as Tasmania. The leaves of the var sinensis plant are the tea leaves that you usually see when you google “tea leaves.” They’re small and thin and can go through the harsher climate of the more northern parts of the world. Var assamica, however, is mainly found in India around the Assam area and in Yunnan, China. This version of camellia sinensis is more abundant in shape and cultivated in the low more tropical climates.
The process that creates teas is different for every type of tea, but all of them begin with a straightforward thing, a leaf.
The leaves picked are from the top of the plant and are not selected below 2 inches from the top. Once inspected, only a very few can become actual tea. Leaves that are broken, torn, have insect bites, or any form of deformity are cast aside, and the others are not. The leaves that aren’t, are separated again, but into the different types of tea. The tea master is the one who decides which leaves are best suited for which drink.
And this is where the actual making tea begins to differ. Each style of tea has a different procedure of how the leaves are curled and processed. There are six different main styles of tea, green, yellow, white, pu-erh, oolong, and black, which we will discuss more in-depth in another post.