What is Tea?
Tea is a drink made by infusing leaves of the camellia sinensis plant in hot water. Camellia sinensis is an evergreen shrub that is native to China. The oldest record of tea comes from 200 BCE in a book on traditional Chinese medicine,Emperor Shen Nong’s Treatise on Medicinal Plants.Tea became a central part of Buddhist life and rituals, used as a stimulant and curative plant. Later, tea became part of social gatherings and enjoyed for how it tastes.
In North America, tea is also used to describe drinks made with herbs and spices by infusing them in hot water. Today, tea is the second most popular beverage on Earth, second only to water.
Tea is drunk for health and pleasure
For as long as people have been drinking it, tea has been prized for both health and pleasure. Historically, the value of tea either for health or pleasure varied greatly depending on the ruling emperor’s particular interest. It was the pleasure of tea drinking that Emperor Huizong promoted under his reign during the Song dynasty (960 - 1279). His deep enjoyment transformed the medicinal role of tea into a ritual of taste and pleasure. Emperor Huizong, who styled himself as a tea master, said, “Taste. The most important aspect of tea is taste. The ideal taste consists of aromatics, sweetness, and delicacy.”
Today, tea is enjoyed primarily for its energizing quality. The caffeine from tea is more sustainable than other caffeinated beverages because of the presence of L-Theanine, an amino acid that slows the absorption of caffeine in the body. Gradual caffeine absorption prevents energy crashes associated with coffee, which does not contain L-Theanine. L-Theanine is naturally occuring only in tea, and some mushrooms. This is the main difference between the effects of caffeine from drinking tea versus caffeine in coffee.
Tea is also rich in polyphenols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.Studies have suggested that tea polyphenols are beneficial for the following:
- Anxiety and stress reduction
- Improved sleep and mood
- Improved memory
- Lower bad cholesterol
- Weight management
- Preventing tooth decay
- Reducing inflammation
Where does tea come from?
The tea plant, camellia sinensis, is native to China. This is the birthplace of tea, where all tea plants originated. The oldest and most-established tea-growing territories are China,Taiwan, India, Sri Lanka, and Japan.
More recent tea production has expanded to South Korea, Nepal, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, and Zambia. Tea agriculture in these areas developed to respond to the demand for commodity teas, or the tea used in mass-produced tea bags, iced tea, and fast-food tea.
Is tea grown in the United States?
Since tea thrives in jungles, requiring a warm climate with high elevation, high humidity, and dramatic changes in temperature throughout the day, it does not grow well in most of North America. There are, however, small tea plantations in South Carolina, and Hawaii.
Blended and Flavored Tea
Tea blends are a mixture of white, green, oolong or black tea blended with flowers, herbs, fruit, and spices. Flavored teas are teas or tea blends that have additional aromatic ingredients to enhance the tea flavor. There are different traditional and modern techniques for flavoring tea.
Flavoring tea with flowers, herbs, fruit, and spices has been widely practiced in China, Morocco, sub-Saharan Africa, and India for centuries. The first Chinese flavored teas added jasmine, osmanthus, gardenia, and rose blossoms to white or green teas to impart their special aroma and flavor. Orange and plum blossoms were added to enhance oolong and black teas.
As early as the 17th century, Moroccans created highly aromatic tea blends by adding thyme, rosemary, lemon verba, mint, basil, and orange blossom water.
India’s world-famous chai - a blend of spices, herbs, and black tea is ancient. It is said that chai without black tea leaves has been blended and enjoyed for over 5,000 years.
Our teas are flavored by using traditional blending techniques of adding flowers, herbs, fruit, and spices, and modern flavoring with essential oils that are mostly naturally-derived with some synthetic flavorings. Unlike commercial flavored teas that use flavorings to hide the flavor of low-quality tea leaves, we use high-quality flavoring as a finishing touch to enhance high-quality dried tea leaves and ingredients. This is how we create our premium blended, intensely flavorful teas.
Is herbal tea actually tea?
Yes and no. The word tea is used in many languages to describe any hot drink made by infusing plants and herbs. Tea is most commonly used for pure black, green, white, and oolong teas made with leaves from the camellia sinensis shrub, with no other ingredients. Tea blends refer to a mixture of tea with flowers, herbs and spices. Infusions of flowers, spices and herbs are also called tea, despite the fact that they do not contain tea leaves from the camellia sinensis plant.
In Europe and other parts of the world, teas made without camellia sinensis are not considered tea. Traditionally, these water-infused drinks are medicinal, and are called infusions or tisanes after the Greek word ptisanē, meaning peeled barley, one of the oldest herbal “teas.”
Our Cult of Demeter herbal blend is inspired by this ancient barley beverage, which was an important part of religious ceremonies.
Rooibos is a red bush plant that is sometimes called tea, but does not have any tea leaves from the camellia sinensis shrub. Likewise, mate is a plant native to Paraguay that is sometimes called tea but does not have tea leaves from the camellia sinensis shrub.