There is much confusion in this country as to what is called Tea. Many people group all hot and cold drinks derived from plants/herbs as tea. This is technically inaccurate. All true tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant which was first discovered in China.
There are two main tea species of the genus Camellia; Camellia sinensis sinensis and Camellia sinensis assamica. The former, predominately found in China, has smaller leaves whereas the latter found predominantly in India and Sri Lanka, has larger leaves. Of these 2 species, there are hundreds of varietals all affected by where they are grown geographically and the different climatic conditions, very similar to what you find with varietals of the wine grape.
Any other so called tea that is derived from herbs/plants is called a tisane and not a true tea. If you read in the history section about the origin of tea, however, you will discover that tea did start out as a medicinal herb and, as we continue to discover in the present, has numerous health promoting benefits.
As you now know, all the different types of tea; white, green, yellow, oolong, red (black) and pu’er come from the same plant. They differ primarily as a result of the way they are processed, but also by the varietal and enviromental conditions within which they are grown. As mentioned previously, each varietal of each type will also differ as a result of geographic, climatic and topographic conditions. This results in many different varieties (approximately 2,000) and qualities of tea. Generally speaking, the leaves that come from the first harvest in early spring are considered the finest. But there are many wonderful and even exceptional teas that come from later harvests as well.
I think it’s necessry to put in a caveat before I proceed. If you have explored the subject of tea even a little, you have probably discovered that there is some confusing discrepancies out there. How the different types of tea are described, how they are processed and how they are prepared (not to mention many other aspects of tea) often vary greatly. We intend to always provide the most accurate information possible. This is reflective of what we have learned and is our understanding of the facts. If anyone believes otherwise or disagrees with anything we post here on tching.com, we encourage the members of our community to share with us their questions, opinions and knowledge in an open forum from which we can all learn.
A description of the different types of tea will be posted separately and will be forthcoming.