Recently I began talking to some of the kids at my middle school about tea.  I asked three of my classmates a few simple tea-related questions, with every intention of educating them on the subject, and was rather amused by some of the things they came up with.  Some were clearly more tea-educated than others.

Question: Can you tell me what tea is?
1.  Heated water you put flower petals in.
2.  Isn’t there a tea plant or something?
3.  Flavored coffee…sort of.

According to the dictionary, tea is defined as:
1.  A shrub, Camellia sinensis, of eastern Asia, having fragrant white flowers and evergreen leaves
2.  The fried leaves of a tea plant, prepared by various processes and in various stages of growth, used to make a hot beverage
3.  An aromatic, slightly bitter beverage made by steeping tea leaves in boiling water
4.  Any of various beverages made, as by steeping the leaves of certain plants or various extracts
5.  Any of various plants having been used to make a tea infusion
6.  An afternoon refreshment consisting of sandwiches and cakes served with tea

I had previously looked this up, and told them the many definitions of tea.  My hope was to have three more middle schoolers educated about tea by the time I was done and to encourage them to share their new-found knowledge with their friends and family.

Question: Does tea have caffeine?
1.  Some kinds do.
2.  Yes.  I mean, no.  Uh…I’m not sure.
3.  Why else would you drink it?

Tea can contain caffeine or be caffeine free, but if the blend contains Camellia sinensis – leaves of the tea plant – it naturally has caffeine.  I let them know, and continued with my interrogation.

Question: Does tea – not the plant, but the drink – come in more than one flavor or type?
1.  Yes.
2.  I think so.
3.  No, it’s just tea.

It took me literally about ten minutes to get the third responder to understand that the tea plant and the drink were two different things.

Question: Can tea be made from other plants, such as chamomile, rose, ginseng, and mint?
1.  Yes.
2.  Uh, I think so.
3.  What’s ginseng?  Wait – tea has rose petals!  Disgusting!

Tea can contain a variety of other plants, as confirmed in Definitions 4 and 5.

I told my classmates to try some tea.  It may or may not be surprising that the first two students I questioned were girls, and the third was a boy.  Hopefully, I have helped spread the word about tea, and they won’t have forgotten everything I told them by tomorrow.