Types of Tea
Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, other than water. Its history spans over 5,000 years and was popular even before the Egyptians built the great pyramids. Since ancient times, tea has been revered for its bountiful health benefits and therapeutic properties. Today, over 6 billion pounds of tea are harvested annually, and the best loose-leaf teas are comparable to fine wine.
All “true” tea comes from the same plant, called the Camellia sinensis. Any leaf, root, fruit or flower that comes from a different plant is considered an herbal tea. For example, chamomile flowers and peppermint leaves are considered herbal teas because they do not come from the traditional tea plant. It is important to distinguish between real tea and herbal tea since the flavor, health benefits and nutritional characteristics vary from plant to plant.
THOUSANDS OF TEAS, DIVIDED INTO 4 CATEGORIES
There are thousands of different kinds of teas, each with their own individual appearance, taste and aroma. To make sense of all the variations, “true teas” (those made from the tea plant, or Camellia sinensis, versus herbal teas which come from other plants) can be categorized into 4 major categories: white, green, oolong and black. Generally, these categories refer to how much a tea is oxidized.
OXIDATION DETERMINES CATEGORY AND FLAVOR
Oxidation (also called fermentation) is a natural process that changes the color and flavor of the leaf. To initiate oxidation, fresh tealeaves are rolled (either by hand or machine) in order to crack the surface of the leaf so that oxygen will react with the plant’s enzymes.
Black tea is fully oxidized, oolong tea is partially oxidized and green and white teas are unoxidized. Generally speaking, the less a tea is oxidized, the lighter it will be in both taste and aroma. Heavily oxidized teas will yield a dark, rich, reddish-brown infusion while less oxidized teas will yield a light, yellow-green liquor.
By selectively exposing the tealeaves to oxygen, tea producers can bring out certain flavors and aromas. In other words, the oxidation process will determine many of the tea’s flavor characteristics as well as whether the tea will be categorized as white, green, oolong or black.
WHAT IS HERBAL TEA?
As mentioned earlier, all true tea comes from the tea plant, called the Camellia sinensis. Any leaf, root, fruit or flower that comes from a plant other than the tea plant is considered an herbal tea. For example, chamomile flowers, peppermint leaves, spice blends, yerba maté and rooibos (which is often called red tea) are considered herbal teas because they do not come from the traditional tea plant.
Since ancient times, herbal teas have been revered for their bountiful health benefits and therapeutic properties. Herbal teas are often used to aid digestion, sooth allergies, relieve headaches and reduce stress. Continuing this tradition, Octavia’s herbal teas are based on ancient homeopathic remedies, blended with quality, flavor and health benefits in mind.
It is important to distingish between different types of herbal tea, since health benefits and flavor vary dramatically from plant to plant.
Most herbal teas are naturally 100% caffeine-free, making them an excellent choice for evening or for people with caffeine-sensitivities.