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What is Tea?

In simple terms, tea is a beverage created by infusing hot water with the dried leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. However, tea has a history as rich and diverse as the leaves it's brewed from. Legend has it that tea was first discovered when a solitary leaf from the Camellia sinensis plant fortuitously found its way into the cup of a Chinese Emperor. Until the 1800s, China exclusively cultivated and manufactured the majority of the world's tea. Throughout time, tea cultivation has expanded across regions and is now harvested in 40 different countries, with the most significant production stemming from China, Kenya, Sri Lanka, India, and Turkey.

At Art of Tea, our mission is to delve into the world of tea, uncovering its many layers and sharing our discoveries with fellow tea enthusiasts.

The "Art of Tea" Perspective

Understanding the “Art of Tea” in its entirety is an age-old question that we are still continuously exploring today. With brand-new tea knowledge and discoveries unveiling themselves each day, the journey into the world of tea is an exciting and limitless adventure with room for us all to explore, connect and interact.

Being an engaged crew of tea educators, we have been fortunate enough to receive many wonderful insights on tea from its history to its preparation, all the while diving deeper into the various varietals that stem from the miraculously versatile Camellia sinensis plant. While we can’t begin to know everything about tea, we hope that we can help guide you with our extensive knowledge of what we do know about tea in this section.

We understand the importance of building a dynamic learning environment where you have all the tools you need to create your own personal tea journey. In addition to this, we know it is equally important to have a community forum where you have a voice to collaborate and share your ideas about tea and all its wonder. We look forward to your visits and your feedback as we share and discover the many facets of tea together.

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Tea or Tisane: The Distinction

One fundamental distinction in the world of tea is the separation between true teas and herbal blends or fruit infusions, which are more properly characterized as tisanes. While tisanes are often mislabeled as a tea blend, the distinction is critical for any tea enthusiast or caffeine-sensitive individual.  

Tea, in its truest sense, is derived from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. If your beverage doesn't contain Camellia sinensis leaves, it cannot be categorized as tea. Instead, it's most likely a tisane. Tisanes are caffeine-free blends made from herbs, botanicals, and fruits. Tisanes are prepared in a manner similar to tea but technically fall outside the realm of tea.

Therefore, it's important to remember that the term "herbal tea" is, in a sense, an oxymoron. In the world of tea, it's either tea or tisane, a distinction that defines the nature of the beverage.
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What Are Popular Types of Tea and Tisanes?

As you explore the world of tea, these descriptions provide a glimpse into the diverse flavor profiles and caffeine levels of each type.

  • Black Tea

    • What is Black Tea? 

      • Black tea, also referred to as “red tea” in China for its rich, reddish infusion, is composed of two different forms of the Camellia sinensis plant: Camellia sinensis sinensis and Camellia sinensis assamica. These tea leaves are 100% oxidized, causing the blackened color.
    • Flavor Notes: Bold, robust, and often malty or astringent. May have notes of caramel, chocolate, or even dried fruits.
    • Caffeine Level: Moderate to High
  • Green Tea

    • What is Green Tea?

      • Green tea, also known as unoxidized tea, is made solely from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Green tea leaves are cooked immediately after harvest to preserve the green quality and prevent oxidation. Chinese green teas a typically pan-fired, while Japanese varieties are usually steamed.
    • Flavor Notes: Fresh, grassy, and sometimes nutty. May have vegetal or seaweed-like qualities.
    • Caffeine Level: Moderate
  • White Tea

    • What is White Tea?

      • White tea consists of fresh, youthful tea leaves and delicate buds plucked from the Camellia sinensis plant. It is exclusively harvested during a brief period each spring in the northern region of Fujian, China. Similar to the strict regulations surrounding champagne, the label "white tea" can only be applied if the tea originates from the Fujian province. The name "white tea" derives from the silken, silver-hued fuzz that adorns the leaves and unopened buds, known as "Hao."
    • Flavor Notes: Delicate, with floral and sweet undertones. Often described as light and refreshing.
    • Caffeine Level: Low to Moderate
  • Oolong Tea

    • What is Oolong Tea?

      • The name "Oolong" (Wu-lung) is a transliteration of two English words, meaning "black" and "dragon” due to the distinctive appearance of the Camellia sinensis plant. Oolong tea undergoes a special semi-oxidation process, with oxidation levels ranging from 1% to 99%. Shortly after harvesting, the leaves are withered and semi-oxidized under gentle sunlight and then carefully shade-dried. Oolongs are frequently processed over charcoal or wood, imparting a distinctive flavor that varies according to the chosen finishing style.
    • Flavor Notes: A wide range of flavors, from fruity and floral to roasted and earthy. Complex and diverse.
    • Caffeine Level: Moderate to High
  • Pu-erh Tea

    • What is Pu-erh Tea?

      • Puerh tea is crafted from a variety of the Camellia sinensis plant known as Dayeh, characterized by its larger leaves. These ancient trees boast mature leaves believed to be anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years old. In the Far East, Pu-erh tea is referred to as "black tea," and its origins can be traced to the Yunnan province of China. Pu-erh tea undergoes a post-fermentation process, which results in the darkening of the leaves and a shift in flavor. Notably, this unique fermentation process allows Pu-erh teas to age gracefully, much like fine wines. Some Pu-erh varieties can maintain their freshness for as long as fifty years.
    • Flavor Notes: Earthy, with hints of forest floor and a unique aged quality. Deep and distinct in flavor.
    • Caffeine Level: Moderate to High
  • Rooibos Tea (Tisane)

    • What is a Rooibos Tisane?

      • Hailing exclusively from South Africa, rooibos distinguishes itself as a legume rather than a true tea, unlike the traditional Camellia sinensis plant. Rooibos is adorned with yellow springtime blossoms that give rise to bean-like seeds. Hand-harvested during the summertime, the rooibos stems and leaves undergo meticulous bundling and sorting in preparation for the oxidation process, which ultimately determines their sweetness, hue, and flavor. This oxidation process results in two distinct varieties of the rooibos herb: Green and Red Rooibos.
    • Flavor Notes: Sweet and nutty, often with hints of honey and vanilla.
    • Caffeine Level: Caffeine-Free
  • Herbal Tea (Tisane)

    • What are Herbal Tisanes made from?

      • The term "herbal tea" is a colloquial expression, signifying the infusion of plant materials in hot water, akin to the preparation of "true" tea made from Camellia sinensis. It's crucial to recognize that herbal teas, for the most part, do not incorporate any leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant, which categorizes them as tisanes. Much like traditional tea, tisanes can be served either hot or iced and offer a wide spectrum of flavor profiles. Practically every part of a plant can be utilized in the crafting of herbal tisanes: leaves, fruits, petals, herbs, bark, seeds, pollen, grass, peels, nuts, and roots.
    • Flavor Notes: Varies widely depending on the herbs and botanicals used. Can be soothing, fruity, or spicy.
    • Caffeine Level: Caffeine-Free
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The world of tea is vast and can at times seem intricate to comprehend the cultural complexities. At Art of Tea, we hold a profound passion for the rich history of tea, and we are delighted to offer additional insights to fellow tea enthusiasts. Whether you prefer the boldness of black tea, the earthy depth of Pu-erh, or the caffeine-free comfort of Rooibos, there's a tea type to suit every palate.

Explore our diverse collection of best-selling teas and teaware available for purchase today!