Tea is a popular beverage that also happens to be one of the most consumed beverages in the world alongside coffee, beer and certain soft drinks which include Coca Cola and Pepsi. While there are many blends of tea sold on the market, they all come from a single species of plant, Camellia Sinensis. The exception to this rule is herbal tea. Herbal tea generally does not contain any tea leaves but uses various herbs and fruits for flavor and health benefits instead. Both types of tea have been a popular beverage for thousands of years dating back to ancient Egypt.
The most important element of any non-herbal tea is of course the tea leaves. The leaves and buds of Camellia Sinensis are the two things utilized to produce tea. From these leaves, we are able to produce many varieties including green tea, white tea and black tea. Leaves that undergo the least amount of oxidation during processing generally retain most of the original components of the leaf itself. For this reason, they are usually the most beneficial as well as the most expensive. This type of tea is commonly known as green tea.
Traditionally only found in China and some parts of Southeast Asia, Camellia Sinensis is know grown across the world due to its commercial importance. It is known as an evergreen plant as it bears leaves throughout the seasons. Besides tea, this species can also produce tea oil from the seeds. This oil is normally used for cooking and is said to have a sweetish tinge to it. Caffeine is naturally found in the leaves and usually makes up a few percent of the leaf’s composition.
Younger leaves are highly treasured by tea aficionados and can cost anywhere from $20 to $50 for a small bag. Unlike the deep green that is present in older leaves, younger leaves will generally have lighter colors. Aging has a profound effect on the chemical composition of the end product. High quality teas are almost always grown in the highlands where their growth rates slow down. While they grow slowly, their flavor improves by quite a margin.
While a single species is responsible for the entire tea industry, it should be noted that there are many cultivars within Camellia Sinensis. Growing these plants for harvest is usually a long and lengthy process. New plants will take up to 3 years of growth before it is harvested. They are propagated either via cutting or through the use of new seeds. It should be noted that seeds are only produced by plants above the age of four. Due to the long wait, the entire plant is never harvested. Instead, only the top few inches are picked periodically where they will grow back within two weeks.