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QTrade Teas & Herbs provides specialty teas, herbs, spices, custom blending, product development, and private label services to businesses all over the world. We are the largest importer of organic teas in North America, with an expanding selection of flowers, fruits, and berries. (949) 766-0070 www.qtradeteas.com

Tea Basics 101: What is Tea?

What is tea, you ask?  This question is both simple and complex.

A Simple Definition

Tea leaves set out to begin withering

Recently Harvested Tea Leaves

All “true” teas (White tea, Green tea, Oolong tea, Black tea, and Pu’erh tea) come from a single plant: Camellia sinensis.  The word “tea” can refer to the plant itself, the leaves of the plant, or the beverage made from brewing the plant’s leaves in water.

The different colors and flavors of tea are determined by how the leaves are treated after they have been plucked.  If the leaves are quickly dried and sorted they will yield a tea that is white. If the leaves are exposed to the open air and allowed to oxidize for several hours they will yield a darker tea such as an Oolong tea or Black tea.

Simple right? Not quite.

Complex Connotations

There is a cultural definition of tea (particularly in North America) that varies widely from the standard one  given above.

Today many people call different beverages “tea” even though they have no “true” tea (Camellia sinensis) in them at all! For instance, the term “Herbal Tea” was coined as an attempt to describe a drink made from brewing herbs in water as being similar in color or flavor to “true” tea.  Technically speaking, the correct term for an “Herbal Tea” is a  tisane.

Tempest in a Tea Cup

Some members of the tea industry get very passionate about the definition of tea.  Purists demand that people only call something tea if it contains pure, unadulterated Camellia sinensis. The problem, though,  is that people have been fiddling with tea for thousands of years.

Rosewater Tulsi

QTrade's Organic Rosewater Tulsi is an herbal blend.

In ancient China, people scented their teas with Jasmine flowers -a practice that continues to this day- yet no one would think of calling this anything other than tea.The Japanese have mixed their tea with roasted brown rice for over a hundred years, yet they still call it tea. If you ask for tea in the Southeastern United States your Camellia sinensis will be sweetened and  served over ice as a matter of course.

All told, it is important to be clear about what you are talking about when you are talking about tea.  Here at QTrade we try to stick to the standard definition of tea as pure Camellia sinensis. If a tea is mixed with herbs or spices we will call it a “blend.” If it contains no Camellia sinensis whatsoever we will call it an herbal blend.

We hope that clears things up for you.

Have questions about this post?  Suggestions for future posts?

Please leave us a comment below!

www.QTradeTeas.com | (949) 766-0070 | info@qtradeteas.com
16205 Distribution Way Cerritos, CA 90703 USA| www.TeazeInfuser.com

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3 Comments on “Tea Basics 101: What is Tea?”

  1. Jwarner June 19, 2011 at 12:38 am #

    Very informative, thanks


  1. Tea Basics 102: Where Does Tea Come From? | QTrade Teas Blog - August 23, 2011

    […] Tea is traditionally  grown in a tea garden. A garden can vary in size from a few bushes to hundreds of acres in size. Every major tea-producing country has its own specialties in the industry. Each country offers its own unique terroir and cultural practices in producing and handling tea. […]

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