Tea Basics

Tea Basics: Nothing Fancy Here


Tea and Tisanes: Know the Difference

We have a habit of calling every plant that we steep in water “tea”. Alas, this isn’t quite correct.

Here are the facts: “Tea” in the truest sense of the word only applies to the dried leaves of one, single species of plant (Camellia Sinensis). This means that other plants, like mint, rooibos, chamomile, or hibiscus aren’t technically “tea”. We call these herbal blends “tisanes” instead. That’s right, chamomile “tea” isn’t technically tea.

So what’s the fuss about? Frankly, you can call your drink whatever you damn-well please. But it’s worth it to know the difference between true tea and tisanes (herbal teas). Importantly, true tea contains caffeine, tisanes do not. Also, most of the health benefits that you’ve read about “tea” relate to true tea, not tisanes (though those are good too). 


The Tea-O-Sphere

The tea plant (camellia sinensis) is grown in tropical and sub-tropical climates. 

Genealogical studies show that the tea plant originated in the verdant borderlands between modern-day India and China--not far from where our Organic Full-Steam comes from.

Today, tea is grown around the world, not just in Asia. Kenya has a booming tea business, for example.  The more, the merrier we say.


Types of Tea (Green, Black, and so-on)

While all true tea comes from one species of plant, we can fiddle with the leaves enough to create several distinct types of tea. 

Tea is classified primarily by its color. Tea gets it's "color" from the about of processing and the amount of oxidation that takes place. Imagine if you plucked a green leaf off of a tree and placed it on your counter. Over time, the leaf would oxidize and turn brown. The same thing happens with tea. Tea leaves are plucked and then shaped in various ways and allowed (or not) to oxidize.

Speaking very generally, there are three "colors" of tea: white, green, and black. White and green teas are less-processed (and less oxidized) than black tea and have less caffeine. There are two categories of tea that aren't signified by a color: oolong and pu'erh. Oolong is simply a tea that falls in-between green and black tea in processing and oxidation. Pu'erh teas are a special category of tea that are even stronger than black teas.