What is Tea?
All tea comes from the same plant - Camellia sinensis.
It is native to China, India, Cambodia and Burma. Indigenous plants from each of these regions display their own characteristics, and many varietals have been identified by botanists.
But it must be emphasised: all five of the main types of tea come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Those distinct differences in taste and appearance are due only to how the leaf is treated during production.
In the wild, the plant can reach heights of 20 metres. Such wild trees are known to exist in Yunnan province, China, and some are thought to be 1500 years old.
In commercial gardens, tea plants are regularly pruned to a height and size that is comfortable for the people who pluck the tea leaves.
Hmmm... is it really... Tea
A common misconception appears to have been created by the English language. The word ‘tea’ is used quite loosely to describe any hot beverage.
Strictly speaking only the leaves and unopened leaf buds from the plant Camellia sinensis are tea.
The French use the word tisane to distinguish between Tea and the infusions of herbs or flowers. Perhaps the term herbal infusion is a more accurate description than herbal tea.
Often I hear customers say, "I particularly like peppermint tea, I find it really refreshing"; or "In the evening, I like camomile tea". But, really only tea is tea. Everything else is ... something else.