What is tea?
Tea is the second-most consumed drink in the world, surpassed only by water. An often-surprising fact to tea novices is that all teas (Black, Green, Oolong, White and Pu’erh) come from the same plant. The scientific name of this versatile plant is Camellia sinensis (it’s actually related to the lovely camellia flowers seen in botanical gardens and landscapes). Camellia sinensis is a sub-tropical evergreen plant native to Asia but now grown around the world. The tea plant grows best in loose, deep soil, at high altitudes, and in sub-tropical climates. So, in short, “tea” is anything derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. Anything else, while sometimes called “tea”, is more accurately referred to as an herbal tea or tisane. Tisanes include chamomile, Rooibos and fruit teas.
How is it grown?
The tea plant, which grows naturally in the wild throughout much of Asia, is cultivated in a variety of settings from small family gardens to giant estates covering thousands of acres. The best tea is usually grown at elevation, and often, on steep slopes. The terrain requires these premium teas to be hand-plucked, and it takes around 2,000 tiny leaves to make just one pound of finished tea. If that sounds crazy, keep in mind these methods have been around for several millennia. Many of the teas produced for large scale commercial production are grown on flat, lowland areas to allow for machine harvesting. However, it should be noted that some of the finest, hand-plucked teas in the world come from flat fields and lower altitude. So, how the tea is grown is just one of many factors to be considered.
What is in tea?
Tea is a truly special, uniting thing when you think of how so many tea-drinking cultures developed all on their own. America’s own newly found tea culture is unique because we actually enjoy all types of tea (white, green, oolong, black and pu’erh). No one else has that distinction. The amount of knowledge to be had and tea to be enjoyed is tremendous.
Best Place to Start for Beginners?
Tea is something that is best chosen by the taste or particular flavor or health benefit to begin your tea quest. For example you may want to have a strawberry flavor with caffiene. Selections availabe would be Grandmas Garden green Tea, Eventide White Tea, Starberry Delite Green Tea etc.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How long is tea good for?
The good news is that tea, if properly stored away from air, light and moisture, will never spoil. That said, tea will loose its flavor gradually over time. Most teas are seasonal and therefore picked during a specific growing season each year. As such, it is common to drink tea that is a year old, but your goal should be to avoid keeping teas longer than a year. As a general rule, the larger the leaf and more tightly rolled the tea, the longer it will stay fresh. Smaller and broken leaf teas simply allow more of the leaf to contact the air and therefore grow stale faster.
How do I store tea?
The key is to avoid moisture, excessive heat, light, air, and strong, competing aromas (which may be absorbed by the tea). Each of these will degrade the quality of your leaves. Your best bet is any opaque, air tight container in a cool, dry place. Because of the danger of scents, the spice cabinet or next to the coffee beans, while common and convenient, is probably a bad place for tea.
Should I refrigerate my tea?
We do NOT recommend keeping tea in the refrigerator. Some prized Green and Oolong teas are refrigerated by the growers, distributors and retailers, but their refrigerators are specialized for this purpose. Your kitchen refrigerator is home to a host of food scents. Most importantly, the first time you open a container full of chilled tea and the outside air swooshes in, the moisture of the air will condense on those leaves. Whether you can see it or not, you are adding more moisture to the leaf by keeping it in the refrigerator than at room temperature. A good rule of thumb may be that long term refrigerated storage of a sealed container is a great idea, but daily storage of a tea you access regularly is discouraged.
What causes iced teas to “cloud”?
Clouding occurs when the polyphenols (antioxidants) in tea bind with the minerals in the water. The effect is heightened when hot tea is iced quickly. This cloudiness has no impact on the taste, and is actually proof that your tea is chock-full of healthy stuff. In fact, in the search for teas that do not cloud, many commercial iced teas have far fewer antioxidants than you might expect.
Should I use fresh water in my kettle?
Yes. Water contains oxygen, which is critical in extracting the flavor from your tea. As steam from boiling water rushes out of the kettle, the minerals left in the water become more concentrated, effectively making your water harder. Fresh, filtered water will deliver the best taste every time.