Sannel Larson

Monday, January 28, 2013

Facts of Tea

Today, I like to pay a tribute to one of my all-time favorite beverages - Tea.  Since January is The National Hot Tea Month, I find it fitting to write some important facts about tea - this easy and inexpensive addition to our daily lives. 

There are so many different kinds of teas that it can be rather bewildering. It is very difficult to know what is what when it comes to tea. First of all, where is tea coming from? What is the difference between Assam and Keemun? Which tea should we drink to fight against tooth decay? Hopefully, by reading all these facts that I have put together, you will not be so confused next time you are planning to purchase some tea. 

The Evergreen Tea Plant
Camellia Sinesis is the one and only plant that produces every tea in the world. The evergreen tea plant will grow into a tree of up to 15-20 meters tall when left undisturbed, with leaves ranging from smooth and shiny to fuzzy and white haired. Cultivated plant are pruned to waist height for ease of plucking.

Only the top 1-2 inches of the mature plant are picked. These buds and leaves are called flushes. A plant will grow a new flush every seven to fifteen days during the growing season, and leaves that are slow in development always produce better flavored tea. That is why tea plants that are cultivated at an elevation of up to 1,500 meters ( 4,900 ft) acquire better flavor, because at that height, the tea plant grow more slowly.

Camellia Sinesis - The Evergreen Tea Plant

More Than 3,000 Varieties

Tea has many similarities to wine when it comes to naming and growing. As for example the Bordeaux wine, which is named after the Bordeaux region in France. Assam is named after the Assam region in India, and Keemun is named after the Keemun region in China. The flavor of each tea determines where the tea is grown, in what climate and soil conditions, and how the tea is processed. Just like wine!

The Camellia Sinesis plant gives rise to more than 3,000 varieties of tea worldwide, each with its own specific characteristics, which can be roughly classified into six basic categories: white, green, oolong, black (the Chinese call these red teas), pu-erh and flavored. Some would also add the seventh category, blends.

And then of course there are countless herbal infusions and rooibos, informally referred to as tea, but unrelated to the tea made from the Camellia Sinesis plant.

White Tea

Delicate in flavors as well as color. The tea has a light slightly sweet flavor and a mellow creamy or nutty quality.

White tea is the rarest of all tea types, grown almost exclusively in the Fujian province on Chinas east cost. The name "white tea" comes from the almost colorless liquor, and from the hairs on the unopened buds of the tea plant, which gives the plant a whitish appearance.
White tea is the least processed tea

The leaves are picked and harvested before the leaves fully open, and when the buds are still covered by fine white hair. White tea has higher proportions of buds to leaves. The buds and leaves are naturally dried, using either sun drying or steaming methods before they are lightly processed to prevent oxidation or further fermentation. This protects the delicate flavor of the white tea, and also retains high levels of the chemicals responsible for the tea's health benefits. White tea has a high level of antioxidants and a low level of caffeine.

Green Tea
Different kind of green teas have different flavors. There is no "one" green tea taste. The flavor of green tea can be described as fresh , light, green or grassy. Some varieties have a bit of sweetness to them, and some are a little astrigent. Green tea is pale green to golden in color.

Green tea, is tea made solely from the leaves of Camellia Sinesis, that have undergone minimal oxidation during processing. After steaming and before drying, green tea leaves are rolled to give them the desired shape.

Green tea have a high level of cancer fighting antioxidants, and is rich in vitamins and minerals.

Black Tea

Black Tea
Black tea has a broad range of flavors, but is typically heartier and more assertive than green or oolong teas. It has a hearty amber color when brewed and contains more caffeine than the less oxidized teas. Black tea is the most common type of tea worldwide, and accounts for over ninety percent of all tea sold in the west.

The health benefits of drinking black tea may reduce heart disease risk due to its partial prevention of cholesterol absorption. Black tea is good for blood sugar level and blood pressure regulation, and fight against tooth decay.

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea is not something that can be easily described as it tends to fall somewhere between the flavor of green and black tea, but it has a delicate, refreshing and aromatic taste. The liquor is pale yellow, with a floral, fruity quality, and a hint of smoke.

Oolong is produced through a unique process including withering under strong sun and oxidation before curling and twisting.

It is rolled by hand or machine to bring the essential oils to the surface for oxidation. Then pan fried and allowed to partially oxidize. This process is repeated many times, until the desired level of oxidation is achieved. During this process the leaves may be rolled into long curly leaves or wrap-curled into small beads, each with a tail. Many oolongs are roasted after they have been oxidized in order to further develop their flavors and aromas. Oolong tea ranges from 10% to 70% oxidation.

Many of the health benefits of oolong tea are similar to those of green teas. However, the degree of oxidation somewhat trims down some of its health benefits.

Except for the antioxidants in the tea, oolong tea may help reduce cholesterol build-up in the bloodstream. It can prevent heart ailments, may promote healthier and stronger bones and fight against tooth decay.

Either you like it or not!
This tea have long been used in China for the medicinal benefits. Pu-erh tea is not for the unadventurous drinker, since it makes a strong aromatic cup of tea. Either you like it or not! But before judging your first experience with pu-erh tea, there are things to consider.

The tea comes in an enormous variety, not just dark or green, but in many types of both categories. Many types smell earthy or even a bit fishy. Don’t be discourage, the aroma is going to be very different than the actual taste in your cup.

Unlike other teas, which lose their taste over time, pu-erh taste is actually enhanced with age due to natural secondary oxidation and fermention. The older the better! And the older the tea, the more expensive.

Pu-erh has the ability to reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure. It is also widely believed in Chinese cultures, to counteract the unpleasant effects of heavy alcohol consumption.

Flavored Tea

Flavored tea is a well established tradition in China. While any tea can be a flavored tea, the more popular varieties for flavoring are black and green.

Tea can be flavored with every flavor imaginable, things from herbs, spices, flowers and berries to chocolate, mint, toffee pudding and red pepper . . . you name it!

Drinking flavored tea is a unique and fun way to experience tea, and with all the health benefits each cup of flavored tea has to offer, makes this a very popular tea indeed.

Blends are blending different teas together to produce a final product.

Rooibos also known as “Long life tea”

Rooibos tea is technically not a true tea. Rooibos tea is a herbal tea and is a member of the legume family of plants. The shrub can grow up to 2 meter in height, and produces small yellow flowers in spring through early summer. Only the twigs and leaves are used from the rooibos plant, and is harvested in the summer.
This herbal tea, which is also known as “Long life tea” grows only in a small area in the region of western Cape province of South Africa. It was first noted by the Swedish botanist Carl Peter Thunberg in 1772. A century later, a Russian immigrant Benjamin Ginsberg, realized its marketing potential, and in 1904, began offering the legume plant as an herbal substitute to tea.

Rooibos tea is used for its anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties. Consumption of rooibos tea may relieve fever, asthma, insomnia, colic in infants and skin disorders. Rooibos contains no caffeine and is low in tannin. The low level of tannins will prevent problems with iron absorption.

Rooibos Tea - A Nutritional Supplement
There are actually so many minerals in this herbal tea, that it can almost be considered a nutritional supplement: 
  • Alpha-hydroxy ( great for the skin ) 
  • Calcium 
  • Copper
  • Fluoride 
  • Iron 
  • Magnesium 
  • Manganese 
  • Potassium 
  • Zink
Rooibos has a distinctive red color, and its taste is sweet and has a delicious, slightly nutty flavor.


Herbal Tea
Herbal tea has been imbibed nearly as long as written history extends. Herbal tea is not coming from the Camellia Sinesis plant but refers to an infusion or tisane of dried leaves, fragrant herbs, fruit, flowers, seeds, roots . . . or other plant material.

A cup of soothing Chamomile

Varieties of herbal teas are practically endless, and because of their fragrance, antioxidant properties,therapeutic applications and vitamins the herbal tea is obviously a fast growing trend since the interest in a healthier positive lifestyle grows. They also suit the needs of those who wish to avoid caffeine.

Common herbal beverages are: 
  • Chamomile, well known for its calming and soothing effects. 
  • Mint helps calm the digestive system, and is useful for temporary relief of sore throat. 
  • Rosemary improves circulation and ease joint pain and headache pain. 
  • Rose-hip is a great source of vitamin c and antioxidant. 
  • Echinacea can be used to reduce the longevity of the cold and also ease the symptoms.

Well, there you have it, now you really know the facts of tea! 

Let January's National Hot Tea Month, be the beginning of many more tea drinking months ahead of us, which may provide us with a wide range of health benefits and increase the body's immunity to colds and flu. 
So why don't you do something healthy for yourself right now, and make yourself some tea.

Enjoy a nice cup of  tea


  1. What a beautiful display of teas in pictures. I can almost smell the aromas of all of them displayed here. I love tea and it's soothing, healing affects in my body. When I am stressed or tired I relax with teas. I use different ones for different reasons. Cammomile for sleeping, ginger for colds, flu. Nettle for prostrate, and so, so many more. I don't drink to much Black Tea due to its darkening of teeth, so I use it sparingly. Thank you my sweet writer for this wonderful post. Hugs

  2. Another great post, Sannel. Very educational and entertaining at the same time. As only an occasional hot tea drinker, your post has opened my eyes to the many different types of tea and the potential benefits of drinking it. You had already taught me about chamomile tea when I have trouble sleeping. I really didn't think I would enjoy it as much as I do and it does help, so thank you for that!

    They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks (at least, this old dog) but after reading this I can see I need to be a bit more adventurous and open to what tea has to offer. Thanks for sharing your abundant knowledge of and experience with us all.

  3. Another Favorite Sannel. Nicely done and well chosen. Any author of poetry or prose will fancy this. Well written offering favorable advise, with the power of Greek words, "I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgement, and I will do no harm or injustice to them," is shared willingly.

    I await the future of prose and poem of which these and of flora a tale of tales may be told. Plus, of these I now may choose which is best for ailments like this silly cold I've been blessed - giggle. These medicines cause sleep to fast and I think these teas much more pleasant.


  4. Vincent, my dear poet, I'm glad to hear you drink and enjoy tea and herbal tea. Tea sure is relaxing and soothing. Knowing of the many positive health benefits, makes this beverage even more enjoyable. Thank you for your lovely visit and beautiful feedback.
    Hugs to you,

  5. Rick, I knew the old saying; you can't teach an old dog new tricks wasn't true. I mean, if I can make you into a regular tea drinker, well, then there is proof that we can actually teach an old dog new tricks. . .
    Sorry, but I could not help myself, lol! Truce? I'm always so happy when you stop by, my dear friend. Thank you!

  6. Mitch, I'm so sorry to hear your cold is still bothering you. Fill up on Chamomile and Greek mountain tea and you shall be fine soon. I promise.
    Thank you for those lovely words, I truly appreciate them, and I truly appreciate your visit. Always!
    Take care my friend.
    Hugs to you,

  7. Tea is also my favourite drink and what an interesting post you have here.
    So interesting and I have learnt so much.
    I now look forward to reading many more posts by you.


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Thank you !