What is Tea?

TEA is the second most popular beverage in the world. Only water is rated higher in world consumption than tea. It is estimated that somewhere between 18 and 20 billion 6 oz. cups of tea are drunk daily on our planet. An extension of numbers would indicate that the United States only imports enough tea annually to keep world usage rates going for 2 days.

But get to the topic: WHAT IS TEA?

Tea is a beverage made from the processed leaf of a plant whose Latin name is: Camellia sinensis. Some of us who have been around for a long time in the tea industry still call it by its now out-dated name of Thea sinensis. But Camellia or Thea makes little difference; it is what comes out of the tea pot that is of importance.

Tea is a stimulant, a very mild stimulant, since it contains caffeine. It contains fewer milligrams of caffeine per equal-sized cup than does coffee, but more than cocoa. Tea contains small quantities of tannic compounds technically called polyphenols (not tannic acid used in tanning leather), vitamin A, B2, C, D, K, and P, plus a number of minerals in trace amounts and also aromatic oils. The tannin compounds and essential oils are, in the main, responsible for the flavor of tea, the color, the astringency (dryness), and the delightful aromatics. These last two substances or compounds join forces to produce the high, medium and base notes of tea that one experience (these are further described in the section of the site dealing with “How We Taste Tea”). These compounds which combine to produce the delicate and sought-after nuance flavors of tea cannot be determined chemically by analysis of the tea. All tea analysis comes out basically the same regardless of the variety or where in the world the tea is grown. It is in the well-developed palate of tea devotees that this decision of goodness is allowed to rest its case.

Tea is, for the most part, healthful to humans; however, individuals can misuse tea by drinking too much of it or making it too strong. As with many things we ingest, moderation and restraint are watchwords.