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Types of Tea

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Let's start with a quick overview of what tea is and what it is not.

What it IS....... Tea, ALL tea, comes from the same plant....Camellia sinensis.  Sure, there are many varietals, but they ALL come from the same plant.  This is a sub-tropical evergreen plant that is native to Asia but is now grown around the world.

What it is NOT....... There are, however, many herbal beverages that are called "tea" that are in fact a TISANE because they do not contain any leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant.  So any beverage that does not contain leaves from this plant is not truly "tea".  A Tisane is an herbal beverage that may be made from flowers, leaves, stems, roots or fruits from plants other than the actual tea plant.

The tea plant is actually a tree that is kept trimmed back to the size of a shrub for easy plucking.  But this also helps to encourage more new growth and serves to remove any dead areas. The sinensis variety grows up to about 15 ft tall.  However, there are some very ancient trees in China that are over 100 ft tall.  Each plant can produce good tea leaves for about 100 years.  The assamica variety can grow as tall as 60 ft.  The sinensis variety doesn't mind cooler temperatures, whereas the assimaca variety prefers warmer climates.

Brewed tea (liquor) contains 3 main components:

  1. Essential Oils that contain all the aroma and flavor
  2. Polyphenols that contain most of the health benefits
  3. Caffeine which provides the energy boost one gets from drinking it.  Also found in chocolate, coffee, and Yerba Mate.

There are several different "classifications" of tea.  The classification is determined by the method and timing of harvest and the method of processing which will all be discussed on each type of tea page.  Tea purists really only recognize Black, Green, White, Oolong and Pu'erh (a Dark tea) as types of tea.  

So what is the caffeine content in tea?  This is really not an easy question to answer and not one that can be definitive by any means.  The amount of caffeine in a cup of tea varies with so many different factors involved.  How much tea leaf is used? How long did it steep?  How much water was used? What was the temperature of the water? Water quality? How was it harvested? And what region is it from?  There is no way to answer exactly how much caffeine is in each type of tea because it will vary too widely.  Typically, there is about half as much caffeine in a cup of tea as to a cup of coffee, regardless of the type of tea.  Most herbal tisanes are caffeine-free with the exception of Yerba Mate.

With that said, the caffeine in tea works different in the body than the caffeine in coffee.  With coffee you'll likely see a spike in energy or alertness with a crash and burn a couple hours later.  With tea it is slow and steady without the crash and burn effect.