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Come in and savor the flavor. Begin your experience or enhance your knowledge of tea. Share a cup with a friend, have an impromptu tea party with your children, or just sit back and relax.

Different Tea, Different plant?

Does green tea come from a different kind of plant then black tea? Surprisingly, even some botanists thought so during the 17th and 18th centuries. Tea traders were not allowed to travel inside China and see how tea was produced. Tea plants and seeds were first obtained from China in the early 19th century, along with the know-how for manufacturing tea. Soon after the British discovered tea plants growing wild in India. It wasn't until 1905 that the tea plant received its official Latin name, Camellia sinensis. This single plant can be processed to produce green tea, black tea, or something in between.

Only one the camellia sinensis gives us tea leaves. The difference in color and flavor simply depend on how the leaves are processed. For black tea the tea leaves are exposed to air, or allowed to oxidize. Green teas are less processed to preserve the green color and delicate flavor. Oolong tea is between black and green.

Camellia sinensis is native to mainland South and Southeast Asia but today is cultivated across the world in tropical and subtropical regions. It is an evergreen shrub or small tree that is usually trimmed to below six feet in height when cultivated for its leaves. It has a strong taproot. The flowers are yellow-white with 7 to 8 petals.

The seeds of camellia sinensis can be pressed into tea oil, a sweetish seasoning and cooking oil. This should not be confused with tea tree oil which originates from the leaves of a different plant.

The leaves of the camellia sinensis are 4–15 cm long and 2–5 cm broad. Fresh leaves contain about 4% caffeine. The young, light green leaves have short white hairs on the underside are preferably harvested for tea production. Older leaves are deeper green. Different leaf ages produce differing tea qualities, since their chemical compositions are different. Usually, the tip (bud) and the first two to three leaves are harvested for processing. This hand picking is repeated every one to two weeks.

Kukicha (twig tea) is also harvested from camellia sinensis, but uses twigs and stems rather than leaves. This tea is commonly sold as a green tea but can be found on more oxidized blends.

Herb teas are not made from camellia sinensis and therefore not actually tea. Because they are "brewed" in a similar fashion they have been adopted as a herb tea.

Olivia Vidal
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Teaporia by Tea Time with Liv