All tea comes from the same plant – Camellia Sinensis. The leaves of this plant are dried out and processed so that they can be distributed to consumers like you! The many varieties of tea (white, green, oolong, yellow, & black) are all from the very same Camellia Sinensis plant. The tea varieties are created through differences in the processing methods.
Other tea options, such as flavored teas are made by adding additional ingredients to the leaves during processing or by blending ingredients into the finished product. Every tea and tea blend can be steeped in hot water to create a delicious and caffeinated beverage full of antioxidants!
The differences are entirely in the processing methods of the Camellia Sinensis leaves! Leaves for making black tea are withered and rolled before being fermented and oxidized. Leaves used for green teas are simply spread out and lightly heated (using either steam or pan-frying) to prevent the oxidation process.
Oolong teas are somewhere in-between black tea and green tea. The leaves begin the same fermentation and oxidation process as black tea, but are heated (like green tea) part-way through the process so they end up only partially oxidized.
Fun Fact: The tea we use in Capri Cream was heated using steamed milk (not water), which gives the “Milk Oolong” such a creamy texture.
Most “herbal teas” and “caffeine-free teas” are in fact not tea at all, since they typically do not contain any part of the Camellia Sinensis plant. Such herbal teas are in fact better called “tisanes,” which is a French word used for herbal infusions. Tisanes usually have a base of dehydrated fruits blended with dried flowers, herbs, and spices.
Because tisanes do not contain tea leaves, they are less sensitive to brew times and most will not become bitter with oversteeping. Although they are not technically “teas,” the ingredients still follow the same process of being chopped, dehydrated, and brewed in boiling water. And all tisanes, like tea, can be steeped in boiling water to create a refreshing beverage that (unlike tea) has absolutely no caffeine!
According to Chinese legend, the Emperor Shennong discovered tea by accident in the year 2737 B.C. when some leaves from a wild tea tree blew into his pot of boiling water. He found the aroma of the brew inviting, tried a sip, and ended up drinking the whole brew. Tea became very popular in China, who began a large international trade that made the brew popular all over the world.
Tea used to be the largest and most valuable commodity exported by Britain into the United States. Then the British government ordered a specific tax on tea, which resulted in the infamous Boston Tea Party and lead to the Revolutionary War. Tea became viewed as “unpatriotic” in the U.S. for a long time and consumers gravitated towards coffee instead. Fortunately, tea has begun to experience a newfound popularity in the United States over the past century!