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What is Tea?

The Tea Tree: Tea (Camellia Sinensis) is a species of fruit tree. When allowed to, it produces small yellowy-white flowers and small, hard-shelled fruits (nuts). The leaves are leathery and dark, and are evergreen. In cultivation, tea trees are regularly pruned to prevent flowering and formation of fruit, and to limit the size of the plant. The two uppermost leaves and the newest bud are picked, usually by hand, for the tea harvest.

There are two common varieties: Camellia Sinensis v. sinensis which is a smaller and more cold tolerant plant common to China; and Camellia Sinensis v. assamica which is a larger, tropical form. Tea culture around the world is based on these two varieties.

Tea Production: Remember that tea is a manufactured product. It is not simply harvested and sent to market. It takes many hours of labor and a great deal of skill to produce fine teas from baskets full of fresh leaves.

Real Tea vs. Not Real Tea: For the record, if it wasn't made from Camellia Sinensis leaves, it is not "tea". That said, there are many excellent infusions on the market that make enjoyable hot or cold, sugar free beverages. Most of these are blends of various spices, herbs, fruits, leaves, and bark. They are often called herbal teas and more correctly called tisanes. Two herbals, Rooibos and Honeybush, produce an infusion very similar in taste and color to a light black tea, but caffeine free. These two are often flavored as if they were a true tea.