A Tea By Any Other Name . . .
All tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, a warm-weather evergreen. How the fresh leaves of the tea plant are processed and their level of contact with oxygen determine resulting types of tea. During oxidation, tea leaves undergo natural chemical reactions that result in distinctive color and taste characteristics. Green tea is not oxidized at all—the leaves are steamed, rolled and dried while black tea is allowed to oxidize for two to four hours. Oolong tea falls somewhere between green and black teas, in that the leaves are only partially oxidized.
Tea is grown in thousands of tea gardens or estates around the world, resulting in thousands of flavorful variations. Like wines, each tea takes its name from the district in which it's grown, and each district is known for producing tea with unique flavor and character. Tea is also divided by grades, determined by leaf size. Smaller sized leaves are used in tea bags while the larger sized leaves can be found in packaged loose tea.
Herbal teas do not come from Camellia sinensis, but are an infusion of leaves, roots, bark, seeds or flowers of other plants. They lack many of the unique characteristics of tea and are not linked with the research on the potential health benefits of traditional teas.