So what is this stuff “tea” all about anyway? Besides being the second most consumed drink in the world, (behind water), what exactly is “tea”?
Limiting ourselves to the beverage, not the event, (as in, “meet me for tea this afternoon”), we can use this dictionary definition:
- a drink that is made by soaking the dried leaves of an Asian plant in hot water
- a similar drink that is made by using the dried leaves of another kind of plant
- the dried leaves that are used in making tea
Tea usually refers to a beverage made from Camellia sinensis, the tea bush, but other plants may be used instead. Tea made from a plant other than the tea bush is usually referred to as herbal tea, with a few exceptions. (E.g., red tea.)
By the way, the tea bush can be successfully grown in warm temperate climates around the world. For example, here in the United States the tea bush is considered hardy in climate zones 7 – 9. So if you live in the Southeast, as we do, you can grow your own tea. However, you’ll still have to process the leaves to make a good tea, and as this Wikipedia article explains, that can get quite intricate.
This may be as good a place as any to direct you, gentle reader, to the wonderful Tea page over at Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea, where not only can you read all about the fascinating topic of tea, but also learn what words such as “tisane” mean. (Hint: check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbal_tea.)
My earliest memories of tea are drinking the super-sweet iced tea made by my Mama, who having grown up in the southeastern part of the USA, considered iced tea and sweet tea synonymous. This was a bit at odds with our western Pennsylvania neighbors, whose iced tea was unsweetened and, to my taste, undrinkably bitter.
As I got older I discovered the soothing warmness of hot tea, which while unsweetened did not jar my taste buds.
Note that all these years, except for an occasional heavily sugared cup of oolong at a Chinese restaurant, I had been drinking black tea, and in fact did not even realize that other types of tea existed. I suppose it wasn’t until I got out of college that I first tasted green tea, which I thought tasted unpleasant and weak.
Once I began to “work for a living”, and realized that coffee and I do not agree, (I HATE the taste, and coffee makes me jittery), I turned to tea for my morning stimulation, and afternoon pick up to get me through a busy, hectic day.
Since I consume tea on a practically daily basis, I have spent many years now sampling different varieties, and trying different means of preparation. I have even visited the Charleston Tea Plantation, and sampled their teas. And if you should ever think that you could possibly exhaust the multitude of varieties of tea, consider that there is an insanely huge multitude of tisanes for you to explore and sample.
Come join me as we explore the wonderful Universe of Tea!