Making and drinking tea dates back millennia, the Chinese first began drinking it around 2000 BC. Tea was actually first used as a medicine, and many still see tea a natural remedy for common ailments. Real tea is always made from the leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. It’s an evergreen shrub that is native to Asia, and commonly referred to today simply as a “tea tree”. The various types of teas we consume like green tea, black tea, white tea and oolong are all made from the leaves of the same plant, C. sinensis. The leaves are simply prepared differently after being harvested. Herbal teas, by contrast, are not made from the leaves of C. sinensis at all. They’re made from the seeds, berries, fruits or roots of different plants though colloquially many around the world still refer to these drinks as tea. Herbal teas are also sometimes called herbal infusions or tisanes as a means to differentiate the two.
Tea spread from China to other Asian countries before making it’s way to Europe and. Portuguese traders and priests working in Asia discovered tea in the 16th century and brought it back to Europe. The British began drinking tea about 100 years later where it eventually saw its rise and fall. Given tea’s long history, it should not be a surprise that there are many types of tea that have developed uniquely around the world. Many cultures have introduced their own traditions around their native tea.
Yerba mate is a traditional herbal tea made from the leaves of a tree called Ilex paraguariensis, which is related to the holly. It is traditionally served in a dried gourd and sipped through a metal straw equipped with a filter, called a bombilla, that keeps the drinker from inhaling the leaves which are left in the gourd for the entire session. A ceremony may be held where a group will share the gourd and the drink will be passed around as a sign of hospitality. Important to note is you won’t be sharing your own drink as each individual will drink an entire gourd full. Yerba mate is a potent drink with over 80 mg of caffeine per cup – over twice what is typically found in black tea. Yerba mate benefits include high levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
As can be imagined, there are many types of tea in China. Pu-erh tea is sometimes called “brick tea,” because the leaves are compressed into small bricks or balls that can be crumbled into the cup and further break apart when hot water is poured upon them. Oolong tea is tea that has been partially oxidized or fermented, so the leaves have not turned completely brown. The leaves are then twisted or rolled into thin strands or tight balls. Depending on how oxidized it is, it can taste more like a green tea or a black tea. White tea undergoes very little processing, and the leaves are harvested before they have opened fully. White tea owes its name to the fine white hairs on the buds. The leaves are dried but not oxidized. The leaves in both oolong and white tea can be brewed loose or in tea bags.
The Chinese had developed black tea, which is made by completely fermenting tea leaves so they become dark brown and black, and they used it in trade. Assam tea is a black tea grown in Assam, which is the world’s largest tea-growing region. It has a malty and bold flavor that works well with sugar and milk. Darjeeling tea comes from the region of the same name, and produces some of the most high-quality tea from around the world, much of which can be attributed to the high altitude and organic nature of Darjeeling’s tea farms. Darjeeling tea is sometimes called the “champagne of teas.” India is also famous for their masala chai tea, which black tea combined with a select number of fresh spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and pepper.
Green tea is made by heating and drying the leaves before they have a chance to turn brown. Matcha is a popular type of green tea made from powdered leaves. It is often used in the famous Japanese tea ceremonies. Green tea benefits are impressive. It’s loaded with antioxidants, and promising scientific studies show it may have the potential to prevent heart disease and lower cholesterol.
Matcha is made using shade grown tea leaves, meaning they are kept out of direct sunlight before harvest. This process is used to slow down the growth process and alter the natural compounds within the leaves. After harvest the tea is rolled out and dried before being stone ground into a fine powder that can completely be dissolved in water. The result means all of the natural ingredients are being consumed not just those that are steeped from the leaves themselves, which delivers a higher caffeine content and greater nutritional profile than traditional green tea.
Tibetans like po cha or butter tea. The tea used is a brick tea from Pemagul, Tibet. It is traditionally made by churning the tea along with salt and yak butter. Butter tea is said to have a number of health benefits like providing energy and preventing chapped lips. Non-Tibetans who want to create a facsimile of butter tea can use a blender, a smoky black tea, butter and milk or half-and-half.
Tea became so popular that it led to the development of the afternoon tea, which can range from a sizable snack to a full-blown meal served with tea. Teas in the UK are generally black teas. Earl Grey is a black tea flavored with oil from the bergamot orange. English Breakfast is the most commonly consumed tea in the UK. It’s a black tea that works well with cream and sugar.
Iced tea was invented in the United States by a group of Indian tea producers at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. They badly wanted people to try their black tea, but it was a hot and humid summer day, so nobody wanted hot drinks. The Indian traders poured their tea over ice, which made it far more palatable, and people in the US now drink 40 billion cups of iced tea per year. It is especially popular in the southern states.
The United States, while being the home to iced tea doesn't have much in terms of a traditional tea comparable to the prevalence of matcha in Japan or English Breakfast in the UK. Instead, the US does what it always does and becomes a melting pot of all cultures.... As an American tea company, we’ve harnessed this very concept. Our first performance tea, Chocolate Hustle is a high quality blend of ingredients from around the world creating a signature blend of Yerba Mate, Peppermint, and fresh Cacao to fuel your 24/7 hustle.