Tea 101

17 Feb

I figured this time I’d just give some general info about tea, based on what I’ve learned. (Since I may avoid hot water for a little while longer. Maybe.)

The summer before junior year, I worked for Argo Tea part-time while I was living at Lincoln Center. Their training involves a “UniversiTea”  module (super cheesy title, but a really fun place to work. Free tea all the time? I’ll take it), so most of the below information is what I picked up there.

There are many different kinds of tea, loosely organized into Black Teas, Green Teas, Red (Rooibos) Tea, White Tea, Herbal Tea, Oolong and this thing called “Mate” — which I’ll explain later.

Most teas — Black, Green, White and Oolong — come from a plant called Camellia Sinensis, and then are processed. Tea blends are any mixtures of teas — black teas with herbal flavors, green teas with herbal flavors, white tea and green tea mixed, etc.


Black teas — the most processed — are dried (withered), rolled (breaks them into pieces), and then they are put through the final stage of oxidation. Black teas are fully oxidized, whereas Oolong tea is oxidized for about half the time of Black tea — these leaves are NOT fully oxidized.


Green teas are not usually rolled after the initial drying period, and are steamed or heated again, and then dried and rolled. But they miss out on that initial oxidation, so they stay pretty earthy and unprocessed. White tea are the baby leaves of Camellia Sinensis — and they are only steamed and dried. If you’ve ever tried white tea then you know it’s quite earthy. Last time I had it, I’m pretty sure I described it as tasting like eating the ground. But a lot of people really like white tea; it’s really popular — and it offers a whole range of health benefits.

Black  tea has about 1/2 the amount of caffeine per cup of coffee (we’re talking an 8oz cup of coffee), and green tea has about 1/4 the amount. From there, you go down to 1/8 with white tea.

Now there’s also Red Tea, or, Rooibos Tea. Rooibos is not made from the same plant as the others, and instead from red bush which grows in Africa. I can’t comment on red tea, really. Sadly I’m not a rooibos person.


Finally, there’s herbal tea. Herbal tea is generally anything you see in the store that isn’t any of the previously mentioned teas. Chamomile, mint, raspberry, peach, hibiscus, etc…these are all examples of herbal teas. Generally speaking, herbal teas do not have caffeine.

Mate is the one exception to that rule.

Mate, commonly consumed in South America out of metal straws, comes from an herbal Yerba plant which somehow contains an insane amount of caffeine for tea. If you’ve ever heard of a “mate latte”, it’s usually made with a super-concentrated form of mate –like the boxes of chai concentrate Starbucks uses in chai lattes — that tastes sort of like chai. I’m using “sort of” loosely. Some people enjoy taking mate shots. But there’s also loose leaf mate, or mate tea bags, in case you ever want to try that. Oftentimes people who get jittery from coffee often like to switch to mate because it has about the same amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee, without the jitters. It offers a smooth caffeine boost.

There are tons of sites that give more in-depth info, but that’s just mostly what I’ve gathered from here.

And, in all seriousness, I’m still making hot water. Honestea…. (Argo taught me well).


One Response to “Tea 101”

  1. Emily 21/02/2013 at 12:30 am #

    I took a tea class, and this was a nice refresher (no pun intended!), I also love tea and definitely love all your tea-related posts.

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