What Is Tea Anyways? Where Does It Come From? How Is It Made?

Lynn Maidment blog What Is Tea

These are questions I frequently get asked all the time.   A lot of people think black tea, green, oolong, purple  and white tea comes from different plants.  But they actually all come from the same plant or varietals.  These plants are commonly called a tea tree, tea plant or tea shrub.  There are different varietals of the camellia sinensis which grow in China, India, Africa and even the United States, UK and Portugal.  We however commonly get our teas in Canada from China, India and Africa.   

Each and every tea can be different.  Just like wine production it all depends on the amount of sun, heat , water and soil conditions.  So, each and every year a tea from the same farm could be different.   That is what makes tasting tea so interesting each year as the new harvest is brought in and processed.  You’ll never know what it will taste like.


Each and every tea variety is processed differently which gives you all of the wonderful varieties.  It all depends on the how much oxidation or little oxidation which will provide you with a lovely black, oolong, green, purple or white tea.


Black tea is first spread out and withered so that it can be processed without the leaves tearing.  Then they are put through rolling machines to release all of those lovely oils and flavours from the leaf, which will ultimately be the flavour and colour of the liquor in the final product.  Then they are exposed to oxygen which is the oxidation process and then they are dried.  Black tea contains approximately 45 grams of caffeine.  

The brewing process is simple.  Use 1 teaspoon of loose leaf tea to eight ounces of 205F boiled water.  And brew for 3-4 minutes and remove the leaves.    Tip for the best cup of black tea is to let your boiled water sit for a couple of minutes.  If you pour just boiled water over your tea leaves, there is a chance of burning the leaves.  This is why you sometimes have bitter tea. 


Oolong tea has such a wide variety of tea which is in between a green and a black tea.  Oolong is a semi oxidized tea which is between 10% - 85%.  More oxidation the richer the tea.  It’s all in the skill of the growers and skilled tea makers.  Tastes can vary from a very creamy milk oolong to a roasted nutty oolong.  There are so many health benefits with oolong it’s so refreshing and complex.   Oolongs are basically produced the same way as black tea, but they are not fully oxidized.  Brewing oolong tea is easy.  Use 1 teaspoon of loose leaf tea to eight ounces of 190F boiled water.  Brew for 3-4 minutes.


Green tea is first steamed or pan fired to stop any oxidation and then they are dried, so the leaves retain the beautiful green colour and vegetive flavour.  Now the flavours can range from earthy to seaweed flavour.  It all depends  on the growing conditions.  Japanese greens typically can taste like seaweed.  Green tea ranges from a light golden colour to a green.

Green tea contains approximately 28 grams of caffeine.  The brewing process for green tea is a bit different than black.   Use 1 teaspoon of loose leaf tea to eight ounces of 180F boiled water.  Brew for 2-3 minutes and remove the leaves.  Save the tea leaves and rebrew them.   Water temperature for green tea is important.  Don’t use scalding boiled water because you’ll definitely burn the leaves and will not have a tasty tea.  If you don’t have a temperature controlled kettle.  Turn off your kettle just before it starts that rolling boil and let sit for a few minutes then pour over your tea leaves. 


Purple tea is a new variety of tea which grows in high altitudes in Kenya.  It has all the same health benefits of green tea with less caffeine.  Purple tea is purple because it’s protecting itself from the UV rays of the sun.  Kenya is the only country that grows this beautiful tea.  Purple tea is very high in anthocyanin just like blueberries.  Purple tea is produced the same way as green tea.  Contains approximately 9 grams of caffeine.  Use 1 teaspoon of loose leaf tea per eight ounces of boiled water 175F and brew for 2-3 minutes.


White tea is one of the most delicate teas.  It is minimally processed.  It, however, is one of the most labour intensive teas to pick.  The buds of the tea plant are typically harvested before they open into  tea leaves.  The young buds have white fine hairs that is why it’s called white tea.  The buds are quickly dried and not allowed to oxidize.  The simple processing and no oxidation make for  one of the most delicate and fresh tasting tea.  White tea has the lowest caffeine levels of all teas.  It contains approximately 5-15 grams of caffeine.  Use 1 teaspoon of loose leaf tea per eight ounces of boiled water 180F and brew for 3-4 minutes.  It’s also important not to use scalding boiled water you will burn your tea leaves.


There is another plant that is grown in North America which is yaupon.  Pronounced yo-pon.   Yaupon holly is a shrub native to North America.  It grows from the eastern coastal region of Virginia down to Florida and west to Texas.  The leaves of the yaupon have been brewed into tea by Native Americans for centuries and recently became popular with modern tea drinkers.  Yaupon is grown and processed 100% naturally and all that touches it is sunshine and rain.  Yaupon is a sustainable option for your caffeine consumption.  Our medium roasted yaupon has an amazing aroma with a hint of maple and beautiful golden liquor very similar to black tea with some of the same amazing health benefits.  Yaupon contains about the same amount of caffeine as green tea.  Brew yaupon the same way as black tea.  And what’s great is you can rebrew and it doesn’t have tannins, so you won’t over brew.  Yaupon is such a great alternative to black tea for your afternoon tea.



Rooibos is pronounced Roy-Boss is an herbal plant which is produced from the Aspalathus linearis shrub or red bush which is grown in South Africa.  It’s toasted and ground to a lovely red herbal tea.  Rooibos is not a tea because it does not come from the tea plant.  It’s an herbal tincture.   Rooibos is caffeine free and can replace your favourite caffeinated for an evening or afternoon drink. Brew 2 teaspoons per 8 ounces of boiled water 205F for 5 – 10 minutes.  Rooibos has many nutrients which make this a healthy alternative to tea.  Looking for a soothing and delicious hot drink try rooibos.

Rooibos spelled Roy-Boss is an amazing herbal tea which is produced from the Aspalathus linearis shrub or red bush.  It is grown in South Africa and is one of the most popular herbal drinks.  South Africans enjoy rooibos just like black tea drinkers with milk and sugar.

It's toasted and ground to a lovely red loose tea.  Rooibos has a sweet and delicate and earthy flavour.  What makes this a special drink is its caffeine free and can replace your favourite caffeinated beverage in the evening or any time of day.  

Rooibos just like other herbal teas may help with stress relief. The act of making this tea and enjoying this warm and soothing drink will help you calm down before you go to bed.

What nutrients does rooibos contain?

-Iron, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese, zinc. magnesium and alpha hydroxy acid and antioxidants.

Looking for a soothing tea for when you have cold.  Try our Grand River Chai Rooibos add a bit of honey and sit back and relax and recover.

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