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Celebrate The First National Tea Day With These Tea Facts

Tea Plantation
[1] A tea estate in China. While China is the world’s largest tea-producing nation, it keeps most of what it grows for its own consumption (photo © The Meaning Of Tea).

[2] The top three leaves of the bush, called “two leaves and a bud,” are the only leaves used in premium tea (photo © Tea USA).

Glasses Of Black Tea
[3] Depending on where it’s grown, the same Camellia sinensis plant yields teas with different flavors, aromas, and colors (photo © National Honey Board).


January 12th is the first-ever National Hot Tea Day, declared by the Tea Council of the USA, a trade association.

Tea is the second most-consumed beverage in the world, after water. So have a cup as you read this:

Black, green, or white, all tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant (photos #1 and #2), a warm-weather evergreen. There’s one slight exception and one larger one:

  • In the Assam region of northeast India, the local variation, Camellia assamica was found to produce a finer leaf tea in that environment.
  • Herbal teas, discussed in the fifth bullet below.
    Whether tea is black, oolong, green, or white depends on how the fresh leaves of the tea plant are processed after they are plucked and; most importantly, their level of contact with oxygen.

    During oxidation, the tea leaves undergo natural chemical reactions that result in distinctive color and taste characteristics.

  • Black tea is allowed to oxidize for two to four hours.
  • Green tea is not oxidized at all—the leaves are steamed, rolled, and dried.
  • Oolong tea falls somewhere between green and black teas, in that the leaves are only partially oxidized.
  • White tea is not oxidized at all, and in fact, is plucked in the spring before the leaf buds even unfurl.
  • Herbal teas do not come from the tea plant Camellia sinensis but are an infusion of various leaves, roots, bark, seeds, or flowers of other plants. While they lack the caffeine of tea, they also are not associated with any of the potential health benefits of traditional teas.
    Tea is grown in thousands of tea gardens or estates around the world.

    Along with wine grapes, coffee, cacao beans, and other agricultural products, local soil and climate result in corresponding flavor, aroma, and color variations (photo #3).

    As with coffee, each tea takes its name from the area in which it’s grown, and the areas in turn are known for their distinctive and uniquely flavored teas.

    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.

    While China is the world’s largest tea-producing nation, it keeps most of what it grows for its own consumption.

    The second largest consuming nation, India, is the largest exporter, followed by Sri Lanka, Kenya, Indonesia, Japan, and Taiwan.

    The largest importing nations are the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Russia, the United States, and The Netherlands.

    As with all foods, you can buy the average, the sublime, or something in-between. If you love a good cup of tea—or a tall frosty glass of iced tea—you’ll appreciate the difference between fine, “gourmet” tea made from top-quality whole leaves and mass-marketed tea bags produced from bits and pieces.

    A tip: When you buy higher-priced teas, first taste them plain, without milk or sweetener. The finest teas should be drunk black (plain) to appreciate their nuanced flavors and aromas.

    FINAL TIP: Don’t toss the leftover tea in the pot—pour it into ice cube trays. Tea ice cubes won’t dilute your iced tea. (Our favorite ice cube tray is the ISI Orka Ice Cube Tray—read our review to see why.)

  • A Year Of Tea Party Ideas
  • Brewing The Perfect Cup Of Tea
  • The History Of Tea
  • How To Avoid Cloudy Iced Tea
  • How To Brew Iced Tea
  • How To Plan An Iced Tea Party
  • Pairing Tea With Food
  • Tea Facts
  • Tea Glossary: Tea Types & Terminology



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