Knowledge Center

The world of tea is a big one. During our travels, we have tasted thousands of cups of tea, witnessed tea processing methods, experienced an endless variety of tea cultures, and much more. We are happy to share some of that knowledge with you here.

What is Tea?

Tea is made from leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which is a warm weather evergreen shrub of the Camellia family, indigenous to both China and India. The finest whole leaf organic teas use only the top two leaves and bud of the tea plant (yep, that's where our name comes from). 

When left alone in the wild, the Camellia sinensis can grow quite tall, up to 30 feet or more. But for cultivation of tea leaves, the bushes are mostly kept trimmed for easier harvesting. A typical tea bush produces around 3,000 tea leaves per year.

Tea Types: Tea, like wine, always comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. It is in the way that tea is processed that makes it a black tea, green tea, or white tea. Red teas and herbal teas, meanwhile, are actually not tea at all. Rather they are simply herbs, fruits or spices - often called “tisanes”.

How Tea is Made

Pluckers are the beginnings of a great cuppa' tea. Moving around the garden to harvest different areas every 6 to 14 days, depending on the season, the plucker's skilled hands are the key to getting "good leaf." And good leaf is the key to a better cuppa' tea. From the field, tea is brought to the "tea factory" usually on or very close to the garden.

Black Tea requires the most complex processing method. After being plucked, the leaves are withered by being laid on a bed of forced air for about 8 hours, removing just enough moisture to allow the leaf to be rolled without breaking. Then rolling tables are used to curl the leaf and speed the oxidization or “fermentation” process. Next, tea is spread out in climate-controlled "fermentation rooms," where it gets darker and more flavorful. When the tea has reached its flavor "peak," it is “fired” – heated to dry the tea and halt oxidation. The art of tea making requires the tea maker to judge the oxidation time correctly, so the tea can be fired at its most flavorful moment.

Green Tea is steamed, roasted or fried after it’s plucked. In Japan, tea is steamed, lightly rolled and then fired, giving the tea a very light green color and a vegetal flavor. In China, most green tea is pan roasted instead, producing tea that is less green and more brown in leaf color and in the cup. Because green teas are processed less than black teas, the "fermentation" process is less complete so they tend to have less caffeine.

White Tea, so called because of its very light color in the cup, is air dried and fired at a low temperature. The best white teas are long-leafed, often including just the buds or "tips" of the tea plant.

Finally, experienced tea tasters “cup” each crop of tea and taste it to evaluate its overall flavor, texture and aroma.

Tea Preparation

Steep Time: It’s really a matter of personal preference. Whole leaf teas take a notably longer time to reach their optimum flavor. Our general rule of thumb is 4 to 5+ minutes for herbal tea and black tea and 3 to 4 minutes for white tea and green tea, which can become bitter if over-steeped. Try steeping these for 2 min, then start sipping every 30 seconds until you find your ideal flavor. Traditional paper tea bags have a much shorter steep time - 2 min or less - because the cut of the tea is much finer.

Steeping Temperature: If black and herbal teas are not steeped at hot enough temperatures, they can lack the full depth and breadth of flavor. Meanwhile, for green and white teas, adding water that’s too hot can scald the tea and release an off flavor. The basic rule: Steep black, herbal and red teas at full boil (around 208˚ - 212˚F) and green and white teas just off-boil (around 170˚ - 185˚F). Don’t forget that altitude affects your boil temp. Where we live, at 6,600 feet above sea level, water boils at 200˚F (which means we often burn our mouths on that first sip of tea at sea level).

Preparing Loose Tea: Use 1 teaspoon of loose tea per large cup (that's how the teaspoon got its name!). Or use a kitchen scale to measure out the perfect cuppa’. We recommend around 2.5 or 2.7 grams, depending on the type of tea and personal preference.

Tea Tips

* Try infusing tea in cool water. Add a sachet or to two a glass jar in your fridge and leave overnight. Or pop one of our Purpose-Filled Teas in your water bottle and start sippin'.

* When possible, use filtered water as the minerals in water absolutely affect the tea’s flavor.

* Many teas, like our Jasmine Petal green tea, can be steeped multiple times. Notice how the flavors change with each “wash” of the tea.

* Use traditional paper tea bags instead of whole leaf tea, if you don’t have access to fully boiling water. You’ll still get a decent brew out of a more finely cut tea with less-than-boiling water.

* Try steeping Japanese-style greens or white tea at a very low water temperature (140˚F) for a long, long time. This will give a nice gentle flavor with low caffeine release.

* Sensitive to caffeine? Smaller tea leaf, hotter water, and longer steep will all result in higher caffeine extraction. Even decaf teas contain small amounts of caffeine. However, herbal “tisanes” are naturally caffeine-free.