We, at the Boston Tea Company, take pride in learning more about tea and sharing our love of it! With tea’s healthful properties and history, it’s no wonder it is the second most consumed beverage in the world!
The story of tea: In the mountains along the Equator, there grows an evergreen shrub with five-petal blossoms that resemble wild white roses. Legend has it that, as far back as 2737 B.C., Emperor Shen Nung of China boiled the leaves of this remarkable shrub in water and drank the infusion. And, so began the ceremonious drinking of tea. This custom spread to neighboring Japan and all of Asia, eventually making its way to England and the European continent.
Frequently asked questions or FAQs
Where do you get your tea?
Our Master Tea Blenders travel the world to ascertain the finest of teas from the plantations of Sri Lanka to the mountainous regions of India and China. We reap our premium teas from South Africa as well.
What is tea?
Tea comes from a species of plant called Camellia Sinensis, found in the above-mentioned regions. The leaves from the plant are harvested, dried, and processed to produce different types of tea. Rooibos, or red tea, comes from the plant Aspalathus Linearis found in the Western Cape of South Africa. Herbal teas are made from dried flowers, fruit, roots, bark and herbs, and it is not derived from either plant.
How is tea harvested?
Harvesting tea is a laborious task that requires special training to yield the best results. When plucking the leaves for a high quality tea, a harvester takes the bud, and the second and third leaves, only. This is called fine plucking. The mature leaves are sometimes discarded to give each bush a pruning to enable nutrients to transfer into new growth.
The best climate conditions for the Camellia Sinensis plant to grow are usually those places with a higher altitude and where there is plenty of rainfall. It also seems preferable if there is cooler weather and misty mornings to shield the sun, which helps the bush to mature more slowly.
A typical tea bush will generally produce about 3,000 tea leaves a year. With these 3,000 leaves, only about 1 lb. of fully processed tea is made.
Once harvesters have collected tea leaves into baskets, the leaves are taken to the factory for processing. There, the steps for processing depend on the type of tea desired.
How is tea processed?
The processing of tea is really considered the “art” of tea. It is during processing that the many subtleties in taste, body, and overall character of tea is created. Tea experts examine the raw, green leaves and decide if, and how much oxidation (or fermentation) should take place before drying them out. Tea leaves have enzymes in their veins. When the leaf is broken, bruised, or crushed, the enzymes are exposed to the air, resulting in oxidation – much like how an apple turns brown when it is cut and left out for a while. The amount of oxidation depends on how much of the enzymes are exposed and for how long.
What are the different types of tea?
There are four main types of tea of the Camellia Sinensis plant. They are black, oolong, green and white teas. At the Boston Tea Company we sell Rooibos and Herbal Tea in addition to Black, Oolong, Green, and White Tea.
Black tea is the most consumed of the four types of teas. It has the strongest of flavors and undergoes a more complete oxidation process, which can take anywhere from 2 weeks and up to 1 month.
Oolong tea undergoes partial oxidation during tea processing. It is described to be between black and green teas. After the leaves are plucked, they are laid out to wither for about 8-24 hours. This allows for most of the water to evaporate. The leaves are then tossed into baskets causing the edges of the leaves to bruise. This bruising results in only partial oxidation of the leaves since just a portion of the enzymes are exposed to the air. Next, the leaves are steamed to neutralize the enzymes and stop any oxidation. Oolong tea can have varying degrees of oxidation. Some are closer to black teas while others are closer to green. The last step is a final drying of the leaves.
Green tea is not oxidized. After the leaves are plucked, they are (sometimes) laid out to wither for about 8-24 hours. This releases most of the water. Then, to neutralize the enzymes and prevent oxidation, the leaves are steamed or pan fried. The leaves are then rolled up in various ways and tightness. Lastly, a final drying takes place. Since no oxidation occurs, the tea has more of a green appearance.
White tea, like green, is not oxidized. However, white tea is the most delicate of the processes; which starts with the tightly rolled buds of the Camellia Sinensis plant. To prevent oxidation, the leaves are immediately fired or steamed once they’ve withered (air dried) for a period of time. There isn’t any rolling, breaking or bruising during the processing of white tea. The dried buds have a silver-like appearance because the tiny white hairs of new growth are still present.
Rooibos or ‘red tea’, is harvested from the Aspalathus Linearis plant found in a small region of South Africa. It is plucked during the second year in the summer. Its shoot-tips are chopped and water is added to begin oxidizing. It can take from 8-24 hours to complete; then, the leaves are sun dried and sorted. The drying is monitored to prevent overoxidization.
Herbal tea or Tisane, an English word originating from the Greek word ptisane, is made with fresh or dried flowers, leaves, dried fruit, fruit oils, seeds, or roots. The process involves pouring boiling water over the plant parts and letting them steep for a few minutes. Then, seeds and roots are boiled on a stove and strained. These herbal infusions come in a variety of flavors.
How do I brew tea?
All tea is brewed differently, according to taste and which type of tea. It is important to use cold, filtered water for boiling. We also recommend rinsing out your tea cup or tea pot with warm tap water before pouring in the hot water to help sustain the tea’s temperature longer. Click here to go to our brewing instructions page.
Where should I store my tea?
Tea should be stored in a cool, dark and dry place to preserve its quality.
Is loose tea better than tea bags?
Loose tea is whole leaf. When it is brewed, there is a stronger flavor extracted from the tea. Tea bags are rich in flavor and not as strong because the leaf is cut and bagged. All of our loose tea and tea bags can be used multiple times during one sitting. For loose tea, measurements can be adjusted according to personal taste.
Which teas are caffeinated?
All tea, except Rooibos and Herbal Tea, is caffeinated. Rooibos is naturally caffeine-free, and herbal tea does not contain caffeine. There are different levels of caffeine in tea based on how it is processed. To learn more about caffeine in tea, click here to go to our caffeine information page.
What is Chai tea?
Chai, rhymes with tie, is a rich, complex beverage that is made up of a savory combination of spices, milk, and sugar. For centuries, chai has been enjoyed in many parts of the world, especially India, and it is becoming more popular in the U.S., with chai lattes being served in coffee and tea houses nationwide.
Chai is basically a strong brewed black tea with milk and sugar, seasoned with such spices as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pepper, and ginger. It is traditionally served hot and sweet – the sweetness aids in bringing out the full flavors of the spices.
Is tea Kosher?
Ninety-nine percent (99%) of the Boston Tea Company’s teas are Kosher certified. You can identify our Kosher teas by our products’ labels with either the “Star K” or “Circle U” certification logos. For more information, click here to go to our Kosher page.
Is tea Gluten-Free?
All of our tea at the Boston Tea Company is free of gluten, which is a combination of proteins found in wheat that can affect people with allergies. In some cases, gluten is used in powdered form as a stabilizer in such products as ketchup or ice cream. To learn more about gluten, click here to go to our Gluten-Free page.