Tea is an amazing drink offering a third of the caffeine in coffee for a gentler morning jolt and still enriching the body which allows you to drink more of it and more often-- especially good as most tea leaves can be steeped several times before depleting their flavor. The substance l-theanine, an amino acid that studies have linked with feeling of calm and wellbeing, can also be found in different types of teas making them a much healthier choice than other caffeinated drinks.
Tea is the most popular drink in the world after water and is grown in every continent, save Antarctica. With hundreds of styles and varieties and different methods of brewing, there’s no right or wrong way to drink tea. Every type of tea (green, black, oolong, etc) is a product of the same plant, a shrub called Camellia sinensis that’s native to a band of subtropical land stretching from eastern India through northern Laos and Vietnam into southwestern China. Each tea develops its own unique flavor identity through different harvesting and processing methods (some teas are steamed, some are pan-fired). Herbal and flower teas are different but we’ll explain those below. Here we explain the difference in origins and flavor profiles of green tea, matcha, mate, flower tea, and pu-erh.
Made from the camellia sinensis plant, green teas often brew up a light green or yellow color, and tend to have a lighter body and milder taste and contain about half as much caffeine as a quarter that of a cup of coffee. Green tea is primarily produced in China and Japan but processed differently. Japanese green teas are steamed soon after harvest in order to halt oxidation and they tend to have a slightly savory, oceanic quality, and brew up a light emerald green. Japanese teas are sometimes also shaded for several weeks prior to harvest, which increases their levels of chlorophyll, caffeine, and l-theanine. Chinese green teas are usually pan-fired after harvest in order to stop the oxidation process. These teas tend to be milder than Japanese green teas, and brew up a soft golden color with a light body and a mellow flavor.
Also derived from the plant camellia sinensis, matcha is basically green tea in powder form. It is much more concentrated than regular green tea so you only need ½ to 1 teaspoon per cup. Another cool difference is that regular green tea goes through much longer processing during production which involves the leaves being left in the sun. On the other hand, matcha bushes are kept specifically under cover to increase the chlorophyll and amino acid levels in the leaves. In terms of taste, they both have slightly herbal-grassy undertones. However, matcha has a much richer, more buttery flavor.
Green tea and matcha share a lot of the same health benefits, however, because of its level of concentration, Matcha has 10 times the nutritional value of regular green tea and up to 137 times the amount of antioxidants, antioxidants which are known to help fight free radicals.
Mate is derived from a South American herb grown primarily in the subtropical rainforests of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay. Although not related to the camellia sinensis tea plant, it does contain caffeine. Mate is cultivated from the leaves and young twigs of the mate tree. It is dried, shredded and aged for year in cedar containers before becoming yerba mate. Traditionally prepared in a hollow gourd by adding leaves and hot water to the gourd to steep. The tea is then consumed through a filtered straw known as bombilla. In many South American countries, mate is shared among a group of friends by drinking and refilling the same gourd as it is passed from person to person. Mate can also be prepared in the same way as other teas and tisanes, by steeping the leaves in an infuser or filter in a mug or pot.
Known in South America as “the drink of the gods” by indigenous people, it has now earned a reputation as a “super drink” around the globe. Considered to be a mild alternative to coffee, with more caffeine than most teas minus the unwanted jitters and other side effects of coffee. It is available in both full-leaf loose form and in tea bags, and can be enjoyed on its own or with a splash of steamed milk for a tasty yerba mate latte.
Flower or Blossoming teas are noted more for their appearance than their flavor. Many modern flowering teas contain a single flower or multiple flowers inside of the bundle of tea leaves. However, not all flowering teas contain actual flowers-the name “flowering tea” can also refer to the opening of the tea leaves during infusion. They are typically made of tea leaves (mostly tea buds) that have been sewn by hand into a shape such as a sphere/globe, peach, oval, disc, rosette, mushroom, cone, or heart. Most flowering teas have a fairly neutral flavor that can be described as slightly floral or vegetal. This is because the shaping process comprises the flavor of the tea. Some flower tea are scented with jasmine flowers or otherwise flavored to compensate for the lack of flavor in the tea leaves.
Flower teas originated in China centuries ago and were blended with tea and other herbs to create tasty and medicinal brews, however, the flower tea styles we see today developed in China during the culture of the 1980s. While some herbal teas are flower teas, not all flower teas are herbal teas. Flowers can also be added to a caffeinated blend for a soothing floral note. Some teas, like chamomile and hibiscus, are a single-ingredient flower herbal tea while others herbal blends feature dried flowers in addition to other herbs and spices. You can use edible dried flowers to create your own homemade tea blend as long as you make sure that the flower petals are safe to eat and free from pesticides (...or you can skip the process and try our flower teas here).
Pu-erh tea is an aged, partially fermented tea that is similar to black tea in character. They brew up an inky brown-black color and have a full body with a rich, earthy, and deeply satisfying taste. They are fairly high in caffeine, containing about half of a cup of coffee. Initially processed in a way similar to green tea, the pu-erh leaves are harvested, steamed or pan-fired to halt oxidation, and then shaped and dried. After the leaves dry, they then undergo a fermentation process. Pu-erh originated in the city of Pu-erh in the Yunnan province of China, and is still primarily produced in the same region today. Like other types of specialty foods, such as champagne or parmesan, only teas produced in Yunnan province can officially be called pu-erh. However, other provinces including Hunan and Guangdong provinces also produced similar aged teas.
Whatever your flavor or brewing preferences are, rest assured that you will find the right cup of tea for yourself. Browse our flower teas and find out more about our flavor profiles and benefits.
Herbal and flower teas are my favorite :)