Tea was originally called tu, although the mistaken brushstroke of an ancient Chinese scribe soon added the name cha. The scientific name of the plant is camellia sinensis. The variant native to China is sinensis, while the Indian version is assamica.
At first, the Chinese boiled their tea with whole leaves. As time progressed, whisking grounds into a fine foam became popular, and this was the version of tea that the Japanese first drank. Finally, by the time the drink came to Europe, tea was steeped, as it still is today.
The variation between different kinds of tea--black, oolong, white and green--results from different levels of oxidation. Black teas are fully oxidized, or exposed to air until they ferment; oolong varieties are partially oxidized, and green and white teas are unoxidized. Teas get their distinctive flavors from growing, picking and processing methods, as well as other added flavors and spices.
Today and throughout history, tea is and was truly a global commodity. Although it is grown mostly in Asia, Africa and South America, tea is enjoyed on every continent. It has changed history, played a crucial role in global trade, and affected every culture it has touched.
Created by Sam Savidge and Katrina Keegan 2013