The tea bush is botanically known as camellia sinensis. It is an evergreen plant with smooth, shiny, oval-shaped leaves and small white flowers.
The camellia sinensis is indigenous to China and parts of India. Left to grow wild, the bush can reach almost 20m in height but under cultivation, it is pruned to approximately waist level into a flattened top called a 'plucking table'. This makes it easier to pluck the tea during harvest.
Today, tea is grown in more than 25 countries around the world. Like wine, tea is greatly influenced in its character by the environmental conditions of the region in which it is grown. The climate, soil, altitude and amount of rainfall and sunshine create subtle differences in a tea's flavour and aroma.
In broad terms, however, there are three major types of tea depending on how the leaf is processed: black tea, oolong or red tea and green tea.
Black tea is a favourite in both western and eastern cultures. It develops its characteristic black colour because it is allowed to ferment fully. After fermentation, the tea is dried.
Black tea is robust and full-bodied and goes extremely well with milk. BOH's bestselling BOH Tea is an excellent example of black tea. Black tea is also referred to as Ceylon or English tea.
Oolong Most Chinese teas are Oolong teas. It is semi-fermented and rolled lightly until it turns red. It is then dried over a fire.
When brewed, the tea is usually a light brown-red in colour, hence its name. Oolong tea is drunk without milk or sugar.
Green tea is unfermented. It is first withered, then steamed. It is dried in the final stage.
Because it skips the fermentation process, the tea retains its distinctive green colour and has a lighter, more delicate flavour with a slight tang. The most familiar form of green tea is Japanese tea.