All tea comes from a single plant, the Camellia Sinensis. An evergreen bush, tea is grown predominantly in Southeastern Asia. Harvesting, picking and processing the camellia sinensis bush yields 5 classes of tea: white, green, oolong, black, and pu·erh.
Although scientists believe Yunnan Province in China to be the birthplace of the tea plant, both Indian and Chinese mythology stake legendary claims to its discovery.
Known as the Divine Healer, second Emperor Shen Nung is credited with identifying the medicinal properties of hundreds of ingredients that later became the foundation of Chinese Medicine. It is said that he possessed the magical property of a transparent stomach with which he could gauge the effects of medicine on the body. One fateful afternoon in the year 2737 B.C., Shen Nung was boiling water and resting upon a wild tree when a slight breeze stirred the branches above and caused a few leaves to drift into the simmering cauldron. Intrigued by the tempting aroma, Shen Nung drank the liquid and felt revitalized and invigorated. As chance would have it, he was resting under a tea tree.
According to another legend, an Indian Bodhisattva by the name of Bodhidharma went to China to teach Buddhism in the 6th Century B.C.. One version of the story tells of his students becoming impatient and falling asleep during lengthy meditation. Leading by example, Bodhidharma began a nine year meditation near the entrance of a cave. After seven years he accidentally fell asleep. When he awoke he became angry with himself and sliced the eyelids from his face, throwing them upon the ground. Legend has it, that a tea plant grew where his eyelids fell. The monks of Zen buddhism would come to incorporate the use of tea into their rituals to attain a calm awakeness and focus during their meditations.
“Monkey-picked” is a term used today to denote high-quality tea, but like the origin of tea's use, the history of the term is shrouded in mystery.
One story tells of Buddhist monks training monkeys to fetch precious leaves from tea trees growing from the sides of treacherously steep cliffs. Another version portrays the monks throwing stones at monkeys perched high in tea trees, so that they would fall to the ground, breaking the branches and bringing the prized, top-most leaves down with them.
Today, most tea plants are pruned to waist high bushes and monkeys aren't used to pick the leaves. When someone refers to “monkey-picked” tea, they are simply referring to premium quality tea leaves.
Before the advent of tea cultivation, two genera of Camellia Sinensis thrived in the wild. Camellia Sinensis var. Sinensis (China bush) is at home on the foggy mountainsides of Southwestern China and produce a small, tender leaf during a short growing period. Separated from China by the Himalayan Mountains, Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica (Assam bush) prefers the jungle-like conditions of Northeastern India and yields a large, broad leaf that can be picked year-round.
Since the discovery of tea by the Western World in the 1600’s, tea has been transplanted and cultivated all over the world. Although still predominantly grown in China and India, tea gardens thrive in Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Kenya, Uganda, Argentina and Brazil. Experimental and small-production gardens are even being grown in Hawaii, Washington, and South Carolina.
The top leaves and bud of the camellia sinensis bush yield thousands of varieties of tea. Like different vines for different wines, tea farmers harvest different bushes for specific varieties of tea. For example, one cultivar may yield a Lung Jing Green Tea while another bush is best used for a Ti Kuan Yin oolong. Teas are generally named after the region they are from: Darjeeling from Darjeeling India, Yunnan from Yunnan Province in China; or named after the physical attributes of processed tea: Jasmine Pearls from the scenting and rolling of green tea, Silver Needles from the color and shape of budset white tea.
White tea (in one form or another) has been treasured for over 1,000 years as the finest of all teas and for a time, was reserved solely for Chinese Royalty. True to its history, white tea remains a delicacy to this day, albeit, one we can all enjoy.
Harvested in early spring, tender young buds are carefully plucked the day before they unfurl into leaves. The downy buds are briefly withered and then quickly air driedsteamed to prevent oxidation. As a result of minimal processing, white tea is valued for its high concentration of polyphenols. The flavor of white tea can be described as delicate, smooth, sweet, velvety, and reminiscent of fresh apricots.
The combination of a bud and top leaf from the tea plant provides the backbone for green tea. After picking, the tea begins its journey down the mountain where it will be thinly spread in the shade and left to air-dry. This primary drying is kept short to prevent oxidation of the leaf. The next step determines the characteristics of a green tea’s style. Working with fresh product, a team of firers will sift, roll, flatten, tumble, or shake the tea over a heat source until it is thoroughly dried and the flavor is locked in.
Careful manipulation of the leaves during the firing process results in distinctive shapes and flavors. Traditionally, this process was done entirely by hand in baskets and woks carefully placed over coal and wood burning fires. Today, large tumblers and ovens are employed during this phase to process large amounts of green tea for export.
The flavors of green tea are partially determined by region of growth and seasib of pick, but are also deapendent upon method of finishing. Pan-frying results in the toasty flavor of Long Jing, while steaming results in the sweetly vegetal flavors of Japanese Sencha.
It was once said that over 10,000 types of green tea exist in China alone. While this may be an exaggeration, if you haven’t found a green tea you like, chances are good that there is one waiting for you.
Jasmine Green Tea
Jasmine Green Tea is one of the oldest known scenting methods for tea. To obtain such a delicate flavor, night blooming jasmine flowers are picked during the day and laid over dried tea leaves. As the flowers open overnight and release their aromatic fragrance, the tea naturally absorbs the sweet scent. The next day, the flowers and tea are separated and the tea is allowed to rest and dry for several days. This process is repeated anywhere from 3-5 times depending on the quality of jasmine scenting (the longer the scenting the higher the quality). The whole process can take up to one month!
This process is often imitated with perfumes and "natural" or artificial flavoring, but results in unpleasant and sharp aromas and tastes. Choose real jasmine blossoms and scenting methods for the best experience.
Oolong teas are made from large, broad tea leaves that are picked later in the season than green tea. Oolongs can be made from the bud of the tea plant with up to three large leaves still attached to the twig, or from a single large leaf. Some oolongs are green in color and tightly rolled into little pellets, while others are brown, crimped, or loosely folded. What separates oolongs from other classes of tea is that oolongs are only partially oxidized.
Particular to the style of oolong being produced, a complex method of bruising the tea leaves is used to break down cell walls and begin the oxidation of the leaf. Low heat is then used to halt the process, allowing for the still pliable leave to be rolled, curled, crimped, twisted, and fired into their final form.
Different levels of oxidation and firing are used to bring out complex flavors and aromas that are uniquely “oolong.” Sometimes referred to as the “tea for connoisseurs,” oolongs possess aromatics that range from distinctively floral, to reminiscent of stone fruit. Flavors can be smooth, savory, full-bodied and rich; or delicate, with notes of orchid, honey, and exotic fruits.
Black tea results from the full oxidation of the bud and first two leaves of the tea plant. Like green and white teas, a high quality black tea is picked early in the spring and contains a high ratio of bud-to-leaf.
Unlike other teas, leaves destined for black tea are spread thickly during the withering process. An extended withering time (up to 18 hours) drives moisture out of the leaf and begins the conversion of delicate “juices” within the leaf into dark, complex liquoring compounds. The oxidation begins at this stage and continues into the rolling process. After being sorted by size, the withered leaves will be twisted, compressed, and rolled multiple times, breaking down cell walls and allowing enzymes to mix. special oxidation chambers are used to feed air through thin layers of rolled leaves to quicken the process. Once the tea master determines oxidation is complete and the flavors and aromas properly developed, the leaves will be dried, cooled, and packaged for sale
Grown and produced similarly all over the world, black tea is graded and sold by its size of leaf and point of origin. High quality black teas are of whole leaf with a high ratio of leaf buds (tips) to leaf. Terms like “Flowery Orange Pekoe” (FOP) are used to describe a full leaf tea with tips. Names like: Assam, Darjeeling, Yunnan, and Ceylon refer to the region where the tea was grown
Lower quality black teas are prepared from fannings and dust (not full leaf) will taste bitter and harsh. Full leaf black teas will have aromas that are clean, nutty, and bright, with flavors that are brisk, full, coppery and soft.
Pu·erh (pū-ĕr) is an ancient healing tea picked from 500 year old organic wild tea trees in the majestic mountains of China's Yunnan province. Pu·erh’s history began over 2000 years ago when tea was transported along five Tea Horse Roads’. The first and most traveled road began in the village of Pu Erh. In order to maximize their load, merchants compressed the tea, and to their surprise, the tea tasted better at the journey’s end and yielded additional health benefits. It is said the Last Emperor’s mother, known as the Beautiful Countenance, was cured of her gout by drinking Pu·erh
Pu·erh is processed differently than traditional white, green, oolong, and black teas. Pu·erh undergoes a unique fermenting process: once picked, the leaves are piled, dampened, and turned, over a 60-day period. The tea is then dried and ready to be compressed into bricks for additional aging, or left as loose tea, which Numi uses in its tea bags. The resulting taste is rich and smooth with hints of malt - a great alternative to coffee. Numi is first to bring you this revolutionary healthy tea in tea bags, aged compressed tea bricks and bottled iced teas.
Health & Vitality
The roots of these mature trees gather minerals from the earth. The unique fermentation process then acts on the nutrients that already exist in the tea leaves. Pu·erh has been purported in Chinese culture to aid digestion and metabolism, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, help with weight management and naturally boost energy (without the jitters).*
*Along with a healthy diet and exercise.
After tea leaves are picked and still moist, they are sewn with cotton thread together with flowers into various shapes and bundles (tea leaves may also be scented with jasmine blossoms before sewing for a more floral flavor). Some shapes take one minute to sew, while other more elaborate designs containing lilies, chrysanthemum, or osmanthus flowers may take up to twelve minutes. The sewn leaves and flowers are shaped into bundles or rosettes and then undergo the usual drying and firing process. They require boiling water in order for the leaves to expand and unfurl.
Tea is a misnomer for anything steeped in hot water. Teas come from the tea plant. “Teasan” is our term, from the French tisanes, for brewed herbal beverages; which, strictly speaking, are not from the camellia sinensis plant.
Herbal teasans are dried pure herbs, fruits, spices and flowers, and are naturally caffeine free (with a few exceptions like Yerba Mate). Grown all over the world, teasans have been steeped in hot water since the beginning of time for a warm soothing beverage or an inigorating boost to the day.
“Tea absorbs yesterday’s weather” and soaks in anything around it. It is recommended to store loose leaf tea in an air-tight container that is placed in a dry cool area away from light and strong scented items such as coffee or spices. Stored in this fashion, tea will remain fresh for approximately 6 - 9 months. We offer small and large storage containers.
Tea is one of the few beverages naturally containing caffeine and has been enjoyed for millennia as an enlivened boost with focused clarity. Unlike coffee which is absorbed quickly and can cause unpleasant jitters and an afternoon crash, the caffeine in tea provides a gentle and sustained energy balanced by the calming effect of theanine, another compound found naturally in tea leaves. This unique combination makes tea the perfect beverage to enjoy throughout the day.
A 6 to 8 ounce cup of tea generally contains between 15 and 70 milligrams of caffeine. Remember, 8 ounces of brewed coffee has a range of 95-200 miligrams, so you can be sure that your cup of tea will always be lower in caffeine.
We’re asked all the time how many milligrams of caffeine are in a particular tea, and the honest answer is: we don’t know for sure! The environment each year, location of the bush, processing style and method of steeping all has an effect on the amount in your cup, so we can only provide a range.
We use the lower, medium, high and higher caffeine labeling on our package based on past tests and the proportion of tea to ingredients in each blend. Our decaffeinated teas have 99.9% of the caffeine removed with a beneficial process known as effervescence that leaves no-residue and preserves the antioxidants.
Herbal teasans are derived from a variety of plants and herbs that naturally do not contain caffeine and are thus caffeine-free. One exception is the south American beverage Yerba Mate which contains a caffeine content comparable to coffee.