All tea comes from the dried leaves of Camellia sinensis, the tea plant that was first cultivated in China and later found growing in India. Chinese monks and European traders introduced tea to Japan, Sri Lanka, and other countries.
Tea is the second most popular beverage in the world, with water being the first.
Several factors affect the flavor characteristics of tea: where the tea is grown, the climate, soil conditions, and how the tea is processed.
Tea is harvested after each "flush" - the sprouting of the top two leaves and bud. The top two leaves and bud are hand-plucked and then processed into one of the four main types of tea - Black, Oolong, Green, and White.
Black Tea is withered, fully oxidized and dried. Black tea yields a hearty, amber-colored brew.
Oolong Tea is generally referred to as "semi-fermented" or partially oxidized tea. It principally comes from China and Taiwan (often called Formosa, its former Dutch name). To create oolong tea, the leaves are wilted in direct sunlight and then shaken in bamboo baskets to lightly bruise the edges. Next, the leaves are spread out to dry until the surface of the leaf turns slightly yellow. Oolong tea falls between black and green tea in taste.
Green Tea skips the oxidizing step. It is simply withered and then dried. Brewed green tea can range in color from very pale to pale green or golden. Green tea from Japan is steam-dried while green tea from China is pan-dried.
White Tea is the least processed. It is not oxidized or rolled but simply withered and dried by steaming.