Facts about tea – white, green black…caffeine and antioxidants!

Here are some interesting facts about tea.   I have always been a tea drinker – it’s part of my heritage!  However, all my life I thought that the different types of tea (white, green, black… just to name a few) came from different plants and from different countries.  A visit to an unusual tea farm (and winery) on the summit of Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii with an amazing tour by its’ owners proved me wrong.

Facts about tea

Tea plants on the Volcano

There are many different ‘types’ of tea – but tea fanatics recognize four.   The most expensive is called silver needle.  You then have white, green and black tea – and all of these come from the same plant. (Update:  there is also many ways tea can be processed to form other major groups, such as fermenting leaves etc)

Facts about tea – where do the different types come from?

When a tea plant (Camellia sinensis) produces new growth it creates a thin needle shaped leaf that unfurls into a full leaf.  Then it grows a new needle leaf and so on.  The unfurled leaves are soft for a few days then start to harden off as they grow.  Eventually the leaf is quite hard and gets a serrated edge.   It’s from these first few leaves, before they become hard, that the four tea types are harvested.

The growing zone of a tea bush.  The thin unfurled leaf in the center is the silver needle.   The large leaf on the right has started to get it's serrated edges...and so may be past its 'tea making prime'

The growing zone of a tea bush. The thin unfurled leaf in the center is the silver needle. The large leaf on the right has started to get it’s serrated edges…and so may be past its ‘tea making prime’

Silver needle tea – is made when just the unfurled needle is picked alone.   This tea is the most expensive.  It has the most antioxidants and the least caffeine.   Its taste is very subtle.  Sometimes this tea is called white tea.

Green tea – is made from the unfurled needle and the next oldest leaf.  This tea is still rich in antioxidants and lower in caffeine.

Back tea – is made from the unfurled needle and the next three or even four leaves (as long as the leaf is soft and does not have a hard serrated edge).  It is richer in caffeine and lower in antioxidants.

Facts about tea – how is it processed?

Because of the way tea has to be picked to form the varieties, it seems to be hand picked around the globe by skilled pickers.

No matter what type of tea is picked, it is then left in the sun to wilt for around an hour.  It is then taken out from the sun and dried.  In some paces the drying is done on racks in a shed.  In other places it is done by a mechanical drier that cuts and dries the leaves.

Facts about tea – why is some tea so expensive!

Silver needle tea is expensive because it is made up of ONLY the first growing unfurled leaf…and nothing else.  You need a lot of those single leaves to make a cup!   Green tea uses two leaves..black tea uses three or more leaves.   And so black tea is cheaper to produce.

Black tea - grown on an active volcano!

Black tea – grown on an active volcano!

Tea on a volcano?
Yes – tea is grown on one of the most active volcanoes on Earth – Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii!   You can visit and buy tea directly from the source (and get a tour as well)   Visit them online here. 

So I hope you find these facts about tea interesting!   Next time you have a pot of tea, think back to where it came from and how each leaf was hand picked!

…I think its time for a cuppa right now!




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About Gaz

I'm an Australian transplanted to rural Maine where I live on a small property with my wife and two youngest children. Life about family, work and trying the make the planet a better place for everyone.
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3 Responses to Facts about tea – white, green black…caffeine and antioxidants!

  1. Justin says:

    Good stuff! You should go into the training of these specialists that pick teas..

  2. Su Ba says:

    Hey, you were visiting my neck of the woods! I’m about 45 minute car ride south of Volcano. Quite a few people are trying their hand at growing tea here. In fact, I’ve got a goodly number of tea plants on my homestead, but only enough for our own use. As you said, it takes a lot of tiny leaves to make cups of tea.

    • Gaz Gaz says:

      Hi SuBa

      I drive through Kau a few times this last trip…mostly to avoid the Iselle damaged areas in Puna and closer to Hilo. Hope your places was not affected by the hurricane.


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