All teas are produced from the “Camellia sinensis” tea plant, an evergreen shrub that grows in tropical and sub-tropical climates. Tea is grown in dozens of countries around the world and, as is common with fine wine and specialty coffee, it is often identified by the country or region in which it is grown.
Teas may also be blends of teas from more than one region or type. In addition, there are herbal and flavored “teas” that may contain Camellia sinensis teas but also contain other flavorings and botanicals such as flowers, fruits, leaves, bark, herbs, roots, and/or seeds.
There are hundreds of tea varieties and cultivars but teas are typically grouped into one of five basic types: black tea, oolong tea, green tea, white tea, or pu-erh tea. Tea leaves are processed after picking and the degree of contact with oxygen determines the types of tea. During oxidation, the tea leaves experience natural chemical reactions that result in distinctive taste and color characteristics.
The taste characteristics of the tea in your cup depends on many of these factors, including the variety or cultivar of the tea plant, origin, terroir (i.e. characteristics of the geography, climate, soil, elevation, etc), and how the tea leaves are processed after they are picked.