A complete Matcha guide

Everything about tea

Explore the origins of this most incredible leaf, how it's consumed, and some of the reasons why it's so popular

Where does tea come from?

The story goes back to 2737 (BCE) when the emperor of that time stumbled upon an amazing leaf (of tea plant) which accidentally fell into the water he was boiling. The rich taste yielded by the water compelled the emperor to initiate his research regarding this remarkable plant. Once he found that the plant possesses medicinal properties as well, along with having a great taste, he kept it rooted and watered. This accidental discovery privileged us with an amazing drink.

“Camellia sinensis” is the scientific name of a tea plant. Though originated in China’s south-western region (Yunnan Province), other countries also have native species of the tea plant. The word “tea” is specific to this evergreen forest shrub, however, it is often used for any botanicals or herbs which are stirred up in the water.

The leaves of Camellia sinensis are bright green, with glassy surfaces and serrated edges. They are similar to the Bay leaf in both size and shape. The plant of Camellia sinensis has two leaf varieties: small and broad. The small-leaf Camellia sinensis can grow into a 6-feet-tall plant whereas the broadleaf version (similar to ancient evergreen leaves of Yunnan) is taller and grows over a fifty feet.

tea field landscape
Tea plantations during sunset in China

Camellia sinensis (Chinese variety)


Smaller-leaved plants typically grow 1.5m–4.5m tall if left unattended.

Matcha Aroma, Color & Feel

Growing conditions

Plants grow best in cool temperatures on steep mountain slopes.

Matcha flavour

Aroma & taste

More tender leaves, that yield a sweeter, less bitter taste.


Because of the climate, the plant generally yields a maximum 5 pluckings in a year.

Varieties of Camellia sinensis

Chinese Camellia sinensis has a small leaf and can survive in cool temperatures on a steep mountain slope. On the other hand, Camellia sinensis assamica, native to the Indian’s region of Assam, has broad leaves.

Unlike the Chinese variety, the Indian Camellia sinensis variety cultivates at low elevation and tropical regions. Here, it’s worth mentioning that camellia sinensis, which grows in the Indian region of Darjeeling, is a Chinese variety because it has larger leaves and thrives in cooler weather and high elevation. When it comes to appearance, the assamica resembles closely the original (broadleaf) of Yunnan, whereas the sinensis (small leaf) variety evolved as it spread more from cooler areas towards tropical regions.

There are hundreds of sub-varieties under both of these major varieties which are called “cultivars” (which means cultivated variety). Cultivars are developed by farmers through the breeding of selected tea plants to achieve pleasant diversities in taste and aroma. Moreover, the tenacity of cultivation in the tropical or cooler environment is also achieved through breeding. Thus new varieties are added to both groups.

Camellia sinensis (Indian variety)


Larger leaves, plant will typically grow 9m–18m if left unattended.

Matcha Aroma, Color & Feel

Growing conditions

Plant grows best in high humidity, generous rainfall, and warm temperatures

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Aroma & taste

Stronger taste, malty and perfect for those black teas.


Under perfect conditions with proper fertilisation, can be harvested every 8–12 days.

Categories of Camellia sinensis

Interestingly enough, all major six types of tea (black, green, dark, white, yellow, and oolong) are made from the plant of Camellia sinensis.

Thousands of different types of teas are made from this same amazing plant. However, each type comes under the category of these six major types. The way the Camellia sinensis leaf is processed and manipulated determines the type and taste of the finished product.

What attribute determines the type of tea? The answer is the degree of polyphenolic oxidation. You may have observed a chopped basil leaf or a slice of an apple turning brown due to enzymatic reaction. The browning of the tea leaf is almost similar to such natural oxidation.

It involves a biochemical process that turns fresh tea leaves from green to yellow, from yellow to amber, red, and then finally brown. This process allows farmers to create hundreds of sub-categories with traditional styles and pleasant tastes.

tea plant leaves
Camellia sinensis
tea oxidation leaves
Drying tea leaves oxidation

Tea oxidation explained

To turn a green leaf into brown, flavoured tea with a pleasant aroma, a chemical process called oxidation is either initiated or prevented (depending on what type of tea is intended to be made). The process of oxidation revolves around two enzymes: peroxidase and polyphenol oxidase. The oxidation begins as soon as the tea leaves are plucked, crushed (to damage leaf cells and mix its components), and exposed to the air. This exposure to oxygen starts a chemical reaction. In this chemical reaction, polyphenols (catechins) are divided into two components:

  1. Thearubigins: responsible for reddish colour and depth of tea.
  2. Theaflavins (flavonoids): responsible for the taste, briskness, and yellow colour of the tea.

During oxidation, chlorophylls are converted in pheophorbide and pheophytins. Pheophorbides produce brown/black colour of dried tea leaf. However, the elements responsible for bringing aroma and flavour in the finished product are carotenoids, amino acid, and lipids.

When it comes to the choice of types of the tea (or different flavours of it), tea producers change the level of oxidation (either initiate, control, and halt it, or prevent it altogether). For example, black tea is made with full oxidation, oolong tea requires partial oxidation, and green tea is made through preventing oxidation.

What are the most famous teas?

oolong tea

Oolong tea is one of the popular types in Japan, Taiwan, and China. When it comes to its taste and colour, we find it a cross between green and black tea. It’s made through a partial fermentation (30% to 70%) and then drying it up. Another common technique used to make Oolong is baking.

Strange it may seem, but it is true. Oolong gives a wide range of taste and aroma that most of its sub-categories do not possess. We can find the proof when tasting Big Red Robe and Ti Kwan Yin. Both are Oolong teas, yet offer vastly different flavours.

oorlong tea leaves
Oolong tea leaves
black tea leaves
Black tea leaves

black tea

The most consumed type of tea which completes the breakfast of the western morning. It’s produced after full oxidation (fermentation), allowing the leaves to evaporate the water and absorb oxygen from the air, thus becoming withered and dried.

The output product is black and dark brown, resulting ina pronounced flavour and rich taste. Black tea, once prepared, adopts amber colour and provides pleasing taste with a refreshing aroma. Among its sub-categories, Darjeeling and English Breakfast teas are very popular.

Green tea

A lighter taste with a reduced amount of caffeine is produced in the cup of a green tea. Green tea turns pale green or light golden in colour once prepared. The process of its preparation is based on preservation: the leaves are prevented from oxidation and kept under rapid heating (with fire) to preserve its “greenness”.

After picking the leaves, they are withered and dried, skipping the process of oxidation. The preparation of green tea is rather easier as it only requires steeping the green leaves for a few minutes at a lower temperature.

green tea leaves
green tea leaves
white tea leaves
white tea leaves

White tea

White tea is made with the simplest way of picking and gently drying until they are done. As the white tea goes through a minimalistic process, the output product is sometimes slightly oxidized, which is accidental, rather than intentional. White teas are liked mostly in China only.

Where is tea grown the most?

These are the 4 biggest tea producing countries in the world, representing 75% of worldwide tea production.

top 4 tea growing countries



Sri Lanka


Tea blending

With the introduction of different types, tastes, and flavours of tea in various parts of the world, consumer demand changed. New marketing strategies suggested mixing different types of teas to produce a new and consistent product. This increased consumers’ interest in the market, and thus tea blending was introduced.

Tea blending basically means to mix varieties of teas taken from different regions to achieve a unique finished product with special characteristics.

Tea blending has the following objectives:

  • Breaking the monotony in taste, aroma, and flavour
  • Achieving a consumer-friendly price 
  • Meeting consumers’ expectations more easily 
  • Introducing new flavours
  • Achieving consistency in quality and taste
tea blending
tea cups and tea leaves

Health benefits of tea

Multiple scientific studies have found evidence that drinking tea can be highly effective in warding off some serious health conditions like obesity, cancer, and dehydration. Tea contains antioxidants which are helpful in boosting the overall health of the body.

4 health benefits of tea:

  1. Risks of heart diseases are reduced – key arteries are widened and blood flow is improved.
  2. Keeps the body hydrated – some scientists believe that drinking tea is nearly as useful as drinking water.
  3. Strengthens the teeth – tea also contains fluoride and prevents tooth decay.
  4. Boosts memory power – tea (green tea) strengthens memory cells and provide protection against Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Teabags or loose tea, which is better?

When it comes to the flavour, quality, and taste, a tea bag cannot match loose tea. Brewing loose tea allows the whole leaf tea to produce and enrich the flavour to its fullest.

On the other hand, tea bags are easy and convenient. Even if they simply cannot match the quality of loose tea.

4 benefits and reasons why loose tea is better:

  • Produces high-quality rich taste
  • Fully expands and allows the flavour to be extracted as a whole
  • Airtight packaging keeps the freshness contained
  • Can be steeped for longer to enhance the richness of tea

3 reasons to give tea bags a miss

  • The paper of the bags is often bleached and can disrupt the taste
  • Teabags are not very efficient at preserving the taste and richness
  • Lower-quality teas are more often preserved in tea-bags
tea bag

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