1. All tea comes from the same plant.
True teas (like black, green, or white tea, oolong, and pu'er) all come from the same plant: Camellia sinensis. The "tea plant" is an evergreen shrub that grows in China, Japan, India, Kenya, Hawaii, and other places, and has been cultivated more recently in unusual places such as Scotland, The Netherlands, and even the cool climate of the Pacific Northwest.
All of those other tea's you've heard of - chamomile, hibiscus, whatever - those are not from the tea plant. They're steeped like tea, but they are not tea. Instead, we call those herbal infusions, or tisanes.
2. Tea is the second most popular drink in the world, after water.
Yes, the world's top drink just happens to be tea! It makes sense. Tea is speculated to have been first harvested in 2700 B.C., which is waaaay before coffee.
3. Tea has cardiovascular health benefits.
You might already know about antioxidants in tea, but have you heard yet about the flavonoids? According to these studies, habitual tea consumption may lower the risk for coronary heart disease, hypertension, and stroke. That's because the flavonoids in tea can help relax blood vessels and reduce plaque buildup in arteries. Amazing!
4. Loose tea is best stored away from light and moisture.
I know, I know - those big jars full of loose tea leaves you see at coffee shops look pretty cool! But, those are coffee shops, after all...what do they know about tea? Exposing your tea to air, light, heat, and moisture will degrade it; it'll lose it's freshness, it's color, and it's flavor. Don't make the coffee shop mistake!
5. You cannot "wash away" the caffeine in your tea.
It's a common myth that you can make your own decaf tea at home by extracting the majority of caffeine in an initial 30 second steep. Not true! Caffeine is released from tea leaves over time, and according to this study, it would probably take about 15 minutes to extract most of the caffeine (along with the healthy antioxidants and flavor).
6. Some green teas contain more caffeine than black tea.
Despite popular belief, oxidation (like you would find in a black tea) does not increase the caffeine in tea! It's all a matter of how the tea is grown, and how the tea is steeped (how quickly the caffeine is extracted). Higher concentrations of caffeine are found in younger tea leaves, shade-grown teas, and teas grown with fertilizers. Some teas like matcha, gyokuro, and silver-needle teas are considerably higher in caffeine than black teas.
7. Tea is one of three natural sources of the amino acid L-theanine.
That's right, L-theanine is only found in Camellia sinensis (tea), Boletus badius (an edible mushroom), and Ilex gauyusa (an herb from the Amazon). L-theanine is responsible with promoting alpha brain wave activity, which can stimulate creativity and a relaxed mental state. The combination of L-theanine and caffeine can decrease anxiety, improve concentration, and promote a mindful alertness.
8. You can get "tea drunk" (or "tea high").
Okay, maybe not like, actually drunk - but, do you recall the mad tea party of Alice in Wonderland? Or, when Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins sang, "I Love to Laugh" as the tea table floated up towards the ceiling? It's kind of like that.
Again, this is a side effect of the L-theanine. It's a psychoactive substance, meaning it can cross the blood-brain barrier and affect the central nervous system. Drinking too much of the right tea* can affect your sense of perception, and your mood, in positive ways. When I get "tea drunk", I feel light as a feather, like I'm floating on a cloud, and I love everything, and I'm giddy. I'm Dick Van Dyke singing, "I love to laugh!"
*Teas high in l-theanine are matcha, gyokuro, and some silver needle teas.