Camellia sinensis is the botanical name for the tea plant. This plant originated thousands of years ago in southern China and has been cultivated and consumed for hundreds of years. Camellia sinensis is divided into two varieties: camellia sinensis var. sinensis, which grows primarily in China and other East Asian countries and has a milder, mellower flavour, and camellia sinensis var. assamica, which grows primarily in India and has a heartier, more robust flavour.
The camellia sinensis tea plant is used to make black tea, green tea, white tea, oolong tea, pu-erh tea, and purple tea. Different harvesting and processing methods give each of these teas their distinct characteristics. Some teas are steamed while others are pan-fired. Some are allowed to oxidise, while others are not. Some tea leaves are hand-formed into tightly rolled balls, while others are roughly chopped and air-dried in their natural shape. Some teas are harvested in the early spring, while others are harvested in the summer and fall.
There are numerous factors that influence tea's appearance and flavour, and specific tea processing methods have evolved over hundreds of years. Today, there are six major types of tea, each with its own distinct flavour and processing method.