Almost anything that can be steeped in hot water and drunk has, at some point, been described as 'tea'. However, all true teas are actually made from the buds, leaves, and stems of a single species of amazing plant. This plant - known by its scientific name Camellia sinensis - comes in a range of varieties and subvarieties that can look and taste very different. From the manicured tea hedges of India, to the wild tea trees growing on the side of the Wuyi mountains in China, an astounding diversity of teas are cultivated and celebrated all around the world.
Teas made from herbs such as mint and chamomile are not technically 'tea' as they contain no Camellia sinensis. Some teas, such as Earl Grey, contain both Camellia sinensis and other plant material, such as bergamot oil, flower petals, or dried citrus peel.
Pure teas contain only camellia sinensis and come in a wide range of styles and quality. Supermarket tea bags are pure tea but low quality, as they typically contain only 'fannings', or crushed tea leaves sourced from large commercial plantations. Single origin teas, however, are much more likely to be grown on small tea farms and processed by hand to produce distinctive, delicious brews.
All teas sold by Athena Teas are 100% pure, single origin, artisinally-produced teas.
Why do we insist on pure, single origin teas?
At Athena Teas, we believe that the Camellia sinensis plant is unrivalled in terms of its sheer range of taste, aroma, texture, and effect on the mind and body. True tea can be grown and crafted to be rich and creamy, heavy and mineral, or light and floral. It can soothe you on a hot day or revive you on a chilly morning. Too often, teas are flavored or blended in order to mask poor quality leaves. By letting the individuality of each tea shine, our tea drinkers are able to sample the best teas on the market and learn to appreciate what thousands of years of tradition has to offer.
Scented or Flavored Tea?
There is some confusion out there about what is and is not a scented tea. A scented tea is a pure teathat has been naturally scented using traditional methods, such as by allowing the tea leaves to absorb scents such as smoke or floral aromas over a period of time. It is not a flavored tea, that has other things, such as essential oils, herbs, fruit, or spray-on flavors, added.
A good example of the difference is jasmine tea. Nearly all modern jasmine teas have jasmine flowers mixed in. Manufacturers do this because it is a quick and easy way to suggest the presence of jasmine. The jasmine scent doesn't actually come from the flowers, though. Instead, jasmine extract is added so that consumers think - between the smell and the petals - that they are getting 'the real deal'. Unfortunately, jasmine tea made in this way is actually lower quality than traditional jasmine tea. The jasmine extract has been artificially preserved, so the fragrance is less refined (more likely to be 'perfume-y') and washes away after the first steeping. Traditionally scented jasmine tea involves laying the tea leaves over trays of fresh jasmine flowers. The leaves then absorb the fragrance of the jasmine and undergo drying to ensure that the extra moisture they absorb from the fresh flowers is removed. These steps of scenting and drying may be repeated many times until the ideal scent is achieved. This kind of process results in a much more elegant, pure jasmine scent that lasts over the course of many steepings. And of course, no jasmine flowers actually appear in the final tea!