Tea. After water, it's the most frequently consumed beverage in the world. But with so many different types of tea and so many choices, how do you choose which tea is right for you?

All tea is created equal --- well, true tea, anyway. All tea leaves come from the Camellia sinensis plant. The leaves are dried, processed, and doused in hot water to create the steamy beverage we are all accustomed to.

The leaves are primarily grown in China and India. Black tea, green tea, oolong tea and white tea are the classifications of true tea; they differ only in the method by which the Camellia sinensis leaves are processed after picking.1 The flow chart to the left illustrates the difference in processes that tea leaves undergo.

The terms "red tea" and "herbal tea" are widely used but misleading. Red tea is actually derived from a completely different plant, the South African Rooibos bush, and it is considered to be an herb, not tea. Herbal teas are usually called "tisanes" or "herbal infusions," because if the concoction does not actually contain tea leaves, then it is not a tea. Nonetheless, despite the inaccuracies, "herbal teas" such as chamomile and rooibos have become very popular in recent years. 1

In the past decade alone, tea sales in the United States rose from $1.84 billion in 1990 to an estimated $5.03 billion in 20028--- that's a very sizeable increase for 12 years, considering that a hot cup of tea is far from a hot new development. Clearly, the consumption of tea has become more than just a little girl's playtime activity. With so many options, it has become important to know what you're getting out of each cup of steamy brew.

This site was compiled by Amy Hanna, an undergraduate student at the University of Florida. Please send feedback to amyhanna@ufl.edu. Thanks!