Tea 101



History of Tea

The traditions and rituals of tea date back to at least 2737 B.C. in ancient China. A popular myth claims that tea was born when the Chinese emperor and herbalist Shen Nung was boiling water and leaves from a nearby tree fell into the water. He discovered that when the leaves were infused in hot water, the beverage created was delicious. The Chinese then went on to explore what they referred to as "tea mind" -  a calm, yet alert state they achieved when drinking this concoction. Once first discovered, tea was primarily used as a medicine first, and as a pleasurable drink second. Shen Nung would go on to encourage the Chinese natives to cultivate the plant which would benefit the entire nation and overtime become the Legendary Father of Tea. 


Tea would slowly start to spread throughout parts of China and gain popularity, especially in Japan where tea drinking became a formal ritual in their culture. The Europeans would be the next to learn about tea, with the Dutch being the first to taste the flavorful leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant. Once arrived in Europe, the British were soon next to find out and went all in on adapting this into their daily lives where it became an essential part of British social life. Tea would then soon find its way over to the United States, and eventually all around the world where it is now the second most widely-consumed beverage in the world, behind only water. Tea has changed vastly throughout the years with different countries producing different renditions, but one consistent fact is that all tea comes from the same species of plant, Camellia sinensis. 


Camellia sinensis is native to Southeast Asia, but is now cultivated in over 30 different countries. A plant that started as producing a single variety of tea now produces a wide range of teas thanks to production methods, growing and harvesting seasons, soil and weather conditions. A wildly broad range of different flavors and appearances of teas are now available worldwide, and tea is still commonly used for the same purposes that it once was. It is used to give you a boost of energy when you’re down, helps warm you up when you’re cold, and allows you to relax when you’re feeling stressed. Tea is a drink that many begin their morning with, and for others one they use to wind down and relax after a long day. 




Types of Tea

Black tea - China is known as the birthplace of black tea, where it is known as hong cha (or red tea) due to its reddish color. Black tea is a true tea that comes from the freshly plucked leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. The process of withering, rolling, and drying is done which oxidizes the leaf and gives the tea its distinct flavor and aroma. Black tea is the most popular type of tea, and it represents almost 80% of total consumed tea in the world. Many drink black tea as an alternative to coffee, and while it still contains caffeine, it is about half of what you would get in a regular cup of coffee. Black tea can be enjoyed both hot and cold and is often accompanied by the additions of sugar, honey, lemon, cream, and milk. Popular black tea you will find on Frontier Co-op shelves include: Kumaon, Earl Grey, and English Breakfast black teas. We source our black tea directly from the key tea-growing regions throughout the world, including China, India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. 



Black Tea


White tea - White tea is made from the very young, unfurled leaf tips of Camellia sinensis. The tea is harvested before it’s leaves fully open and the delicate young leaves and buds are still covered with soft, silvery white hairs, thus the name “white tea”. White tea is the least processed of all the true teas and is the closest thing to a fresh tea leaf, this gives it its subtle, slightly sweet, floral and grassy flavor. White tea contains about one-third the amount of caffeine that a cup of coffee would contain.


Green tea - Green tea is similar to black tea in that it is a true tea that comes from the leaves of a Camellia sinensis plant, however, green tea doesn’t undergo the same processing that oxidizes its leaves. Green tea is otherwise known as the unoxidized tea, where the leaves are plucked, slightly withered, and cooked to preserve the green quality and prevent oxidation. Once cooked the leaves are rolled and then fired to dry the leaves. Green teas have a grassy, brothy, astringent flavor. Green tea is believed to have many health benefits, and contain the least caffeine of all true teas which make it the perfect tea to enjoy at any point of the day. 


Green Tea


Chai - Chai is a special flavored popular Indian tea that is often made with black tea and infused with aromatic Indian spices such as black peppercorn, cinnamon, cardamom, and others. Chai is a shortened version of the word “masala chai” which in Hindi means “spiced tea”. Chai is a very flexible tea in that you can adapt it to suit your own preference. Brew your chai bold and heavy with ginger and black peppercorns, or make it sweet by adding cinnamon or vanilla. Chai is most often created with black tea, but can also be made using green tea. The caffeine content of this tea will vary depending on your use of black or green tea. 


Herbal tea - Herbal tea is not a true tea as it does not come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Herbal tea is brewed from herbs or a combination of herbs, leaves, bark, roots, or flowers to create unique flavors or desired health benefits. Herbal teas are also referred to as Tisanes, since herbal tea isn’t technically a tea. Tisanes are categorized by which part of the plant they come from, some of the most popular include: leaf, flower, bark, root, fruit/berry, and seed/spice tisanes. Popular herbal teas that fall into those categories would be chamomile, ginger, peppermint, and rosehip tea. These teas are often associated with health benefits, but can be refreshing, calaming, invigorating - or simply a delight to the senses. Herbal tea is a great way to enjoy a hot beverage and avoid the caffeine content as it contains zero caffeine. 


Herbal Teas


Oolong tea - Oolong tea originated in China and stems from the term “Wu Long” which translates to “Black Dragon”. Like black and green tea, oolong is a true tea that comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. The fresh leaves are withered for one to two days, then rolled to release enzymes, which allows the leaves to oxidize. The oxidation process is complex because it has the widest span of oxidation range of all the tea types. The flavor of oolong varies significantly depending on this oxidation process. When the oxidation process is stopped earlier it allows it to have more of a green tea character, but if the process is carried out longer it develops more into a black tea character. 



About Our Tea

Frontier Co-op is a leader in high quality, organic loose teas because we have been the leader in quality botanical products since our founding in 1976. And as a co-op owned by our customers, we do business in a way that reflects their values of honesty and responsibility. For high-quality loose teas that are ethically and sustainably sourced, Frontier stands apart. Frontier's diverse selection of carefully selected loose-leaf teas has been chosen to provide the best that the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, has to offer. Every container of every shipment of tea receives careful visual inspection and a thorough cupping. Our teas provide a clean, even leaf and an infusion that yields great color, aroma and flavor every time.  

Earl Grey Tea   Tea Farm   Tea Leaves

We are committed to ethical sourcing and have a wide selection of Fair Trade Certified™ teas. This means that the garden where the tea is grown meets specific standards for the wages, living situation, and working conditions of its pickers. With every tea purchase, a premium goes back to the tea workers' community so they can hire schoolteachers, build maternal health clinics, bring electricity to their villages, and otherwise improve their lives. Through programs like our own comprehensive sustainable sourcing program, Well Earth, and purchasing Fair Trade Certified products, we help growers develop certified organic, sustainable production methods and improve social conditions for workers and their families and communities. We're committed to providing sustainably sourced tea to our customers — products respectful of the environment and the people around the world who produce these teas. We deal ethically with our growers and their communities and work with them to preserve and protect their resources.


Loose Leaf Tea: 

Frontier Co-op loose-leaf tea is superior in flavor because whole, intact leaves retain the full components of the teas. They provide an infusion that allows the leaves of the tea to unfurl and release their full aroma, taste and goodness into every cup. Many of our finest black, green, oolong, white, and herbal teas are available as loose tea. Buying loose teas in bulk makes it easy to try a wide variety of teas and find those that best suit your taste.


Tea Bags: 

When you’re in a rush or on the go, but still want to enjoy a refreshing cup of tea, tea bags make the perfect alternative to loose leaf. Tea bags contain the ideal quantity of tea for any mug and are easy to store so you can enjoy tea wherever you go. 

Frontier Tea in Bulk: 

Already have favorite Frontier teas you love? Save more when you buy more with our bulk teas. Our wide variety of teas come in bulk 1lb bag packaging that allows you to refill your containers and cupboards when you need. Buying in bulk is not just a great way to save green in your wallet, it's also a green way to buy. Statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency show we generate about 80 million tons of waste from packaging and containers every year. This is almost 1/3 of the country's municipal solid waste. In addition to the waste products themselves, the manufacturing of them wastes energy and resources. When you buy in bulk and reuse storage containers, it's a positive contribution to our planet's health. Bulk buying isn't just a trend — it's smart shopping for both your pocketbook and the environment.



4 Ways To Make Tea



Steeping Tea

There is something special and comforting about brewing your own tea and taking the time to savor it. Here are some tips we recommend to make the most of your tea brewing experience and to end up with the best tasting tea. 


Tea leaves + Hot Water + Time = Tea. Seems easy enough right? Let us break it down for you. 


Water is key 

Water makes up 99 percent of your tea, so be sure to use fresh cold water from your tap, or water that has been filtered and purified. Never use distilled, tepid, long-standing, or pre-heated water as it will make your tea taste flat.


Turn up the heat

Heating your water in a teapot or kettle is the next step and this will vary by preference and by tea. For green teas, heat it to the point where the bubble just begins to form. For oolong teas, heat the water until the bubbles start to release and it is beginning to boil. For black tea, allow the water to come to a gentle boil. Some simple reminders for heating your water is to watch your temperature, timing, and proportions like you would when baking. 


Steep your tea

Once your water reaches it’s boil or your preferred temperature pour it directly over the leaves. You will want to use about one rounded teaspoon of tea per cup. Do not overpack the infuser, you’ll want the leaves to have enough room to unfurl completely to get the full taste out of the leaves. You can also simply steep the loose leaves and then pour the brewed tea through a strainer into a serving cup. Many whole leaves can be re-infused or steeped over and over again while continuing to get the health benefits as long as they continue to infuse flavor and color. For green tea we recommend about three to four minutes, and four to five minutes for oolong and black tea. Be sure not to over steep your tea however, as you will bring out the bitterness in the leaves. 


Enjoying your tea

Drinking your tea fresh will ensure you get the most potent flavor out of it. You can store tea after it is made, but after 24 hours it will start to lose that fresh taste it once had. Perfect tea is brewed one cup at a time, and it takes time to perfect your tea to your personal taste. Make your tea as light or strong, cold or hot as you want, it’s your tea, and your choice. 


Storing your tea

Tea absorbs moisture and other aromas very easily, so it's important that tea is stored in an airtight container, away from strong-smelling items. Loose tea should be stored in a cool, dry, airtight, opaque container. Tea tins with tight-fitting lids are ideal. Do not store loose teas in the freezer or refrigerator. The lifespan or shelf life of tea is always different depending on how the tea is stored, what kind of tea it is and other factors — however, most teas should store well for up to 1 year.


Tea FAQs

How should I store my tea?

Tea absorbs moisture and other aromas very easily, so it's important that tea is stored in an airtight container, away from strong-smelling items. Loose tea should be stored in a cool, dry, airtight, opaque container. Tea tins with tight-fitting lids are ideal.

How much caffeine is in tea?

This will widely vary depending on the type of tea that you’re drinking. Black tea contains the most caffeine of all teas with about half of what you would get in a regular cup of coffee, and herbal tea contains zero caffeine. 


Black: 40-50 mg per serving, ⅓-½ caffeine compared to 1 cup of coffee

Oolong: 20-40 mg per serving, ⅕-¼ caffeine compared to 1 cup of coffee

Green: 20-30 mg per serving, ⅕ caffeine compared to 1 cup of coffee

White: 10-15 mg per serving, 1/10 caffeine compared to 1 cup of coffee

Herbal: 0 mg per serving, 0 caffeine compared to 1 cup of coffee


What is the difference between true tea and herbal tea?

Herbal tea is not a true tea as it does not come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Herbal tea is brewed from herbs or a combination of herbs, leaves, bark, roots, or flowers to create unique flavors or desired health benefits. True teas come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant and undergo either an oxidation or withering process, followed by firing and drying to become a tea. 

How long can I store my tea and have it stay fresh?

The lifespan or shelf life of tea is always different depending on how the tea is stored, what kind of tea it is and other factors — however, most teas should store well for up to 1 year.

How does Camellia sinensis become tea?

Tea leaves are made up of mostly water like most plants. Once the leaves are plucked from the plant they start to wilt. Exposure to air for a period of time will result in the leaves dehydrating and start to turn brown, otherwise known as oxidizing. Once the leaf reaches its desired level of oxidation for the tea that is being produced, the leaves are then heated or fired to completely dry out the leaves. Once that is completed the leaves will no longer oxidize and you have your final tea product.

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