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New to Tea?

Tea has been enjoyed by mankind for thousands of years dating back to when it was first discovered growing wild in the mountains of China. Today, tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world behind water and is grown in over 40 countries around the world. In this introduction, we will walk you through what tea is, how it is produced, and how to brew it properly.

What is tea?

All the tea that you drink, whether it be white tea, green tea, oolong tea, or black tea (red tea in China) comes from one species of plant called camellia sinensis. Herbs such as chamomile, peppermint, or lemongrass are not technically considered teas since they do not come from the camellia sinensis plant but rather are considered herbal tisanes.

The difference between white, green, oolong, and black tea is determined by the processing of the leaf and the cultivar of tea plant that is used. Similar to wine and cheese, every type of tea has a unique process used to create the final product that you drink. In general terms, white and green teas are the least processed teas. White tea for example, is plucked and air dried, whereas green tea is plucked, withered, and then lightly steamed, roasted, or pan-fired to retain the green color in the leaves. Leaves used to produce white and green tea are handled very carefully to prevent any bruising of the leaves which can lead to them oxidizing or turning black.

On the other end of the spectrum you have black teas which are almost completely oxidized tea leaves. After plucking, the leaves are withered and typically rolled to bruise the leaves, then they are placed in a humid room to oxidize. Once the leaves are fully oxidized, they undergo a final drying phase.

In the middle are wu-long or oolong teas which fall between white/green and black on the spectrum. Wu-longs are partially oxidized and can appear either green or reddish/black depending on the level of oxidation.

Similar to a good cheese or good wine though, the cultivar of tea plant and origin are also important in determining which type of tea. For example click here to read more about what is required to produce an authentic white tea.

Why loose leaf?

As you may notice when you browse around our website, we only sell loose leaf teas. In the next section we will teach you how to brew loose leaf tea, but first we wanted to talk about why you might want to purchase loose leaf teas.

  1. Loose leaf tea tastes better! In order to get the tastiest and smoothest cup of tea, tea leaves need to have enough space to expand and allow the water to flow around the entire tea leaf. This cannot be done with a tea bag, so? most tea companies will chop up the tea leaves in order to allow the tea bags to steep more quickly. Unfortunately, chopped tea leaves lose flavor more quickly and also release tannins more quickly resulting in a bitter cup of tea.

  2. Loose leaf is more ecologically friendly. Many loose leaf teas are still produced traditionally by hand in their natural climates surrounded by native grasses and other plants. Most commercial teas are grown on large tea farms at low elevations in which all the native plant populations have been stripped. These tea plants are often heavily sprayed with pesticides.

  3. Loose leaf tea is very comparably priced. If the last thing holding you back is the price, consider this: high quality loose leaf teas have much higher levels of nutrition and flavor. That means that tea leaves can be brewed multiple times, rather than just brewing once and throwing them away. One ounce of high quality loose leaf tea can brew 30+ cups of tea! Compare that to a box of tea bags, which can only be brewed once, and you’ll see that the price difference isn't as much as you might have thought.

  4. Brewing Loose Leaf Tea

    Hopefully now you are convinced that loose leaf tea is the way to go, let’s talk a little bit about brewing tea. When it comes to brewing, many people become frustrated with loose leaf teas because of all the conflicting information about water temperatures, amount of tea leaves to use, and how long to brew the tea. We have skipped all that and opted for more concise and easy to follow instructions. Click here to help over to our “Brewing Tips” page.

    As far as what to use to brew tea, let us point you to our starter sets page. If you are looking for a great way to brew tea at home or at work and also try our top ten most popular teas, check out our Kung Fu Cup Starter Set. If you are looking for a great way to brew tea on the go, check out our Filter Tea Cup Starter Set. Lastly, if you are looking for a functional teapot to brew tea for 2+ people, check out our sitka tea maker.

    And if you are just looking for a good sampling of our teas, check out our tea sampler to try our ten most popular teas.


    If you haven’t already, go ahead and start exploring our website! Click here to learn more about the “Shang Tea Difference” and what makes our products unique. If you still have more questions, click here to check out our faq or send us an email at or give us a call at our store (816-421-2588), and we’ll answer your question as quickly as possible.

    Thanks, and happy tea drinking!