These days it seems that tea varieties abound. There is lavender tea, citron tea, lemon thyme tea, chamomile tea, and hibiscus tea. There is one thing all the aforementioned teas share; they are tea imposters. These are not true teas but herb and fruit infusions. Not to seem elitist, but all true tea comes from the Camellia plant (Camellia sinensis). This shrub produces leaves that are harvested and prepared to yield such products as green tea, white tea, black tea, Earl Grey tea, and oolong tea. I know. I can hear the voices of dissent welling up between the lines of this tea blasphemy. “Look, I have camellias in my yard and they are positively not tea shrubs.” But in fact, all camellias are in the tea family. Even though you can certainly brew a decent cup of tea from your resident yard camellias, they are of a different species, typically Camellia japonica. The Camellia japonica varieties and hybrids are bred for their ornamental floral beauty while Camellia sinensis strains are cultivated to bring out the best tea characteristics appealing to tea lovers. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as plucking a few leaves off your camellia and brewing up a concoction. At a minimum, the tea leaves must be dried prior to steeping. At a maximum, the leaves can be roasted, aged, or even fermented before brewing your beverage. In addition to preparation method, the timing of the leaf harvest and the leaf location on the plant has influence on the taste of the final product.
Loose tea leaves are considered the crème de la crème of the self-respecting tea drinking crowd and lawdy mercy, them there tea bags are filled with nothing but tea leaf “dust” that simply should not be suffered by decent folks. Tea dust was once considered a waste product by tea producers, until it was packaged in convenient flow-through bags.
Just for fun, the next time guests visit, ask them if they would like to have a brisk cup, or glass, of freshly brewed camellia leaves.
Tea Milkshake Recipe
- Brew q strong cup of hot black or green tea. (The longer it steeps the stronger the flavor.)
- Once the liquid cools, remove the bag and pour the tea into a blender.
- Add 3-4 scoops of good quality vanilla ice-cream and blend.
- For a looser consistency if desired, add a small amount of milk.
- Pour into a glass, enjoy as is, or add a favorite topping.