Tea is the processed leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. Camellia Sinensis is an evergreen shrub indigenous to Southeast Asia that thrives in subtropic and highland tropic regions. The leaves and buds (and sometimes even the stems) of Camellia Sinensis are harvested and processed in various fashions to produce the range of tea varieties available today (such as black, oolong, green, white and pu-erh).
With the popularity of herbal infusions in today’s marketplace (such as chamomile and peppermint), a whole gamut of brews (both iced and hot) have come to be referred to as “tea.” Technically speaking, however, only those beverages derived from the plant Camellia Sinensis should be referred to as real tea.
To distinguish them from true teas, herbal infusions are often referred to as tisanes (pronounced TEE-san). Today, Americans consume more than 50 billion servings of tea annually (85% of which is on ice!).