Tea is full of history, flavor, and mood. It’s a fascinating beverage. There are hundreds of variations, but all white, green, black, oolong, and pu-erh come from a single tree: The camellia sinensis.
Then you can get into the science of it. All the different flavors and aromas (around 600 have been identified) come from a mashup of six chemical compounds: color pigments, amino acids, fatty acids, sugars, caffeine, and polyphenols. Different combinations, different flavors. How cool is that?
Through the cultivated combination of climate, sunlight (full or shaded), time, damage (oxidation), and fixing technique (steam, dry heat, etc), you end up with an incredible world of choice, style, flavor, and color.
Even the brewing water temperature has a huge impact on flavor. Getting the water temperature right has more to do with enjoying tea than almost anything else. It’s why most people don’t like green tea — too-hot water scalds the tea and turns it bitter.
If you’re interested in reading more about the history, the science, the flavor profiles of popular variations, and the tasting notes of one of the true experts of tea, check out The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea book. The hardcover is beautiful, but it also comes on the Kindle.
It’s the best balanced book I’ve found on the subject. I hope it helps you appreciate tea in a whole new way.