Canadian Vending

Features Coffee Service
Guest Column: Fall 2015

A tea primer

October 5, 2015
By Raelene Gannon

Rooibos, made from the African red bush, is not a true tea but an herbal tea. Photo: Fotolia

Tea is the most popular beverage in the world, aside from plain water. According to the Tea Association of Canada, Canadians drink almost 10 billion cups of tea each year (83 litres per person x 4 cups per litre x Canadian population 34,755,634 – those who are 15 and younger 5,644,800).  

In Canada, tea consumption in all categories is rising, especially in the area of green and specialty teas. There are literally thousands of different teas available, and the more you learn about them, the more you realize how much more there is to know!  

Whether you are in the vending market or are considering micro market opportunities, tea is here to stay and can present opportunities to your business. Learning more about tea can help you educate clients on its potential appeal to customers.

All tea comes from the Camellia sinensis bush, known as the tea plant or bush. The leaves and buds of the tea plants are plucked several times per year, usually by hand. Once picked, the tea can be processed into black tea, oolong tea, green tea or white tea.  


It’s the flavour opportunities that make tea so enticing and refreshing. Try a black tea in the morning, a green tea in the afternoon and then an herbal later on: that’s the way to enjoy tea throughout the day.

Althouh herbal tea is prepared in a similar way to regular tea, it is not really tea at all. To truly be tea, the leaves must come from the Camellia sinensis bush. Herbal teas usually contain herbs, fruits, spices, flowers or leaves from other plants, but no leaves from the true tea plant. As a result, herbal teas are more properly called infusions, or tisanes. Because herbal teas do not contain any tea leaves, they are nearly always caffeine-free. Rooibos, made from the African red bush, is also in this category. Herbal teas infuse to a reddish cup and tend to be a little sweeter. They also often are flavoured and have no caffeine.

All tea – whether it’s green, black, oolong or white – naturally contains caffeine. Since all tea comes from the same plant, it’s not surprising that all tea shares similar characteristics. The exact caffeine content of tea is a matter still up for debate. On average, green teas have slightly less caffeine than black. However, any specific green tea could have more or less caffeine than any specific black tea. Some sources cite dramatic caffeine differences between the different categories of teas, greatly confusing the matter.

Most researchers seem to agree that tea contains only about one-third of the caffeine found in coffee.  

All tea is high in antioxidants, but there is still debate over whether certain teas contain more antioxidants than others.  

Many scientific studies agree caffeine benefits our daily intake of other nutrients. The optimal times for consuming caffeine fall approximately between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and between 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. This means that your customers are likely go to get a hot beverage at least twice a day.   

Consumers like variety, we are a creative being, let’s help them be more creative with more options, more choice, more tea “varieteas” if you will!  

My preferred tea day looks like this: a black tea in the morning, a green or oolong tea just before noon, then one more green tea in the afternoon and finally an herbal tea after supper. Now that is a minimum for me but it is becoming more and more common as tea drinkers unite and show their true colours . . . or flavours, if you will. 

Raelene Gannon is a certified tea sommelier and owner of loose leaf tea manufacturer Tea and All Its Splendour. Raelene’s specialties include tea manufacturing, menus, food pairings and merchandising. She is the author of Tea: From Cup to Plate. To learn more about tea, visit

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