From the Orient to the living rooms of England, tea is one of the most enjoyed beverages. This drink has a long history that goes way back. If you are interested in tea drinking then you might be interested in knowing more about it. We have gathered some of the important things that you ought to know about it.
What is tea in the first place?
Tea is a drink that is made from soaking the leaves, buds and even twigs of the plant Camellia sinensis or the tea plant. The soaking in hot water can last anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. The leaves and buds of the tea plant would have to go a certain process before it can be ready for steeping and be used for preparing drinks. The leaves would have to undergo a fermentation process.
The length of the fermentation process that the leaves have undergone would determine the color of the resulting tea. White tea for example is the variety that has undergone the least amount of fermentation. What is known as black tea is the kind that has fermented the most.
The tea leaves are harvested and then they are made to undergo fermentation. The fermentation process can be stopped by heating. The heat stops the fermentation process. During that process flavors and spices can be added in order to further enhancement of the tea taste.
The Camellia sinensis plant has two varieties. These are the var. assamica and the var. sinensis. When westerners first came across the tea plant in China, they called it “sinensis.” In Latin, this means “from China“. They assumed that the tea plant could only be found in China, but they soon realized that it was not really the case. It was soon found that there was another variety that can be found in the Indian region known as Assam. It is now widely accepted that the drinking tea originated in the area where India, China and Burma intersects. The modern cultivated tea plants are pruned for easy harvesting. But if left uncultivated these plants can grow very tall. The assamica variety for example can reach a height exceeding 60 feet.
A Brief History of Tea
Legend says that it was a Chinese emperor who discovered tea as a beverage. It is said that he accidently discovered the use of tea for beverage when some leaves fell on a pot of boiling water. It was noted by ancient Chinese authors that tea has a bitter flavour but it was highly valued because of the calming effect that it has on the drinker.
The legend about the Chinese emperor being the first one to discover tea is a bit farfetched. It is not really clear in historical terms as to who actually were the first users of tea. What is clear is that its use spread from China into other countries. Japan, for example, is one of the best examples of a country that was heavily influenced by Chinese tea usage. The present Japanese tea ceremony came directly from Chinese influence.
Among the Europeans, it was probably the Portuguese who first came into contact with Chinese tea. This contact probably happened in their trading post in Macau. But since Portugal had little influence on the rest of Europe at the time, it did not become popular. It was up to the Dutch who brought back tea to Amsterdam to make tea drinking popular among the Europeans.
The British picked up tea drinking from the Dutch. The upper classes were fascinated with the drink that soon they have the powerful British East India Company trading directly with the Chinese for the valuable product. Soon they were not satisfied with trading only and they wanted to grow it on their own. So, they stole the secrets of tea growing from China and they started growing it in their Indian possessions.
Tea Production and Tea Consumption
Today it isn’t surprising that the two largest producers of tea in the world are China and India. Combined, these two countries produce more than half of the world’s tea production. Kenya and Sri Lanka are also two major tea producers. When it comes to consumption, the United Arab Emirates is the largest consumer of tea per capita. It might surprise you to learn that Britain would only come in sixth place when it comes to tea consumption.
The Different Types of Tea
It has been mentioned before that there are different types of tea that are currently available. These types come from the way that the tea leaves are prepared and for how long they undergo fermentation.
In this type of tea, only the first two leaves are harvested together with the buds for use. White tea is not oxidized at all. It only undergoes a very light processing. This kind of tea is mainly produced in mainland China today.
This kind of tea undergoes very little oxidation. This type of tea has become very popular in the West. It is produced in China and Japan.
Yellow tea is a lot similar to green tea and it undergoes very little if any oxidation. The main difference is that it undergoes the yellowing process, hence the name.
This kind of tea is mainly produced in Taiwan and in the Fujian region of mainland China. The leaves are rolled for this kind of tea. The leaves are subjected to different types of infusion which gives the leaves a different flavour profile.
Black tea is a kind of tea that has undergone 100% oxidization. This kind of tea is actually very popular in the West. In China, it is actually known as red tea because of the color of the resulting beverage. This kind of tea actually goes very well with sugar and milk.
In China, this is what they refer to as black tea. The process for creating this sort of tea is rather long. Modern methods however has speed it up, though compared with other tea types it still takes longer.
Tea Bags and Loose Tea
Most people are familiar with tea bags as the means of preparing tea. But there is another method of creating the beverage and that is through the use of loose tea. Tea experts actually consider the tea found in tea bags to be of poorer quality for most of the time. There is actually some basis to the belief that tea in tea bags is of poorer quality. Most of the time, those are just left-overs from the tea that have been sorted. In fact they think this kind of tea is dust. If you are looking to taste the best tea, then you should get loose tea instead. That means you will get the best.
The way that you prepare and brew your tea would largely determine the quality of the drink that you are going to get. The different types of tea that we have mentioned would require different means of preparation and lengths of time for brewing. If you want to get the most out of your tea, then you should know the best way of brewing it.