A brief overview of tea

Tea is the most enjoyed beverage around the world. Most people need a perfect cup of tea to kick start their day. But, as you enjoy your cup of tea, have you ever thought about how tea was discovered and how it evolved?

Tea field

It is said that tea was first discovered in China around 4000 years ago. Shen Nong was a mythical emperor and was considered the father of agriculture and herbal medicine in China.

Shen Nong was resting under a tree one day whilst his servant boiled some drinking water. Whilst waiting for the water to boil, a few leaves blew from the tree into the drinking water. Being a herbalist, Shen Nong decided to sample the potion his servant had inadvertently made. He found the infusion delicious and very relaxing.

After further research, he named the leaves and that is where we get the name Camellia Sinensis. That brief moment and gust of wind, marked the origin of tea!

Where tea grows

Geography and climate are key factors that determine where tea grows and why tea grown in different areas tastes differently.

Camellia Sinensis is a highly adaptable plant that grows under different climatic conditions. It requires a fair amount of rainfall and humidity during the growth season. This means that it can do well in both tropical and subtropical climates.

Although tea can grow in hot tropical climates where they are sufficiently humid, the best quality tea is grown in subtropical climates that have some seasonality of precipitation. Seasonality of precipitation includes some wet and dry seasons like in Kenya and Sri Lanka or a simple wet and dry pattern like in Asia.

Tea harvesting

Tea leafsTea harvesting depends on the growth region and weather fluctuations. Tea harvest timing is crucial since the bud appears and grows into a big leaf within a few days. Missing the right harvest period can totally destroy the plant and tea quality.

Harvesting tea requires the bud to be plucked alone or with some leaves. In cases of cool weather, which causes a dormancy period, the first shoots after the dormancy are of high quality and quite expensive. This is because the tea builds nutrient reserves during the dormancy period.

Types of tea

Black Tea: Black tea is very common and accounts for more than 75 percent of global consumption. It is slightly bitter and contains a lot of caffeine. It contains theaflavins & thearibigins and although they sound like characters from Lord of the Rings, they are actually antioxidants that are associated with low cholesterol levels.

Green Tea: Green tea has a delicate flavour compared to black tea. This is because green tea leaves are heat-treated and dried just after they are picked. This prevents them from fermenting. Therefore, it does not contain as much caffeine as black tea. Green tea is full of catechins; an antioxidant that wards off heart diseases and cancer.

Oolong Tea: Oolong tea is similar to black tea but it is fermented for a shorter period. This gives it a rich taste and less caffeine. It aids in weight loss through dissolving triglycerides, a dietary fat that is stored in fat cells.

Oolong tea set

White Tea: White tea leaves are picked at a very young stage, giving it the least amount of caffeine and a milder flavour. However, it contains more antioxidants because it is less processed. It is healthy and offers similar cancer-fighting and cardiovascular benefits like other tea types.

How tea is processed

Tea bagTea should be at least three years old to be harvested. They are two main tea leave types; black and green.

To make green tea, the bud and leaves are pressed and then dried.

To make black tea, the harvested leaves and bud are pressed between rollers and left to ferment. Once fermented, they are pressed between rollers again and kept in a hot room to dry.

When the tea making processes are complete, the tea is then packed and sent to different distribution centres before making its way to your lips.

Header Leaf photo created by valeria_aksakova – www.freepik.com

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