Tea

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.

– C.S. Lewis

Facts About Tea

Historical notes and facts about tea indicate this ever-popular beverage originated in China some 5,000 years ago. It was discovered in 2737 BC by Chinese Emperor Shen-Nun, who was considered a divine healer, when some tea leaves accidentally blew into a pot of boiling water.

Yet it took nearly 100 years for tea to reach other parts of the globe. Dutch traders were the first to bring tea to the West in the early 1600s where it later became a commonly accepted staple of trade.

The facts about tea reveal that all types of tea originate from the same evergreen shrub: the Camellia Sinensis.

There are more than three thousand varieties of this tea bush that are grown in mountainous areas around the world.

Whether you sip black, green, oolong or white tea depends on what happens after the flush, when the top two leaves and bud are harvested, processed and shipped

Facts about Tea Types

Black tea, the most popular variety, offers a hearty flavor and deep reddish color that results from an extensive fermentation process that includes exposing crushed tea leaves to the air for a set amount of time until they are fully oxidized and dried.

Green tea makes up about 10% of world-tea production and is a milder brew with a mild, appealing taste and understandably green appearance. There is no oxidation during processing. Rather, the leaves are simply withered and then roasted or dried.

Oolong tea is a cross between black and green tea, which can be detected in both taste and colour. Recognized for its distinctive fruity flavor, oolong leaves undergo a moderated fermentation process where they are withered, partially fermented and then dried.

White tea, the rarest type of tea, come from young tea leaves that are picked before the buds have fully opened. The tea features a delicate, soft taste and light coloration. With a minimalist approach to processing, white tea leaves are simply steamed and dried, which keeps them closer to their natural state.

Tea Processing
Withering is freshly harvested tea leaves spread out onto tables or trays, which are then left to dry. Moisture is removed and the leaf becomes soft and prepared for rolling.

Rolling is the process whereby machines break the cells in the leaves. This releases the tea leaf juices and enzymes and exposes them to the air to enhance oxidation.

Oxidation, also known as fermentation, begins during the rolling process. The rolled leaves are spread out in a temperature and humidity controlled room where the leaf color deepens from green to reddish-brown… and then to black.

Firing is a process whereby the tea leaves are fired (or dried) by slowly heating them in a drying chamber. This stops the oxidation process and the leaves are prepared for storage.

Natural Chemicals in Tea
Substances inherent to tea leaves include essential plant oils, caffeine, and polyphenols. Facts about tea reveal that the oils provide the tea’s aroma, caffeine serves a stimulant, and the polyphenols are attributed to a tea’s anti-oxidant properties.

The type of fermentation process tea leaves undergo determines the level and impact of the chemicals found in various tea types.

For example, black tea, which undergoes complex fermentation, evokes a strong scent and has the heaviest concentration of caffeine.

On the other hand, white tea, with its limited processing is best known for healing and protective properties that remain in the leaves from polyphenols.

Green and oolong are known to feature moderated levels of caffeine, aroma and antioxidant properties, which ties to their partially fermented processing.

Tips for Brewing Tea

There are some simple techniques for brewing tea that will make the difference between making a good cup of tea and a great one.

Sparkling Clean Equipage

Before making your tea, check to be sure your teapot and utensils are clean. While this seems obvious, kettles, teapots, cups, strainers, and other tea accessories need to be gently washed on a regular basis with soap or baking soda (even if they are just used for boiling water or brewing tea).

his helps to remove mineral deposits and old residue that can taint the flavor of your freshly made brew.

Start with Cold, Good-Tasting Water

Since tea is comprised of 99% water, the type of water you use will affect the clarity and taste of your beverage. So if your water tastes good then your tea will taste good.

The best type of water to use when brewing tea is filtered or bottled water (not distilled water) that is free of chemicals and chlorine. If that isn’t available and you are using tap water, run your faucet for around ten seconds and until the tap water is cold before filling your tea kettle.

Water and Steeping

For each cup of tea you prepare, you will want to heat 6 ounces of water. So if you are making a pot of tea, be sure you have pre-measured the amount of water the pot holds. The water temperature and length of steeping time varies by the blend of tea you are brewing.

Here are some general tea brewing guidelines for water temperature and steeping times. Adjust the heat and time based on your individual preferences.

The time it takes to brew tea correlates to the size of the leaf in your blend. This means the larger the leaf the longer the brewing time.

Black:

  • Water Temp: 205-212 F
  • Steeping Time: 3-5 minutes

Oolong:

  • Water Temp: 185-200 F
  • Steeping Time: 3-5 minutes

Green:

  • Water Temp: 165-185 F
  • Steeping Time: 3-5 minutes

White:

  • Water Temp: 160-175 F
  • Steeping Time: 2-3 minutes

Herbal/Tisanes:

  • Water Temp: 205-212 F
  • Steeping Time: 5-7 minutes

Amount of Tea

To maximize taste, it is preferable to brew tea leaves in loose form rather than using a small tea ball or infuser (yet these accessories are popular, convenient, and yield tasty brews). This allows the leaves to fully open and release all their flavor.

Use 1 teaspoon of whole leaf tea for each 6-ounce cup you are brewing. This is the standard for compact blends. If you are brewing tea that has a lot of volumes, consider using up to two tablespoons per serving.

If you want the convenience of using a tea bag or sachet, simply use one for every cup of tea you are making. The key to good tasting brew is to make sure your tea bags are always fresh.

The tea in commercially produced bags is typically comprised of small pieces of leaves or fannings that are susceptible to becoming stale faster than the well-stored loose-leaf variety.

Serving

When your tea is done steeping, immediately remove the loose tea from the strainer or the tea bag and lightly stir. Then serve while fresh and hot. If your tea gets too cool, it is best to enjoy it over ice verses re-heating the brew.

Depending on your preference, you can enjoy drinking your beverage plain or with a bit of milk, lemon, honey or sugar. In Asia, people typically drink tea without accompaniments.

In England, a small amount of milk is often added for extra body and smoothness. In Russia, brewing tea and adding lemon is common. Raspberry jam is sometimes added for sweetness.

Yet, making tea is all about the experience and how you take your tea is a matter of individual taste and enjoyment. Experiment until you find a combination that suits your palate “to a tea.”

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