Tea 101: An Introduction to Tea
Tea, a hot beverage, is prepared by putting young buds and leaves of a tea plant, Camellia Sinensis, in boiling water. All the tea is made from a common plant’s harvested leaves that are called Camellia Sinensis. Tea that is not made from this plant may be called tea but is not adequately pure tea. There are generally two varieties of tea plants. Camellia Sinensis is the most commonly used. All teas are from a singular plant species: Camellia Sinensis. The tale of tea begins in China, according to the legends, when one of the servants of the Chinese emperor Shen Nung accidentally created an infusion.
This story goes back to ancient China, more than 5000 years ago, around 2737 BC. The emperor was an herbalist. Once his servant unintentionally made an herbal mix when the leaves of a wild tree fell into the boiling. The emperor was keen to know everything about that herbal mix as the pleasant aroma drew him to drink that mix. And that is how the tea was discovered. In China, for centuries, tea has been used as a lovely drink, herbal tonic, and various other medicinal uses.
Although the discovery story is quite different for India. In India, tea was discovered during the British crown rule in 1824. The tea plants were found in the hills along the frontier somewhere between Burma and the Indian state of Assam. In 1836, tea culture was introduced in India by the British. In this entire colossal world, tea is majorly used in India and China as a pleasant drink. As an herbal tonic but especially in China, it has been used to cure diseases over the centuries. Earlier, tea was used as a medicinal beverage. It was only after a while that it was used as a daily drink in China. Initially, in India, the seed was used from China, and later the seeds from the Assam plants came into use.
THE TEA PLANT
Camellia Sinensis is suitable to grow in hilly areas, such as the high mountains of China and Japan. It has relatively more minor leaves. Camellia Assamica is the other variety that grows in a very different temperature, the tropical climates in northeast India, Szechuan, and China. Leaves of Camellia Assamica have broad, dark green, and shiny leaves, exactly different from Camellia Senensis.
The tea gardens of Assam and Darjeeling have a sufficient amount of rainfall for tea plants to thrive with an appropriate cool temperature. With the weather and rain, everything has to be perfect. The processing is done carefully, and so is the product before processing. The best quality tea is found in the most suitable soil, altitude, a certain level of temperature, and the appropriate amount of rainfall. It depends on the climate conditions when the tea is produced and how and when the leaves are removed. From producing till harvesting or when it is entirely ready to brew, the temperature is a big game, and to make a perfect tea, requires a true art.
The water temperature before brewing
The water temperature is critical as to adjust the taste of the tea, the water has to be of the boiling point so that the tea can mix adequately and give a deep flavor. This opens a whole new world of the exquisite taste of the tea. Although different types of tea require different water temperatures because this could sabotage the taste of the tea by causing an over-extraction or under extraction of polyphenols. Each type of tea has an ideal range of water temperature.
You can follow the brewing guide here.
The tea processing requires the leaf to go through all or some withering, rolling, fermentation, and drying stages. This entire process upholds two agendas: 1) to dry the leaf and 2) to allow the chemical constituents of the leaf to create the distinct flavor of each form of tea. All the teas don’t go through the whole process. Only black tea is processed through all stages of production. Variations in the critical fermentation stage give green tea and oolong their distinct characteristics.
TYPES OF TEAS
As mentioned above the two varieties of the tea plant, there are also various types of tea. Therefore, six ways of processing tea create six types of authentic teas: green tea, black tea, yellow tea, white tea, oolong tea, and dark (Puerh) tea.
Green tea is prominent in China and Japan and is increasing its reach and growing in America and India. They are made by heating the leaves right after the harvest; dried prevents too much oxidation and preserves the green color. Also, the amino acids and antioxidants are preserved along with grassy notes. And henceforth, leaves are rolled and fired. Green tea has half the caffeine as in black tea and about one-fourth of that in coffee.
Being the most common tea for ages, black tea is adequately oxidized, and so does the black color pops on the leaves. Leaves are rolled and allowed to be adequately oxidized, darkening the leaves and generating the flavor and black color. The tea is dried just at the right time and tends to stop the oxidation process. As a result, black tea has half the caffeine as coffee.
Slowly gaining its prominence, yellow tea is quite different from other tea. It offers a fruity after-taste and a very pleasing aroma. The yellow color is not natural; the perfect color is obtained through ‘sealed yellowing’. The benefits are somewhere similar to green tea. This tea is not oxidized, but the tea catechin is first oxidized to get the yellow color and then they are further treated to preserve the color and the aroma.
White tea comes under being a sophisticated and rich tea. It is processed minimally, which is not oxidized and rolled. Instead, these are dried very carefully as a day before when the buds open, this unique white tea is harvested.
This tea has an origin history in Taiwan and southeast China. The oxidation process is done directly under the sunlight for a brief period after being withered. The oxidation stopped right after its start giving a fresh aroma of apple, peaches, or orchids. And finally, the leaves are rolled and fired. The caffeine amount is a little more than green tea but less than black tea.
This tea has a vivid name named after a town in the Yunnan province of China. The initial procedure of the leaves is the same as green tea. Then the leaves are formed into piles to heat them to bring natural bacteria fermentation. Unfortunately, the firing stops the enzyme activity, which further causes the moisture enough to continue to age. Nevertheless, there are a few Puerh that are drinkable even after 40 years.
Herbal tea is made out of other plants’ leaves, so they are not accurate or authentic. However, it has several health benefits and medicinal properties. It is a combination of flavors and spices, apart from the flowers and leaves of different plants, including clove, cinnamon, cardamom, etc. The color of this tea usually depends on the base tea, like black or green tea. It is said to be caffeine-free but if not mixed with authentic tea.
Found as an alternative to the tea by the British, the name is inspired by the yaupon holly. It did contain caffeine and was used by Native Americans.
It is highly rich in caffeine and is a cup mix of tea and coffee. Although it has some benefits as tea. It is a traditional South American drink made by soaking the dried leaves of a holly tree in hot water. It is processed as green tea is processed. Prominently it is known for weight loss and increasing diuresis.
Red in color, it is one of the herbal teas made from the Aspalathus linearis plant native to South Africa. This tea is processed precisely like black tea, allowed to oxidize and roll withered leaves. It has zero percent caffeine in it.
Just like the black and green tea are made from the same plant, green rooibos is also made from the leaves of the Aspalathus linearis plant native to South Africa but is not adequately oxidized, just like green tea.
This tea is generally made out of hibiscus sabdariffa flowers, a native of West Africa. It is red and has no caffeine at all.
Matcha is a finely ground powder of green tea leaves, although 1 cup of matcha is equal to 10 cups of green tea. This further indicates the benefits matcha has and the green tea antioxidants. It can be served in a cup, too, but there is a whisk and a bowl to make this the right way with water slightly less than the boiling point, and after adding the powder, the whisk is used to create froth. Matcha powder can also be used for baking purposes.
BENEFITS OF TEA
- It is rich in antioxidants.
- It has properties that can prevent cancer.
- Tea has no calories and generally is used for weight loss and fat-burning purposes.
- It prevents or delays some kind of cell damage.
- It has proved to help with menstrual cramps and other menstrual health issues like PMS.
- It helps to ease stress and anxiety and also helps prevent insomnia.
- Tea helps combat cough and cold, flu, and other bacteria.
- It helps lower heat-related disease, and it controls the cholesterol level.
- It boosts the energy level.
MAJOR TEA PLANTATIONS
As China has an ancient history of the origin of tea, it still occupies the first position as the largest producer of tea around the globe, and India falls second in the category. Tea is majorly grown in Asia, South America, Africa, and the Caspian and black sea. The four biggest tea producers globally are China, India, Sri Lanka, and Kenya; of this, the total production altogether stands at 75%, the world’s 75% production.
Ranked at number five, another major tea-producing and the consuming country is Turkey. Indonesia and Vietnam fall in sixth and seventh positions respectively. The next falling on the eighth number is Japan, who keeps half of the production for the domestic market and exports only green tea. Iran is the 9th tea-producing region in the world, and has an interesting backstory, when an Iranian ambassador to India under the British went undercover French labor to learn about tea. He brought back the sapling with himself, and hence the plantation started. The 10th position is captured by Argentina in producing tea. The above is the best-produced region for tea; likewise, the world-famous tea markets are China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Vietnam.
Tea Plantation in India
India, the biggest producer in Assam, the tea-growing regions in India are Assam, Darjeeling, Wayanad, Karnataka, Munnar, Travancore, and Kangra valley. The most famous city for tea plantation India is Darjeeling; its prominence is known globally. India produces some of the best teas in the whole world produced in Darjeeling, Assam, the Nilgiris, and Kangra valley. The beautiful tea gardens create a memorable and never forgetting taste with a fantastic flavor.