Tea is an evergreen tree or shrub native to southern China,
Tibet and northern India. Camellia sinensis is what
the boffins call it. Three basic varieties are recognised,
named for their location: China, Assam, and Cambodia. The
Chinese variety prefers high altitudes and can produce its
small serrated leaves for a hundred years. Chinese have been
steeping these leaves in water to make a refreshing drink
for at least two thousand years. Cultivated plants are regularly
pruned keeping them short for easy leaf picking but the wild
tree (which can still be found in Yunnan province) can reach
(40ft), while an untended domesticated plant can grow up to
(30ft). Tea should not be confused with the tea tree found
in Australia - Leptospermum, or herbal and flower
teas (tisanes), neither of which are true teas.
Tea: China's Greatest Food Export Chinese cuisine has been exported
to the world very successfully. Tea is the one singular item
that has eclipsed all Chinese foodstuffs and even the cuisine
itself in its influence on the wider world. A drink enjoyed
in all its various forms by everyone from Japanese Emperors
to Russian peasants.
Nearly three million tons of tea are produced
worldwide, according to the UK-based Tea Institute. Tea drinkers
consumed nearly three cups a day in 1999, or a million more
cups than the year before, according to the Institute.
Tea like coffee contains caffeine,
and no doubt the addictive qualities of that substance play
a part in the drink's popularity.
With the health benefits of tea
increasingly understood and touted, tea will continue to win
new adherents well into the future.
Perhaps not everyone would know that coffee
originated from north-east Africa. Most folks though will
always associate tea with its birthplace in China.
Growing and Processing
Green, black and Wulong (Oolong) tea come
from the same plant, though different strains may be
used. The difference is in the processing.
Green tea is not oxidised. Wulong is semi-oxidised,
while black is fully oxidised.
Tea likes cool weather and grows most
successfully at a temperature under 20° Celsius.
Experts say the best tea is grown in moist conditions,
fog for example.
High mountain tea that grown at
around 1,800 metres (6,000 ft) is considered the best.
Spring tea is considered the best, followed
by winter tea.
Labour intense pruning and picking along
with acid soil and reasonable rainfall are considered
prerequisites of a good tea plantation.
Hand-picked tea is preferred mechanical picking as better (and therefore dearer than machine picked tea. Mechanised tea picking is definitely frowned upon by real connoisseurs.
There are their many varieties of tea,
and numerous grades. Just as for wine tea judging competitions
for tea are held, and the winner of a prestigious award,
if he is resourceful enough, can live well off the reputation
Chinese tea is a very clean drink (without
milk or sugar) and is great for cleansing the palette
after an greasy meal (lemon tea or scented teas are fine
too). Of course the hot water in a freshly steeped cup
plays a role in this.
One Taiwan tea vendor told me that the
best local tea comes from Jade Mountain. There is Dongding
tea for sale at US$1,500 to $1,800 a catty.
What is known as fermentation of tea
leaves should actually be called oxidisation as there
is no bacterium, mould, or an enzyme, that causes fermentation.
Baking tea for longer periods helps the
leaves retain more of the original flavour
Green tea contains higher amounts of
vitamin C than other types. It is believed that almost
all the vitamin C in black tea is destroyed during oxidisation.
Black tea has more colour but is less
astringent than green tea.
By volume there is less caffeine in tea
There is minute amount of sugar in tea
and Drinking Tea
Some tea connoisseurs believe charcoal
is the best fuel to boil tea water with. Charcoal, they
claim imparts more energy into the water.
There is no reason why tea bags cannot be not packed
with the finest quality leaf, though they usually are not.
Tea and Health
All kinds (unconfirmed)
Wulong (Oolong), Pu'er (Pu-erh, Puer)
for cholesterol; Green & Wulong for blood vessels
Wulong & Pu'er
and the English Language
Some common tea words
tea (dinner), high tea, tea time, morning/afternoon tea, tea break, tea shop,
tea towel (dish towel), tea set, tea service, tea caddy, tea cup, tea saucer,
tea pot, tea kettle, teaspoon, tea cosy, tea table, tea chest
A few tea phrases A bull in a china shop.
A storm in a teacup.
All the tea in China.
Anyone for tea?
The good china; (as in “The Tremblethorns are coming over. We had better
get out the good china.”)
Chinese drink much more green or Wulong than black
tea. Ninety percent of black tea production is exported. China
is the world's largest supplier of green tea, with 90% of tea on
the international market.
Taiwanese are inveterate Wulong drinkers. Black
or green tea is always considered second-rate and is only used
in flower or scented teas of cold tea concoctions such as fruit
Outside of China most people drink black tea. The
Japanese being an exception, preferring green tea.
Tea is used as an an ingredient or flavouring in
many kinds of food by the Chinese. Tea eggs are a ubiquitous example.
It is used in dishes and you can buy tea jelly, tea biscuits, tea
cake, just to name a few.
Tea leaves that have been steeped once are used
To relieve thirst and sweeten breath, chew on dry
tea or steeped leaves
Gaoling, a village in Jingdezhen, north-eastern
Jiangxi, gives its name to kaolin.