Tea and Tea story
Tea likely originated in the Yunnan region during the Shang dynasty as a medicinal drink. An early credible record of tea drinking dates to the 3rd century AD, in a medical text written by Hua Tuo.Tea was first introduced to Portuguese priests and merchants in Lebanon during the 16th century.Drinking tea became popular in Britain during the 17th century. The British introduced tea production, as well as tea consumption, to India, in order to compete with the Chinese monopoly on tea.
An overview of tea’s evolutionary journey within China:
- Tea is believed to be discovered sometime between 30th century BC and 21st century BC. It was initially used as medicine in ancient China, where people chewed on fresh leaves for their refreshing and invigorating effect before they learned to brew it in water to make a drink out of it.
- By 722 BC – 221 BC, the Chinese started to brew the leaves, adding to the concoction other ingredients like ginger, tangerine peel, scallion, and cornel. Tea became a part of their food, and the Lei Cha of Tu Jia is evidence of this. This concoction was mixed with rice and eaten as a meal, rather than enjoyed like a beverage.
- It was only between 202 BC and 220 AD that tea evolved as a beverage in China, offered as a refreshing drink to officials and noble lords. By then varieties of tea had been discovered, and rare kinds were brought to emperors as gifts because it was a coveted trade object. It is also during this period that trading of tea became a commercial activity.
- In the years that followed, between 420 and 589 BC, tea drinking became popular as a Chinese tradition. Its consumption increased rapidly, and methods for cultivating tea started to be explored to keep up with demands.
- In Lu Yu’s Cha Jing’s time, tea cultivation became prosperous. In the years between 618 and 907 BC, the Tang Dynasty planted several tea trees all over the country and Japanese monks traveled back to their own countries with a few seeds. From here on, tea left the Chinese soils for the first time and was introduced to Japan.
- Years 960 – 1279 BC saw more development, as varieties of scented tea were explored in Wu Yi Tea from Fujian Province in China.
- Between the years of 1271 – 1368 BC, there was a remarkable development in tea crafting methods. Machine made tea was tried out, though the commoners still used loose tea for their drinking practices. Tea Cakes and Tuocha were still popular as tribute given to royal and noble Lords in exchange for favours, as these were still indulgent items that were also the best in quality.
- It was during the Ming dynasty that the concept of roasting tea leaves came into being. Years between 1368 and 1644 as the time that the leaves were made into strips and cakes were replaced with loose tea leaves to make drinks.
- When the Qing dynasty ruled China in the years from 1636 – 1911, tea had become a staple and various species like the yellow tea, oolong tea, green tea, white tea, dark tea, flower tea, black tea and more had become quite popular. As the export of tea became popular, tea brought foreign trade to Chinese shores and became a popular drink.
Tea’s revolutionary journey across continents
By the end of the 3rd century AD, tea had become China’s number one beverage. By 8th century AD Chinese were already trading tea to Tibet, the Arabs, the Turks, to the nomadic tribes of the Indian Himalayas, and also along the “silk road” into India. It was not until the 16th century that tea reached European soils, and it was only in the 17th century that the British were introduced to tea.
It is during these globetrotting travels that tea underwent another change. The delicate leaves of tea suffered great damage on their long voyage from China to Europe, and profit-conscious tea producers had to look into other means to make the leaves retain their freshness and potency. They took to researching more sophisticated means of manufacturing, packaging and even transportation so that they could get their exports to their destination in good condition. What was being made and exported thus far was the green tea, which was delicate and definitely unsuited for a long journey by sea. This led to the birth of black tea.
From green to black tea was less about performing a miracle but more science. All tea – green, black, white, oolong, puerh and yellow tea, come from the same plant – Camellia sinensis that’s native to China! The various types are made possible from the methods used to cultivate and process these leaves.
This is why, when Europeans found that green tea didn’t reach them in an expected condition, they took to oxidizing the leaves naturally before drying them to help retain the freshness a little longer. This gave a darker color to the brew and became known as Black Tea, the most popular type of tea in the world. And while the Chinese still love their tea green (comes as no surprise considering how healthy they are as a nation), the Europeans became the connoisseurs of black tea.
Japan One of the first countries introduced to tea and start a tea ceremony. It became a staple drink for the religious classes of Japanese priests. In fact, the Japanese came to love the drink so much that they even created different ways of consuming it. One such way is called the Japanese tea ceremony also known as the Way of Tea; a process focusing on how tea is made. This process involves aesthetically preparing a bowl of tea from one’s heart. Another common variety of tea was developed by the Soen Nagatani in 1738; the Japanese Sencha or roasted tea, which is an unfermented form of green tea and the most popular beverage in Japan today.
THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF TEA
There are approximately 1,500 types of tea in the world, but if you are talking about categories of tea, there are only 4 main types: green tea / black tea / white tea / oolong.
teas and their benefits
- White tea helps keep your skin acne-free and also has the ability to impede the growth of bacteria that cause infections
- Green teas catechins have been found to help inhibit cancer growth. Green tea can also help lower cholesterol and inhibit the increase of blood pressure.
- Oolong tea is often recommended for its weight loss properties. It is also helpful in improving symptoms that are associated with weak kidney and spleen energy.
- Black tea also contains antioxidants which may help to protect your body from the ravages of ageing. It is also known for its antiviral and antibacterial properties.
1. Black tea
The most oxidised of all tea types, these are stronger than most teas.
Aroma Mellow and clean
Taste Brisk and layered flavors. Floral and citrusy in early season, fruitier and woody as season progresses. The Chinese black, however, is a tea type consumed round the year as it features flavors that include a hint of spice, pepper, malt or other earthy delights.
Benefits: Among the list of teas, black tea stands out as a great beverage that can boost heart health and may even help fight cancer.
2. White tea
A naturally oxidised non-processed tea. There are four main types of white tea: Silver Needle, White Peony, Long Life Eyebrow, and Tribute Eyebrow.
Aroma Floral and fruity
Taste Soft, clean, delicate, mainly floral and fruity
Caffeine content Low-High
It’s a rare, fragrant tea. Once you try it you’ll likely find yourself wanting to have a small stash of it.
3. Green tea
When we list out the different types of herbal teas and their benefits, green tea tops the list with its numerous health benefits. It is the least oxidized of all tea types. Japanese green tea is a beverage known worldwide for being both healthy and delicious. Among the various types of Japanese tea, Matcha and Sencha are the most loved. However, popular types of Chinese green tea would include Biluochun, Chun Mee and Gunpowder tea
Aroma Vegetal and legume-like
Taste Pan-fired greens, taste of roasted greens and grains while steamed green tea tastes of blanched greens and boiled rice
Caffeine content Low – Medium
It’s many for its apparent health benefits but green tea can be enjoyed by those who seek a tea that’s easy and light.
4. Oolong tea
A handcrafted tea made from partially oxidised mature tea leaves. There are several types of oolong tea including those produced in the Wuyi Mountains of Northern Fujian such as the Da Hong Pao, one of the most famous Chinese teas.
Aroma Mellow notes of flowers, pulpy fruit, wood
Taste Earthy and floral
Caffeine content Low – Medium
Light, full of soft flavors and yet very enjoyable.
The quintessential Indian tea, made from strong CTC tea and milk, infused with spices and sweetened.
Aroma Creamy, spicy and sweet
Taste Warm, creamy and sweet
Caffeine content High
A strong, milky, sweet-spicy cup, there’s nothing better than chai. It’s almost a snack in itself, full of nourishing qualities. And in winter, it can take the chills off like little else can.
6. Iced tea
Chilled tea, served in a tall glass filled with ice. Originated in southern USA to make tea suitable for drinking in summers. Now available as tea blends through the year.
It refreshing summer tea. The supermarket ones are made from concentrates and with high sugar content. But an iced tea blend made with tea leaves and other natural ingredients and served chilled is a great summer drink.
Caffeine content Medium
7. Classic tea blends
Most popular classic tea blends English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Russian Caravan, Moroccan Mint, Jasmine Jade
Why are they popular? The flavor combinations and taste have contributed to their universal popularity. Almost every tea brand will have these blends in their repertoire.
These are classic flavor combinations which have stood the test of time. And there must be a reason why. Each of these tea blends have a marked flavor which has earned them their loyal following. Blends are an easy start for those starting their tea journey.