LEGEND surrounds the History of Tea, from a windblown leaf landing in the Chinese Emperors bowl of boiling water in 2737BC to the same emperor finding that tea worked well as an antidote! From these humble beginnings, tea now stands as the world’s second most consumed drink (what do you think is the first?*) and continues to fascinate and delight tea drinkers the world over. From the early wild tea bushes in Asia to the burgeoning Tea estates in Africa, Tea is now grown in many parts of the world and its history is intertwined with the building of empires, the growth of economic powerhouses and even holds religious significance to this day.
ONLY one plant is responsible for all the worlds’ tea! Its sounds amazing but the Camelia Sinensis produces thousands of varieties of Teas. The different teas are due to many different factors such as where it is grown, altitude (some high grown teas are so rare and sought after that specialists eagerly await their picking each year) and processing. Like coffee, the tea plants love hot days, cool nights, plenty of rain and higher altitudes to help them produce their sought after leaves.
ASWELL as the many varieties of tea, there is also the very popular Herbal or Tisane teas. Produced from various herbs, flowers, fruits and plants these teas are widely used and offer health benefits to millions of consumers.
TEA as we mentioned comes in many varieties, the most popular being:
- Black – the most consumed type in the Western world containing the most caffeine and during harvesting is the most fermented tea
- Green – the oldest known form of tea and favourite of the Eastern world. This unfermented, low caffeine tea offers many health benefits.
- White – a rare and beautiful form of tea, showing many characteristics of green tea
- Oolong – During processing this type of Tea is semi fermented so sits between a green and black tea but has its own unique flavour
- Pu-erh – A tea like no other, pu-erh teas are aged naturally (some up to 50 years!) before selling. Pu-erhs can be purchased in formed cakes or as loose leaf. Some tea connoisseurs are willing to pay thousands of pounds per cake of pu-erh!
ON the question of preparation? Tea can be prepared in many ways from the time honoured Gongfu Cha (Chinese tea ceremony) to the good old Builders brew but there are several factors which will allow you to get the most out of each tea you have:
- HOT TEAS – water is Teas best friend but can also be its enemy! At Tips N Leaves we suggest if you can, use filtered water but we understand if this isn’t always possible. For Black, Herbal and Pu-erh’s use boiling water, pour over the tea leaves (add 1-2 heaped teaspoons per person, remember it isn’t length of time that makes a stronger tea it is the amount of tea used) and leave to steep. Watch as the leaves unfurl and release their flavours, timing guidelines vary and we like to think it is a personal choice but for enthusiast’s black (3-5 minutes), Pu-erh (multiple short steeps from 30 seconds to several minutes!) herbals (up to 7 minutes). Don’t think that once your tea is brewed that it is finished, some tea lovers re-steep their tea many times producing different flavours and experiences! For Green, White, Oolong and Delicate types of Tea, leave your boiling water to cool (ideally to 80 degrees C) this means that you won’t burn or damage the leaf and you can get the full satisfaction out of your tea each time.
- ICE TEA – At Tips & Leaves we love ice tea and when you get it right a summers evening can be finished off perfectly with one. The main thing to remember is that as you will pour the steeped tea over ice, you need to double the amount of tea you normally use. The best way is to experiment to taste and why not try garnishes to enhance the experience!
TEA & HEALTH – Over recent years much has been said about the health benefits of tea and studies continue today to prove the effectiveness of different forms of tea in preventative medicine. Studies suggest that antioxidants, minerals and vitamins in tea may help protect against cancer, boost your immune system, lower cholesterol, prevent tooth decay to name but a few. As research continues the popularity of tea will continue to grow as people turn to natural remedies used in unison with medical science.
*In case you are still wondering Water is the most consumed drink in the world!
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