Next to water, tea is the second most popular beverage in the world. The drink is prepared from the young leaves of a short tree, and it gets its distinct flavor from an essential oil in the tea leaves called theol.
The color of tea is due to tannin compounds and the stimulating effects are due to caffeine, alkaloids and theophylline.
Modern technology has yielded the possibility of combining innumerable flavors ranging from delicate fruit teas to spicy, aromatic Chai teas.
A Brief History of Tea
Tea is made from young tea leaves, and it was first discovered in the Himalayan foothills near Tibet, China, India, and Myanmar (Burma).
The Chinese have been brewing tea since before 500 B.C., and it was the national drink of China by the seventh century. Tea was revered for years in China because it was hailed as an aid for meditation purposes, but it quickly spread outside of the religious circle.
Britain caught wind of tea by the seventeenth century (by the ever busy Dutch traders), and thus began the practice of elegant tea service set-ups paired with sophisticated aristocratic chit-chat - High Tea was born. But eventually, tea began to escape the circles of wealthy Brits, and filter out into the community.
Colonists brought their love of tea with them to America, and so began the process of American purchase of tea from smugglers (cheaper cost) rather than Mother England.
She (Mother England) caught wind of this dastardly deed and so began the Tea Act of 1773 (lowered costs) which eventually led to the Boston Tea Party, The American Revolutionary War, and the Declaration of Independence - Yes, tea is a powerful drink!
BLACK TEA comes from oxidized tea leaves that yield the strongest flavor and highest concentration of caffeine. Black tea is the most common form of tea - but I'll bet you already knew that...
GREEN TEA is produced from minimally oxidized tea leaves that yield a green beverage. Because green tea has high antioxidant properties, it is considered to be a "healthy" drink (when not paired with tons of sugar).
This drink has recently become popular all over the world, but again, The Chinese have been brewing this beverage for thousands of years.
WHITE TEA is actually the tip of certain tea leaves that are fast dried to retain its silvery "white" color.
The Chinese have been brewing white tea for years, but the rest of the world has only recently been introduced to this beverage.
Because of its minimal processing, white tea has more nutrients and less caffeine than any other form of tea.
OOLONG TEA is prepared from semi fermented greenish, brown tea leaves. Its name is derived from the Chinese meaning of "black dragon tea."
The production of Oolong tea is time consuming and it requires great skill, but the result is a wide variety of tastes and many different variations of this one type of tea.
CHAI TEA is produced by slowly brewing spices (fresh ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves - what could be better?) and black tea leaves together, then adding milk and sugar to the delicious concoction.
There are many variations of Chai Tea, one of the most popular is Masala Tea enjoyed by the good people of India.
ICED TEA is brewed black tea that has been poured over a tall glass of ice cubes. The drink is highly popular in the Southern United States, and it was first introduced by Richard Blechynden at the 1904 St. Louis World Fair.
SUN TEA is brewed black tea that has been prepared in a pitcher with a tea bag, and sat out in the sun to complete the brewing process.
FRUIT TEA is teal leaves inter meshed with bits of fruits, such as mango, oranges, apples, pineapple, etc, in order to yield a fruity flavor.
INSTANT TEA was first introduced in the late 1800's by a fellow named John Brown; he made a mixture of tea leaves, sugar and milk. The late 1940's saw the invention of the powdery instant tea we are familiar with in the United States.
BRASSICA TEA is a recent invention (2004) developed by the smart folks at Johns Hopkins University. It is made with green or black tea and a Broccoli extract known as SGS. The general idea is to combine the healthy benefits of tea and broccoli - I dunno about this one...
TEA PRODUCTION BY COUNTRY
High Class Tea
Darjeeling tea is a black tea produced in the Darjeeling region of West Bengal, India.
Darjeeling Tea yields a light bodied tea with a floral aroma, and it is considered to be the "Champagne of Tea."
It appears that The Brits, with their aristocratic High Tea time, have been outclassed by the Indians...