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Discover The Pleasures Of Tea And Tea Time

Updated on April 4, 2015

Tea, one of the world's most popular drinks

Tea is one of the most popular drinks all around the world, second only to water. Whether you prefer green tea, black tea, oolong, white, or herbal tea, there is a sure to be a blend you'll enjoy! Even America is discovering the joys of fine tea, with teas now being the fifth most popular beverage, after water, coffee, soft drinks, and juice.

Most of the tea sold in the United States is, I'm told, bottled iced tea. Sales of the finer gourmet teas are still low. Whether a long-time fan, or new to the pleasures of tea, I hope this page will encourage you to try a new tea.

China led the way with tea. From prehistoric times tea has been grown there, to use as a relish and as a medicine. To this day, many families grow their own in family plots.

Commercial cultivation had begun by the 8th century. Soon after, tea cultivation also began in Japan. The Dutch East India Company was importing tea into Europe by the early 17th century. It rapidly grew in popularity, and was a major factor in the opening of Asia to Western commerce. China is still the world's largest tea-producing nation, but it uses most of its own crop. The largest exporter is India, followed by Sri Lanka, Kenya, Indonesia, Japan and Taiwan. Importing nations are led by the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Russia, the United States and Holland. The local soil and climate give the unique and distinct flavors to the teas grown in estates and tea gardens around the world. Each tea takes its name from the area where it is grown.

There are estimated to be between 700 and 1,000 types, based on different strains of the tea plant, local growing conditions, and processing methods. According to the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization, 3,200,000 tons of tea was produced around the world in 2004.

The photo shows my traditional style tea caddy. My photos are copyright, and must not be used without my written consent.

How to Make Tea - The English Way

Teas and Tea Quality

Tea quality, or tea grade, is determined by leaf size - small sized leaves are used in tea bags, bigger sized leaves are offered as packaged loose tea. Top quality gourmet teas are made from the best quality whole leaves. You will certainly appreciate the difference between a fine, gourmet tea and the mass-marketed, everyday tea bags produced from bits and pieces of leaves. Tip : if using tea bags, shake them before putting in your tea cup, this will remove some of the finer tea dust, and improve the end result!

Heavenly Tea Leaves Tea Sampler, Assorted, 9 Count
Heavenly Tea Leaves Tea Sampler, Assorted, 9 Count

This gourmet selection of nine of the bestselling Heavenly Tea organic teas will give you an adventure in taste. Presented in tin canisters to preserve their freshness, the selection contains Sencha Green Tea, China Green Tea, Genmaicha Green Tea , Peppermint, Chamomile, Organic Rooibos, Berry Burst, Chocolate Rooibos Mint, and White tea. Depending on how strong you like your tea, there are approximately 10 servings of tea per can.

 

Breakfast Tea

Breakfast teas are black teas or blends, delicious served with milk and sometimes, with sugar. English Breakfast tea was actually developed by a Scot, but became a popular, classic blend as it was a favorite with Queen Victoria. It is full-bodied and deeper in color than Earl Grey. Irish breakfast tea is actually stronger than English Breakfast tea. Other loved breakfast blends include Chai (black tea flavored with spices), Assam and Orange Pekoe.

Twinings English Breakfast Tea, Loose Tea, 7.05-Ounce  Tins (Pack of 6)
Twinings English Breakfast Tea, Loose Tea, 7.05-Ounce Tins (Pack of 6)

A satisfying and invigorating blend of Kenyan and Assam black teas, makes a full-bodied amber tea, perfect to wake you in the mornings.

 

Scottish Blend

Another classic to look out for is Taylors of Harrogate Scottish Breakfast Blend. This is a traditional blend, with a full bodied, rich and distinctive malty taste. It's the perfect early morning drink, and can be served with or without milk.

The Tea Plant

Camellia sinensis & Camellia assamica

Most "real" tea comes from the leaves and buds of the Camellia sinensis plant, which is a warm-weather evergreen shrub, with small olive-green leaves, and native to China. The tea plant can grow to 30 feet in height, but cultivated tea plants are pruned to three to five feet. In the Assam region of north east India, a local variation, Camellia assamica is preferred as it can produce a finer tea in the local climate and environment. The plant has broad leaves and pale, fleshy shoots. Assam tea is known for its strong, full, reddish infusions, with a smooth, malty flavor. Assam tea, is also known as Irish breakfast tea.

The leaves of the Camellia sinensis or Camellia assamica are plucked and dried into the tea that we brew. The most desirable leaves are the new ones near the growing tip, with the best teas use only the two leaves at the tip.

Twinings Black Tea, Irish Breakfast, 20 Count Bagged Tea (6 Pack)
Twinings Black Tea, Irish Breakfast, 20 Count Bagged Tea (6 Pack)

A natural source of antioxidants, Irish Breakfast Blend is best taken with milk. Enjoy the full-bodied flavour and lovely aroma of this blend from the Ceylon and Assam regions. Also available as loose tea.

 

Afternoon Tea

Taken mid-afternoon, this quintessentially English meal of sandwiches, pastries, cakes and scones with jam and clotted cream, was introduced by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in 1840. Members of the high society didn't dine until 8 pm, and Anna needed something to fill the gap between lunch and dinner. She began with tea and small sandwiches, but soon, with friends joining her, afternoon tea became more elaborate with special tea cakes, sweet and savory delicacies. Tea gowns appeared to bridge the fashion gap between casual daywear and formal evening dress.

My favorite tea is probably Earl Grey Tea. It is an aromatic, light-bodied black China tea, flavored with the essential oil of the bitter bergamot orange. It is a gentle tea, with a distinctive citrus-scented aroma and taste, and very suitable for sipping in the afternoon. Earl Grey tea was blended for and named after Charles, the Second Earl Grey, who was prime minister of Britain during the reign of William IV.

Another popular afternoon tea is Darjeeling, "the Champagne of Indian teas", which comes from the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, in Northern India. It is grown at altitudes up to 7,000 feet above sea level, and produces a very high quality tea coveted by tea connoisseurs.

Bewley's Irish Afternoon Tea - 80 Bags (8.8 ounce)
Bewley's Irish Afternoon Tea - 80 Bags (8.8 ounce)

Bewley's Irish Afternoon Tea has a light and refreshing flavor. The blend of leaves from Africa and Kenya brew a rich golden orange drink.

 

Earl Grey Tea

Earl Grey Tea is aromatic, light-bodied, and has a distinctive citrus-scented aroma and taste. It's a lovely tea for for sipping in the afternoon.

Twinings Earl Grey Tea, Tea Bags, 50 Count Boxes (Pack of 6)
Twinings Earl Grey Tea, Tea Bags, 50 Count Boxes (Pack of 6)

If you want to enjoy a classic tea, you can't get more classic than Twinings Earl Grey. A light and delicious tea, perfect for a relaxing afternoon tea break. Earl Grey is always a favourite for me. Aromatic, light tea with a hint of bergamot orange.

 

Picking and processing black, green, oolong and white tea - Examples of black tea, oolong tea and white tea

The time of picking and the method of processing of tea leaves is crucial in determining the end result. For black tea, after picking, the leaves are spread out, hand-tossed until they are soft and flaccid, then roasted for a few minutes, and rolled. They are then exposed to the air and allowed to ferment for two to four hours, and finally dried slowly over a low heat. The fermentation process causes the leaves to oxidize and turn reddish-brown - a natural chemical reaction that results in the distinctive color and taste. The tea leaves are then fired at a higher temperature to fix the flavor before they are sorted into different qualities and sizes. The operation of roasting and rolling can be repeated until the leaves are the correct color.

The processing of oolong falls between that of green tea and black tea, so the leaves are semi-fermented or semi-oxidized. The caffeine content of oolong is also midway between black and green tea. As the leaves are only allowed to partially oxidize, the taste is a little different to either black or green tea.

Green tea tastes quite different as it is not oxidized at all. Green tea leaves are roasted, rolled and then fired.The heating or roasting, immediately after picking, kills the enzymes that cause fermentation. In Chinese green tea, the green leaves are heated to 100°C (Chinese) for 30 seconds to 5 minutes in large, shallow pans over a wood fire. In Japanese green tea, the leaves are steam-cooked. After heating, the soft and pliant leaves are hand-rolled or folded into balls, sticks or coils, and then air-dried on racks.

White tea is very special - it is made from spring leaf buds that have not yet opened, and is also not allowed to oxidize.

The Tao of Tea, Black Dragon Oolong Tea, Loose Leaf, 3-Ounce Tins (Pack of 3)
The Tao of Tea, Black Dragon Oolong Tea, Loose Leaf, 3-Ounce Tins (Pack of 3)

The name, Oolong, which means "black dragon" in Chinese is due to the long, blackish-green leaves. When brewed, Oolong looks similar to black tea, with the color of the tea usually being between golden or dark brown, but colors can vary a lot. : Some varieties have a blue or green tea, and some oolongs are referred to as "blue tea".

The taste and aroma range from fruity to floral, so Oolong is closer to green tea, than to black, but with a more rounded flavor.

 
The Tao of Tea, Silver Needles White Tea, Loose Leaf, 2-Ounce Tins (Pack of 2)
The Tao of Tea, Silver Needles White Tea, Loose Leaf, 2-Ounce Tins (Pack of 2)

Early in spring, the new leaves needed for white tea are picked as buds. The name comes from the fine, silvery white hairs. As the buds are harvested for such a short period, white tea is produced in smaller quantities than black tea or green tea. Hand-picked and lightly hand-processed, white tea is the most delicate tea, and the rarest.

 

Making Black and Green Teas

Boston Tea Finest Grade Black Tea, English Breakfast Loose Tea, 4.4-Ounce Tins (Pack of 2)
Boston Tea Finest Grade Black Tea, English Breakfast Loose Tea, 4.4-Ounce Tins (Pack of 2)

Black tea is the most common form of tea drunk around the world.The blend and the provenance result in many different styles of black tea, some of the best known being English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Assam, Ceylon, and Lapsang Souchong. The main grades of black tea range from Bohea, which has the poorest quality, through Congou, Oolong, Souchong, which is one of the finest, and Pekoe, made mainly from young spring buds, which give a fine flavor. Brewing black tea leaves gives a reddish or reddish-brown liquid, with a maltose flavor and a rich aroma.

 
Rishi Tea Organic Green Jasmine Tea Loose Tea, 1.94 Oz Box (Pack of 3)
Rishi Tea Organic Green Jasmine Tea Loose Tea, 1.94 Oz Box (Pack of 3)

Green teas have grown in popularity in the West, mainly because of the antioxidant levels and other potential health benefits. Varieties of green tea include green peony, dragon well, genmaicha, sencha, hojicha and gunpowder. Green tea should be brewed with water at a temperature of 195°F, and is, as you'd guess, green or yellowish in color. Compared to black tea, it has a more has nutty taste and a woody aroma. The grades of green tea range from the relatively poor Twankay, through Hyson skin, Hyson, Imperial, and Gunpowder. Young Hyson, is a fine tea made from young leaves gathered early in the spring.

 

Making Chinese Tea

My photo of friends, in Beijing, demonstrating the correct way to make Chinese tea. They told us how important it is to bring the water to the boil, and then allow it to cool a little before adding to the tea leaves. This helps to protect the flavor of the tea.

Heavenly Tea Leaves Tea Sampler, Green Tea, 4 Count
Heavenly Tea Leaves Tea Sampler, Green Tea, 4 Count

A smaller selection of four of the best-sellers from Heavenly Teas' Organic selection, including Sencha, Chun Mee, Chin Green, and Green Paradise

 

Health and Tea - Green or black? Caffeine or decaffeinated?

The water-extractable polyphenol content of the tea has been linked by many to potential health benefits. The water-extractable polyphenol content of black tea is between 3% and 10%, while green tea has up to 40%. For anyone interested in the science of tea, the main polyphenols found in fresh tea leaves are epigallocatechin gallate, epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate and epicatechin. You can find more about the health benefits that have been claimed for tea here and here.

And, yes, tea contains caffeine. The highest level is found in black tea has the highest amount of caffeine, due to the extended firing process. It has about 40 mg per cup, depending on the tea strength and steeping time. You might consider that this compares well with coffee at 80 to 100mg per cup. For lower levels still, you will find less in oolong, green and white teas, respectively. Green tea has about 20 mg per cup. Although we call them "teas", herbal teas and fruit teas are not made from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. Instead, they are infusions of leaves, flowers, fruits, roots, bark, or seeds. Herbal teas are thought to offer many potential health benefits, not least because they don't contain caffeine.

A tea that has had most of the caffeine removed is called decaffeinated tea, but remember that it is not 100% caffeine-free; the amount of caffeine is usually reduced to about 3% of the original amount.

The photo shows just a small part of the range of teas in my local supermarket.

Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and more

What is your favorite hot drink?

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Some places to visit to see tea plantations

show route and directions
A marker -
Assam, India
get directions

B marker -
Darjeeling, India
get directions

Some Tea Essentials

Tea tastes best when made in the right teapot and served in the right porcelain cups. If you like entertaining, a set consisting of teapot, sugar bowl, creamer jug, and cups, with matching saucers should do the trick.

Gracie China Butterfly 3-Piece Porcelain Tea For One Set, 9-Ounce Teapot Stacked
Gracie China Butterfly 3-Piece Porcelain Tea For One Set, 9-Ounce Teapot Stacked

If, however, you will be making "tea for one", this stacked porcelain cup and teapot, with butterfly and floral design is a perfect solution.

 

Gaiwan Tea Set

To celebrate tea and friendship, what could be better than a traditional gaiwan set. The gaiwan is used to brew the tea, before combining several successive brews in the fairness pitcher. The pitcher averages out the brews to ensure that everyone receives a fair mixture. The Chinese tea ceremony can be a very relaxed social gathering, enhancing interaction and conversation between friends.

Blue and White Landscape Scenery 10 piece Chinese Gongfu Gaiwan Set Comprised of 3-piece Gaiwan, Fairness Pitcher and 6 Tea Cups
Blue and White Landscape Scenery 10 piece Chinese Gongfu Gaiwan Set Comprised of 3-piece Gaiwan, Fairness Pitcher and 6 Tea Cups

Gaiwan set in the Qinghua motif, a blue and white design from the Qing Dynasty. The set consists of a gaiwan, a fairness pitcher and six matching tea cups.

 

I hope that this page has inspired your interest in tea. What is your current favorite? And, do you think you will try a new tea?

Will you try a new tea?

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    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 4 years ago

      Congrats on the Purple Star! I love Tea, my favorite Chamomile, Jasmin and Green, although I use many different kinds and enjoy new ones, I like making them in one of my Teapot collections...However, I do have to have that one cup of coffee in the morning...then the tea the rest of the day.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      I found all of the tidbits about tea to be very interesting. Gives me a whole new appreciation for tea. I really need to experience some top quality teas. Time to move beyond the standard tea bag.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      I drink tea everyday. I rotate between herbal infusions, green teas, Chinese tea and English tea.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 4 years ago from USA

      I enjoy trying new teas. Found this page from your blog.,

    • profile image

      chattersharon 4 years ago

      I try all sorts depending on my mood and what I am interested in.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 4 years ago

      I definitely will - I'm a huge fan of tea! Thanks for sharing! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • savateuse profile image
      Author

      savateuse 4 years ago

      @Li-Li-ThePinkBookworm: Thanks for your visit and for your nice comment!

    • profile image

      Li-Li-ThePinkBookworm 4 years ago

      I love tea, and you did an amazing job of describing all the various teas. You made a well written and informational lens :)

      Li Li

    • Jo-Jackson profile image

      Jo-Jackson 4 years ago

      Lipton teabag with milk and the occasional lemon and ginger tea.

    • yogolinda profile image

      yogolinda 4 years ago

      I always start my day with a English breakfast tea and 2 biscuits :)

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 4 years ago from London

      I will never need to look anywhere else to find out about tea...there's so much here to digest. I can't drink Earl Grey; it makes my heart race, and ordinary tea keeps me awake at night whilst coffee doesn't.

      I do, however, love Jasmine tea, but my favourite is rose pouchong. I really want one of those glass tea pots now to put my tea in!

    • profile image

      smile-of-fortune 4 years ago

      I drink tea seven time in a day

    • justramblin profile image

      justramblin 4 years ago

      I really enjoyed learning about all the different teas. Good to hear the official instructions for using teabags. I never seem to be able to wait the 6 minutes.

    • savateuse profile image
      Author

      savateuse 4 years ago

      @writerkath: and I've just put the kettle on! :)

    • writerkath profile image

      writerkath 4 years ago

      I'm having a cup of PG Tips while I write this comment! :)

    • cargoliftken profile image

      cargoliftken 4 years ago

      I prefer Earl Grey. Matcha is nice, too. I'd love to try some new blends.

    • savateuse profile image
      Author

      savateuse 4 years ago

      @ismeedee: yes, nice!

    • ismeedee profile image

      ismeedee 4 years ago

      my friend's daughter lives in Japan, so I get proper green tea whenever one has been to visit the other! Nice!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Tea can be so refreshing! I like Earl Grey and Lady Grey.

    • savateuse profile image
      Author

      savateuse 4 years ago

      @aboutkitchenrev: Thanks for visiting!

    • aboutkitchenrev profile image

      aboutkitchenrev 4 years ago

      I love various teas. Its a great way to reduce the amount of coffee that I drink, yet still get some caffeine in the morning, depending on which brand I choose. Great lens..

      Cheers

    • savateuse profile image
      Author

      savateuse 4 years ago

      @konacoffeeaddicts: That sounds like a good compromise!

    • konacoffeeaddicts profile image

      konacoffeeaddicts 4 years ago

      I love coffee but I should start drinking green tea for the health benefits. Maybe coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon?

    • savateuse profile image
      Author

      savateuse 4 years ago

      @Lynda Makara: Thanks Lynda! Yes, it was a few days work, but once I got into the subject...

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I have never been a hot tea drinker but this beautiful page makes me wish I were

    • Lynda Makara profile image

      Lynda Makara 4 years ago from California

      Wow, you really put a lot of thought and effort into this tea lens. Really beautiful. Angel blessings.

    • savateuse profile image
      Author

      savateuse 4 years ago

      @OhMe: I go through phases myself, but the coffee can be so bad in some places that I'll willing switch to tea!

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @victoriahaneveer: I don't take sugar in tea or coffee. The lapsang, I'm not so keen on.

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @LisaAuch1: Yes, I agree, it can be much more refreshing than coffee

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 4 years ago from Scotland

      I love a good pot of tea, I still say today its the most refreshing drink ever!

    • victoriahaneveer profile image

      victoriahaneveer 4 years ago

      I love tea. I drink mostly Earl Grey but I also love Lapsang Souchong. I brew the tea for 5 minutes then add a touch of milk (just a very small bit). Never sugar/sweetener. Mmm tea :-)

    • savateuse profile image
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      savateuse 4 years ago

      @makarenko: Thanks for visiting and taking the time to leave such a nice comment!

    • makarenko profile image

      makarenko 4 years ago

      What a BEAUTIFUL lens! *-* I love tea, and I am not afraid to try new varieties... Recently while traveling through SE Asia I was surprised to learn that green tea in Thailand is truly vivid GREEN color, not like the one I am used to (mostly Chinese) - it even freaked me out a little at first :D But my FAVORITE is still strong black tea with milk - the way we had it in Russia when we were kids... Our was imported from India, and they drink insane amounts of REALLY steep tea - like 6 cups or so a day, so milk is good help! Thank you for the beautiful lens that made me even more interested in tea! <3