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Discover The Pleasures Of Tea And Tea Time
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!
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 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.
A satisfying and invigorating blend of Kenyan and Assam black teas, makes a full-bodied amber tea, perfect to wake you in the mornings.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 100Â°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 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.
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
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.
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 195Â°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.
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?
Some places to visit to see tea plantations
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.
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.
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.
Tea Link List
- Health effects of tea - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Article about tea & health
- Flowering tea - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Article on flowering tea
- Tea Glossary
A 15-page tea glossary. THE NIBBLE, Great Food Finds, is a gourmet food webzine with thousands of product reviews and recipes including this tea glossary.
- Tea Pairing - Tea Pairings - Pair Tea
Learn how to pair tea with food.
- How to make the perfect cup of tea - be patient - Telegraph
Making the perfect cup of tea involves a secret ingredient : patience
- Tea Science Adds Up | Tao Ti Green Tea
Tea science stacks up for weight management, and more
What is epicatechin? Health benefits of epicatechin? Epicatechin is a strong antioxidant, has insulin mimic action and improves heart health.
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?