UPDATE 2: Tea Time

Tea is an aromatic drink usually prepared by pouring hot water over cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis, an evergreen bush native to East Asia. After water, it is the most widely consumed beverage in the world. Exists many different types of tea; some, like Darjeeling and Chinese greens, have a cooling, slightly bitter, and astringent flavour, while others have vastly different profiles that include sweet, nutty, floral or grassy notes. Tea has a stimulating effect in humans mainly due to its caffeine content.

Tea originated in Southwest China in the Shang dynasty, where tea was used as a medicinal drink. An early reliable record of tea drinking comes from the 3rd century AD, in a medical text written by Hua Tuo. It was popularised as a recreational beverage during the Chinese Tang dynasty, and tea drinking spread to more East Asian countries. Portuguese clerics and merchants introduced tea to Europe during the 16th century. During the 17th century, drinking tea became fashionable in England, who started large-scale production and commercialisation of the plant in India. Together, China and India delivered 62% of the world’s tea in 2016.

The term herbal tea refers to beverage not prepared from Camellia sinensis: infusions of fruit, leaves, or other parts of the plant, such as steeps of rosehip, chamomile, or rooibos. These are sometimes called tisanes or herbal infusions to prevent confusion with tea made from Camellia sinensis plant.

Early drinking

Tea drinking have begun in the region of Yunnan region, when it was used for medicinal purposes. It is also believed that in Sichuan, people began to boil tea leaves for consumption into a concentrated liquid without the addition of other leaves or herbs, thereby using tea as a bitter yet stimulating drink, rather than as a medicinal concoction.

Chinese legends speak about the invention of tea by the mythical Shennong (in central and northern China) in 2737 BC although evidence suggests that tea drinking may have been introduced from the southwest of China, Sichuan/Yunnan. The first written records of tea come also from China. The word  appears in the Shijing and other ancient texts to signify a kind of bitter vegetable, and it is possible that it referred to many different plants as well as tea. In the Chronicles of Huayang, it was chronicled that the Ba people from Sichuan presented tu to the Zhou king. The Qin subjugated the state of Ba and its neighbour Shu, and according to the 17th century scholar Gu Yanwu who wrote in Ri Zhi Lu: It was after the Qin had taken Shu that they learned how to drink tea. Another mention to tea is found in a letter written by the Qin Dynasty general Liu Kun who requested that some “real tea” to be sent to him.

The first known physical prove of tea was discovered in 2016 in the tomb of Emperor Jing of Han in Xi’an, indicating that tea from the genus Camellia was drunk by Han Dynasty emperors in the 2nd century BC. The Han dynasty work, “The Contract for a Youth” by Wang Bao in 59 BC, contains the first reference to boiling tea. Among the tasks listed to be made by the youth, the contract states that “he shall boil tea and fill the utensils” and “he shall buy tea at Wuyang”. The first record of tea cultivation is also dated to the same period (the reign of Emperor Xuan of Han), during which tea was cultivated on Meng Mountain close to Chengdu. Another early reliable record of tea drinking dates to the third century AD, in a medical text by Hua Tuo, who stated, “to drink bitter t’u constantly makes one think better. Before the mid-8th century Tang dynasty, tea-drinking was primarily a southern Chinese practice. Tea became popular during the Tang Dynasty, when it was extent to Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.

Developments

Through the centuries, more varieties of techniques were developed for processing tea, and a number of different forms of tea. During the Tang dynasty, tea was steamed, then pounded and shaped into cake form, and in the Song dynasty, loose-leaf tea was developed and became popular. During the Yuan and Ming dynasties, unoxidized tea leaves were first pan-fried, then rolled and dried, a procedure that breaks the oxidation process that turns the leaves dark, so allowing tea to remain green. In the 15th century, oolong tea, in which the leaves were allowed to partially oxidize before pan-frying, was developed. Western tastes, favoured the fully oxidized black tea, and the leaves were allowed to oxidize more. Yellow tea was an unintended discovery in the production of green tea during the Ming dynasty, when careless practices permited the leaves to turn yellow, but yielded a different flavour as a result.

Worldwide spread

Tea was first introduced to Portuguese clerics and traders in China during the 16th century, at which time it was termed chá. The first European mention to tea, written as Chiai, came from Delle navigationi e viaggi written by Giambattista Ramusio, a Venetian, in 1545. The first documented shipment of tea by a European nation was in 1607 when the Dutch East India Company relocated a cargo of tea from Macao to Java, then two years later, the Dutch bought the first assignment of tea which was from Hirado in Japan to be shipped to Europe. Tea became a trendy beverage in The Hague in the Netherlands, and the Dutch introduced the drink to Germany, France and across the Atlantic to New Amsterdam (New York).

The first mention of tea in English came from a letter of Richard Wickham, who ran an East India Company office in Japan, writing to a trader in Macao requesting “the best sort of chaw” in 1615. Peter Mundy, a explorer and merchant who came for tea in Fujian in 1637, wrote, “chaa – only water with a kind of herb boyled in it “. Tea was sold in a coffee house in London in 1657, Samuel Pepys tasted tea in 1660, and Catherine of Braganza learned the tea-drinking practice to the British court when she married Charles II in 1662. Tea was not usually consumed in Britain until the 18th century, and remained luxurious product until the latter part of that period. British drinkers preferred to add sugar and milk to black tea, and black tea gos beyond the green tea in popularity in the 1720s. Tea trafficking during the 18th century led to the general public having enough money to consume tea. The British government removed the tax on tea, thereby eliminating the trafficking trade by 1785. In Britain and Ireland, tea was firstly consumed as a luxury product on special events, such as religious festivals, wakes, and domestic work meetings. The price of tea in Europe fell progressively during the 19th century, especially after Indian tea began to come in big quantities. In the late 19th century tea had become a daily drink for all levels of society. The popularity of tea also knowledgeable a number of historical events – the Tea Act of 1773 provoked the Boston Tea Party that escalated into the American Revolution. The need to address the subject of British trade deficit because to the trade in tea caused the Opium Wars. The Qing Kangxi Emperor had stated that “China was the center of the world, possessing everything they could ever want or need and banned foreign products from being sold in China”, decreeing in 1685 “that all goods bought from China must be paid for in silver coin or bullion”. Sellers from other nation then sought to find other product, in this case opium, to sell to China to earn back the silver they were compulsory to pay for tea and other products. The subsequent attempts by the Chinese Government to limit the trade in opium led to war. Chinese small leaf type tea was brought in India in 1836 by the British in an effort to eliminate the Chinese monopoly on tea. In 1841, Archibald Campbell brought seeds of Chinese tea from the Kumaun region and tested with planting tea in Darjeeling. The Alubari tea garden was opened in 1856 and Darjeeling tea began to be produced. In 1848, Robert Fortune was sent by the East India Company on a mission to China to bring the tea plant back to Great Britain. He began his journey in high confidentiality as his mission occurred in the lull between the Anglo-Chinese Opium War. The Chinese tea plants he brought back were introduced to the Himalayas, though most did not live. The British had found that a different varieties of tea was endemic to Assam and the northeast area of India and that it was used by the local Singpho people, and these were then grown instead of the Chinese tea plant and then were successively hybridized with Chinese small leaf type tea as well as likely closely related wild tea species. Using the Chinese cultivation techniques, the British started a tea industry by offering land in Assam to any European who agreed to cultivate it for export. Tea was originally consumed only by anglicized Indians. Tea became popular drink in India in the 1950s because of a successful advertising campaign by the India Tea Board.

Processing and classification

Tea is normally divided into categories centered on how it is processed. At least six different types are produced:

  1. White: wilted and unoxidized – you can buy it using an iHerb coupon code;

2. Yellow: unwilted and unoxidized but allowed to yellow – buy it using Puritan’s Pride coupon;

3. Green: unwilted and unoxidized – get it with Piping Rock coupon;

4. Oolong: wilted, bruised, and partially oxidized – use Marco’s Pizza coupon code & Little Caesars coupon code;

5. Black: wilted, sometimes crushed, and fully oxidized (called “red tea” in Chinese and other East Asian tea culture) – find it with Wish coupon;

6. Post-fermented (Dark): green tea that has been allowed to ferment/compost (called “black tea” in Chinese tea culture) – you can buy it using a Rosegal coupon.

SEE ALSO

Tea Culture

There’s Always Time For Tea