Tea Facts

Why Does Tea Have Two Names Throughout the World? The English word tea and its many cousins (e.g. tay, thé, tey) trace their roots back to the name for tea in the Chinese Amoy dialect: Te (pronounced "tay"). On the other hand, cha – the Mandarin Chinese word for tea, gave birth to cha, chai, char and related names in use today.

Apparently, whichever variation merchants used when bringing tea to different countries stuck. Some countries use both. It's not unusual to hear someone in England ask for a "hot cup of cha."

How Old is Tea Drinking…Really?
You'll often read that Shen Nung, a Chinese emperor who lived some 4,700 years ago, discovered that tea leaves falling into boiling water made a refreshing drink. Alas, the emperor – credited with numerous discoveries in medicine, pharmacy, agriculture – is likely a myth himself. The earliest authenticated record of commercial cultivation of tea is found in 4th century Chinese documents. However, it is generally accepted that people in East Asia were brewing and drinking tea hundreds of years before. In those early days, tea was drunk mostly for medicinal purposes. Green tea leaves were formed into small cakes, roasted and then pounded into small chunks. Brewed tea must not have tasted very good because the drink was typically flavoured with ginger, onion, mint, and orange. Infusing tea leaves in a teapot became a widespread practice in China early during the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644). Thus "modern tea drinking" is probably less than seven hundred years old.

Who Invented Iced Tea?
Conventional wisdom holds that iced tea was invented in 1904, at the St. Louis World's Fair, by a British tea merchant named Richard Blechynden. While he may have helped popularise iced tea, "tea punches" – alcoholic ancestors of the drink – were served decades earlier in the United States, and at least one late 19th century cookbook includes a recipe for iced tea. Interestingly, about 80 percent of the tea served in the United States today is iced tea.

Who Invented the Teabag?
Legend has it that a New York City tea importer named Thomas Sullivan became annoyed at the high cost of the tin boxes he used to send tea samples to customers. So in 1904 (or by some accounts, 1908) he switched to small cloth bags. One of the recipients brewed a pot of tea by simply pouring hot water over the bag — and the rest is history. It's a nice story, except some tea experts point out that a U.S. patent for a "tea leaf holder made out of fabric" was granted in 1903. Regardless of who was really responsible, many tea lovers consider the teabag one of the worst inventions of the 20th century. Tea brewed with loose tea is generally much tastier than tea made from dunked teabags.

Tea – a Low-Cost Drink
You can brew more than 200 cups of tea from one pound of loose tea leaves. That works out to less than ten cents a cup for quality tea brewed at home; even adding in the cost of heating the hot water. The low cost of tea is a big reason why it's the second most popular beverage throughout the world – second only to plain water.

Tea and Caffeine
A cup of brewed tea typically contains less than half the caffeine of a cup of coffee. If that remains a problem for you, it's easy to decaffeinate loose tea at home. Because caffeine is highly soluble in hot water, "rinsing" tea leaves gets rid of most of the caffeine. Begin brewing tea as usual, but then remove the leaves after twenty seconds. Discard the initial brew and start again with fresh boiling water and the now decaffeinated tea leaves.

Tea Songs
The two most hummed tea songs are "Tea for Two," written by Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar in 1924 for the Broadway musical, "No, No, Nanette," and "When I Take My Sugar to Tea," penned in 1931 by Sammy Fain , Irving Kahal, and Pierre Norman.

Green Tea + Black Tea = 2 Teas?
Does green tea come from a different kind of plant than black tea? Surprisingly, even some botanists thought so during the 17th and 18th centuries. Back then, tea traders were not allowed to travel inside China and see how tea was produced. Tea plants and seeds were first obtained from China in the early 19th century, along with the know-how for manufacturing tea. Soon after, the British discovered tea plants growing wild in India. It wasn't until 1905 that the tea plant received its official Latin name, Camellia sinensis. This single plant can be processed to produce green tea, black tea, or something in between.

Who Invented the English Afternoon Tea?
The credit goes to the Duchess of Bedford – one of Queen Victoria's Ladies in Waiting – who came up with the idea of a late afternoon meal of tea, thin sandwiches, and small cakes to overcome the "sinking feeling" she felt. The notion caught on, with Queen Victoria's enthusiastic support. The British actually invented two kinds of afternoon teas:
• Low tea (simply called "afternoon tea")
• High tea

These labels can be a source of confusion to Americans. The "high" in high tea does not imply that fancy, high class, or expensive foods are served (or that high tea is enjoyed by well-to-do Britons). It actually refers to afternoon tea served on a “dining table” (a high table) as opposed to afternoon tea served on a "tea table" (a low table). High tea is a fairly substantial meal – equivalent to supper – served in working class homes. It is generally served at 5:00 or 6:00 p.m., and features a hot dish, hefty sandwiches, scones, heavy cakes, biscuits and of course, plenty of tea. By contrast, afternoon tea is traditionally served around 4:00 p.m. This is a lighter meal – a satisfying "snack" between lunch and dinner – that will include scones, thin sandwiches (often with bread crusts trimmed away), biscuits, and assorted cakes.

The Varieties of Tea

One Plant Yields Many Kinds of Tea

At first glance, the selection of different teas on sale in a gourmet teashop or at one of the large internet tea dealers looks overwhelming. There seem to be hundreds of different teas on the market. In fact, as Flick Adams explains in Dead as a Scone, "All true teas come from a single plant. Its Latin name is Camellia sinensis. The tea plant is a tropical evergreen, with glossy dark-green leaves. There are three major botanical varieties, and lots of minor variations, of Camellia sinensis found in different parts of the world. Teas, of course, will also taste different depending on soil, climate, the amount of sunlight – all the usual growing factors."

Simply put, the taste of a cup of tea, its "brightness," aroma, strength, and colour will vary depending on its variety, the location it is grown, the time of year it is picked and processed, the specific farming techniques used to grow the crop, how the leaves are harvested, and how the leaves are turned into finished tea. That's why Camellia sinensis grown in Darjeeling tastes noticeably different than Camellia sinensis grown in Sri Lanka.

Processing plays a critical role in producing different kinds of tea. As Flick explains, "Tea is manufactured in a simple five-step process: First, the topmost leaves and buds on the tea plant are picked by hand. Second, the leaves are left to wither for up to 24 hours. Third, the withered leaves are squeezed between metal rollers to blend the naturally occurring chemicals inside. Fourth, the rolled leaves are allowed to oxidise in the open air for several hours. Finally, the oxidised leaves are heated to stop further oxidation and remove any remaining moisture. Voila! Tea the way it's been made for thousands of years."

This approach to manufacturing tea – called the orthodox process – is often modified with the help of a "CTC" (crush-tear-curl) machine that replaces the rolling step. The tea leaves are literally crushed, torn, and curled into small leaf granules that brew into stronger flavoured and coloured tea. CTC processing reduces cost and has traditionally been used to manufacture lower quality teas, leaving the orthodox process for higher quality loose teas. However, many tea drinkers prefer faster-brewing, stronger-tasting CTC teas. Consequently, many fine teas are now CTC processed. How the fourth step, oxidation, is performed determines whether black tea, green tea, or something in-between is produced.

• Black tea is made by fully oxidising tea leaves. The action of enzymes inside the leaves darkens the colour and gives the eventual brewed tea its familiar "tea taste."

• Green tea is made by steaming the tea leaves before they are rolled. The heat destroys the enzymes, so that the leaves remain green throughout the rest of the process. Consequently, green tea has a leafier, more vegetal and herblike taste, than black tea.

• Oolong and Pouchong teas are partially oxidised – say for a third to half the time of a black tea which results in a flavour that is often described as a combination of peaches and chestnuts.

About three-quarters of tea leaves harvested around the world are made into black tea. Most of the remaining leaf becomes green tea. Only two or three percent are processed to make Oolong and Pouchong tea.

Lapsang Souchong is smoke-flavoured tea. The leaves are withered over pine fires, oxidised until they are almost completely black, then over burning pine. The pine smoke creates a distinctive smoky aroma and flavour that remains when the leaves are brewed.

The most unusual tea-manufacturing process produces Pu'erh tea. Green tea leaves are left slightly moist and stacked in a pile so that they can undergo the same kind of bacterial reaction that occurs in a compost heap. Finally the "fermented" tea leaves are aged – sometimes for more than fifty years. The result is an "earthy" mould-like flavour that is definitely an acquired taste.

After the processed tea is dry, it is sorted into different "grades" by passing the dried tea over a series of vibrating screens of different mesh sizes. Note that the grade is a measure of size, not quality. The four major grades of processed tea, in descending order of "particle" size, are leaf, broken leaf (often shortened to broken), fannings, and dust. The smaller particle sizes brew more quickly than leaf teas and tend to produce stronger brews – because they have more exposed surface area than leaf and broken grades. Most high-quality loose tea is graded leaf or broken leaf. Teabags typically contain fannings and dust.

Some black and green teas are further processed after drying to add flavourings derived from fruit, spice, or flowers. For example, adding oil of bergamot (an inedible citrus fruit) to black tea creates Earl Gray tea. Flower flavoured teas like Jasmine and Rose teas are typically flavoured during the oxidation step to create a deeper flavour.

What about peppermint "tea," chamomile "tea," and the other beverages made from herbs and flowers? Flick Adams will have the last word: "It drives me bonkers when herbal infusions are called 'tea.' I wish we followed the French and called them tisanes," she sighed. "I know it's a losing battle."

The Geography of Tea

Five Asian nations produce the finest tea
The tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is a tropical evergreen, with glossy dark-green leaves. It grows best in tropical and sub-tropical regions that have hot, steamy weather, slightly acidic soils, and good soil drainage. Tea is grown and processed in Asia, Africa, and Australia, but the finest teas currently come from five Asian countries: India, China, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Japan, and Formosa.

China, the birthplace of tea drinking, has produced tea more than a millennium longer than the other tea growing countries. Although China makes only about ten percent of the tea sold throughout the world (down from almost half before World War II), it produces the greatest number of unusual teas, including an enormous assortment of green tea (roughly 60 percent of Chinese teas are green teas).

India, which produces about a third of the world's tea, is currently the market leader. Only about half of the total is exported each year; India's enormous tea-drinking population consumes the rest. Most Indian teas are black. Interestingly, some tea historians hold that the Indians didn't drink tea until Britain colonised India and introduced wide-scale tea cultivation.

Sri Lanka (often still called Ceylon in tea catalogues) was noted for coffee production until the wholesale destruction of its coffee crop by "coffee rust" disease forced plantation owners to switch to tea cultivation. By 1875 all the coffee was gone. Since then, the country has become the third leading tea producer in the world. One of the people responsible for the shift to tea was Thomas Lipton, who invested in Ceylon to establish a direct source of tea he could sell in his shops in England. Like India, most Ceylon teas are black.

Japan, a nation of avid tea drinkers, produces a large crop of green tea that mostly stays at home. A variety of high quality packaged Japanese teas are available, including sencha (ordinary packaged green tea), sen-cha (a steamed green tea), matcha or matsu-cha (a powered green tea used in tea ceremonies), and gyokuro (a sen-cha style tea made from leaves grown under shade).

Taiwan also consumes most of its tea locally, but the island nation does export a variety of high quality green teas and partially oxidised teas, including Oolong, Jade Oolong, and Pouchong, a nearly green tea. Many are noted for the fruity/floral/nutty flavours, and a few are among the most expensive teas available.

Source: www.teamuseum.org

About F&W

Forbes & Walker was set up in 1881 as a partnership between James Forbes and Chapmen Walker. Although there is no actual record of the date on which it was established the very first cash book, still in the possession of the Finance Director, indicates the brokerages were earned from 1st August 1881. In Sir Thomas Villiers' book “Mercantile Lore” the date of establishment of Forbes & Walker has been put down      Read More...

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