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We invite you to prepare a tea, sit down and relax, and hopefully gain some newfound knowledge your passion for tea. We have taken the time to discover the beauty and information about tea for you to learn and enjoy. We have compiled it in the following categories with descriptions:
All teas come from the same warm weather evergreen plant, camellia sinensis. Teas are then classified in four major categories – White, Green, Oolong or Black. The colour of tea is the result of the chemical changes that take place when the leaves are given time to oxidize before drying.
Usually the beverage of tea is made by steeping processed leaves, buds or twigs of the tea leaves in hot water for a few minutes.
After picking, tea leaves will soon begin to wilt and oxidize if not dried quickly. Tea leaves turn progressively darker as a result of the breaking down of chlorophyll and releasing of tannins. This enzymatic oxidation is called fermentation in the tea industry although there is no true fermentation.
Oxidation is the key in tea making, because the basic difference between the 4 main types of tea, is the degree of oxidation.
It is said that the origins of tea date back over 4,700 years ago. Wild leaves from the camellia sinensis plant fell into a pot of boiling water. The resulting brew was then sipped by the Chinese emperor Shen Nung, known as “the Divine Healer.” The story states that he noted the following: “It quenches thirst,” “it gladdens and cheers the heart,” and that it was “heaven sent.” All of us who love tea can attest to his words of wisdom.
It is also said that Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism, meditated for nine years. When he fell to sleep he was so upset at himself by his tiredness that he cut off his eye lids and threw them to the earth. At the very spot where his eye lids hit, there sprung up the first tea plants. The legend says that from that day forward, the serrated ovals of the tea leaves would be watchful over carelessness.
Drinking tea spread around the world after being enjoyed in China. It travelled to Japan when a Japanese monk brought the seeds to that country in 1191. Tea reached Europe in the 17th century, when Portuguese and Dutch traders brought it back as a luxury. It was the Portuguese, Catherine of Braganza, who included tea as part of her dowry when she married the British King, Charles II, and it went on to become the height of sophistication among the aristocracy. The tea leaves were so expensive that they were locked in tea caddies, and kept in the bed chambers of the Lady of the House, far away from servants. The new drink was sipped from porcelain imported from the east, named “China” after the country of origin. During the same time period, caravans of camels brought tea across the desert from China to Russia, where traditions of tea drinking had their beginnings in that region as well.
The first tea shipment to arrive in Canada was imported by the Hudson Bay Company in 1716 and took more than a year to arrive. Until the 19th century tea drinking was expensive, because it was imported from China. In the 19th century, the British Empire helped make tea drinking a daily experience for the working class and the wealthy alike. In India, entrepreneurs and botanists set up tea plantations, which made it less costly to transport the tea to the British Empire.
Because tea is made with boiling water, it was thought to have reduced urban disease. Additionally the health properties of tea helped energized the work force of the Industrial Revolution.
It was at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis that iced tea was popularized and commercialized (but not invented). A group of Indian tea producers from India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) organized a special tea pavilion under the direction of Englishman, Richard Blechynden. As it was a very hot summer day, people ignored the tea and went in search of cold drinks. In a desperate effort to sell the tea, Blechynden packed ice cubes into glasses and poured the tea over them. As word got around, customers started lining up to buy the cooling beverage. This cold tea was an instant success and changed the way the rest of Americans thought of tea, thus popularizing iced tea.
Today, tea is once again becoming a very popular drink of choice. It bridges all ages, young and old, all demographics, allows for different palates and encourages creativity for the tea drinker to experiment with a blend of different teas.
It is no wonder that tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world next to water, with such a colourful history! So the next time you sit down to enjoy a lovely sip of tea, you can better appreciate its epic and well-traveled history.
These are the most delicate of teas and subtle in flavour. White Tea is made entirely from the top two leaves and bud that are covered with whitish hairs. The buds are plucked before they open, the leaves are then either dried or steamed and dried. As the leaves are neither pan fired or oxidized, they remain almost unaltered.
Green Tea is a lightly oxidized (5-15%) tea. The oxidation process is stopped after a minimal amount of oxidation by application of heat; either with steam, a traditional Japanese method; or by dry cooking in hot pans, the traditional Chinese method. Green tea is processed within one to two days of harvesting.
Oolong tea is semi-fermented, which is one of the reasons it has such a unique character. The semi-fermentation gives the tea a little bit more body than a green tea but less body than a black tea, and gives the flavour a very unique twist. The edges of the leaves are slightly bruised (brownish), to start the oxidation process. Because they are more full-bodied than green teas, oolong teas must not be picked too early or at too tender a stage. They must be produced immediately. Unlike leaves for green tea, those destined to be oolong are wilted in the direct sun and then shaken in tubular bamboo baskets to bruise the leaf edges. The bruising is what make the edges oxidize faster than the center. After 15-25 minutes (depending upon ambient temperature and humidity levels) the tea is fired, locking in the special flavour profile.
Black Tea is a fully fermented (oxidized) tea. It is the most common form of tea in southern Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc.). Black tea is generally stronger in flavour and contains more caffeine than the more lightly oxidized teas. The characteristic flavours of black tea range from flowery to fruity, nutty and spicy.
Produced in the Yunnan Province of China, this tea is often placed in a category of its own. Pu-erh tea is separated from white, green, oolong and black teas due to the aging of the tea as well as the double fermentation. Pu-erh is the only tea that is intentionally aged, becoming more expensive and desirable the older it gets. Pu-erh tea is a living tea that becomes alive during an amazing artisan process that facilitates the development of active yeast cultures that thrive in true pu-erh tea. The two beneficial yeasts - which create the unique character of Pu-erh tea, are known as the yellow and white yeast types. During the hotter months of the year, yellow yeast is in its most active state and thrives. This is the reason why Pu-erh tea is called “after oxidized tea.” It is during these hotter seasons that Pu-erh tea continues to oxidize. In order to manipulate the humidity critical for the processing of this tea, Pu-erh is stored in caves high up in the mountains of Yunnan for several months.
Golden Pur-erh has been aged for five years in a dark cave in Yunnan Province. This aging process in a relatively high humidity environment has mellowed the elemental character of the tea when compared to young Pu-erh (aged about 1 year). As with wine, young pu-erh is considered the least valuable whereas pu-erh 5 years or older is more highly prized. The taste of pu-erh becomes mellower with age.
Herbal teas are not a true tea as they do not come from the camellia sinensis plant, but are blended using herbs, flowers, fruits and spices. As they do not contain tea leaves, herbal blends are caffeine free and can be enjoyed any time of day.
Rooibos is a naturally caffeine free herbal from South Africa. The tiny leaves from the bush are green when harvested and allowed to oxidize, turning red. Rich in antioxidants.
Prepared from the leaves and stems of a South American evergreen shrub related to the holly. Rich in caffeine and antioxidants.
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