Tea & More

History of Tea

His edicts required that all drinking water be boiled as a hygienic precaution. One summer day while visiting a distant region, he and the court stopped to rest, and his servants began to boil water for the court to drink. Dried leaves from the nearby bush fell into the boiling water, and a brown liquid was infused into the water.

As a scientist, the Emperor was interested in the new liquid, drank some, and found it very refreshing. The tree was a wild tea tree, and so, tea was created.

The cultivation and brewing of tea in India has a long history of applications in traditional systems of medicine and for consumption. Research shows that tea is indigenous to eastern and northern India, and was cultivated and consumed there for thousands of years. However, commercial production of tea in India did not begin until the arrival of the British East India Company, at which point large tracts of land were converted for mass tea production.

Today, India is one of the largest tea producers in the world, though over 70% of the tea is consumed within India itself. A number of renown teas, such as Darjeeling, also grow exclusively in India. The Indian tea industry has grown to own many global tea brands, and has evolved to one of the most technologically equipped tea industries in the world.

Tea production, certification, exportation, and all other facets of the tea trade in India is controlled by the Tea Board of India.

East India Company

In the early 1820s, the British East India Company began large-scale production of tea in Assam, India, of a tea variety traditionally brewed by the Singpho tribe. In 1826, the British East India Company took over the region from the Ahom kings through the Yandaboo Treaty.

In 1837, the first English tea garden was established at Chabua in Upper Assam; in 1840, the Assam Tea Company began the commercial production of tea in the region, run by indentured servitude of the local inhabitants. Beginning in the 1850s, the tea industry rapidly expanded, converting vast tracts of land for tea plantations. By the turn of the century, Assam became the leading tea producing region in the world.

Types of Tea

All tea comes from the same basic plant, the Camellia Sinensis plant. The differences between teas arise from processing, growing conditions, and geography.

The Camellia Sinensis plant is native to Asia, but is currently cultivated around the world in tropical and subtropical areas. With over 3,000 varieties, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world after water.

Tea can be divided into five basic categories: black, green, oolong, white, and puerh.

Black Tea

Black tea is allowed to wither, which precedes a process called oxidation (sometimes incorrectly referred to as fermentation) during which water evaporates out of the leaf and the leaf absorbs more oxygen from the air. Black teas usually undergo full oxidation, and the results are the characteristic dark brown and black leaf, the typically more robust and pronounced flavors of black teas, and, when brewed appropriately, a higher caffeine content compared to other teas (50-65% of coffee, depending on the type and brewing technique).

Green Tea

Green tea is allowed to wither only slightly after being picked. Then the oxidation process is stopped very quickly by firing (rapidly heating) the leaves. Therefore, when brewed at lower temperatures and for less time, green teas tend to have less caffeine (10-30% of coffee). Greens also tend to produce more subtle flavors with many undertones and accents that connoisseurs treasure.

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea (also known as wulong tea) is allowed to undergo partial oxidation. These teas have a caffeine content between that of green teas and black teas. The flavor of oolong (wulong) teas is typically not as robust as blacks or as subtle as greens, but has its own extremely fragrant and intriguing tones. Oolongs(wulongs) are often compared to the taste and aroma of fresh flowers or fresh fruit.

White Tea

Black tea is allowed to wither, which precedes a process called oxidation (sometimes incorrectly referred to as fermentation) during which water evaporates out of the leaf and the leaf absorbs more oxygen from the air. Black teas usually undergo full oxidation, and the results are the characteristic dark brown and black leaf, the typically more robust and pronounced flavors of black teas, and, when brewed appropriately, a higher caffeine content compared to other teas (50-65% of coffee, depending on the type and brewing technique).

Puerh Tea

Puerh is an aged black tea from China prized for its medicinal properties and earthy flavor. It is perhaps the most mysterious of all tea. Until 1995 it was illegal to import it into the U.S., and the process of its production is a closely guarded state secret in China. It is very strong with an incredibly deep and rich flavor, and no bitterness, and an element that could best be described as almost peaty in flavor.

Herbal Tea

Herbal Tea usually refers to infusions of fruit or herbs containing no actual tea, such as rosehip tea or chamomile tea. Alternative terms for this are tisane or herbal infusion, both bearing an implied contrast with tea.