Black Tea is produced from the tea bush Camellia Sinensis, a perennial evergreen shrub. Generally, unblended black teas are named after the Tea Factory from where they are produced (Makomboki Tea Factory) or from the region in which they are produced (Assam Tea, India). Often, different regions are known for producing teas with characteristic flavours, an example of this would be Darjeeling Tea. Black tea has a long history of use dating back to China approximately 5,000 years ago.
Black tea is a source of caffeine, a methylxanthine that stimulates the central nervous system, relaxes smooth muscle in the airways to the lungs (bronchioles), stimulates the heart, and acts on the kidney as a diuretic (increasing urine). One cup of tea contains about 50 milligrams of caffeine, depending on the strength and size of the cup (compared to coffee, which contains 65 to 175 milligrams of caffeine per cup). Tea also contains polyphenols (catechins, anthocyanins, phenolic acids), tannin, trace elements, and vitamins.
The tea plant is native to Southeast Asia and can grow up to a height of 40 feet, but is usually maintained at a height of two to three feet by regular pruning. In Darjeeling the first spring leaf buds, called the "first flush", are considered the highest-quality leaves. When the first flush leaf bud is picked, another one grows, which is called the second flush , and this continues until an autumn flush . In Assam the Second Flush is considered to produce the best quality teas, this normally happens from mid May each year depending on climactic conditions. The older leaves picked farther down the stems are considered to be of poorer quality. Only top quality tea is produced by plucking the youngest first two leaves and bud from the tea bush.
Green tea originated in China for medicinal purposes, and its first recorded use was approx 5,000 years ago. By the third century, it became a daily drink and cultivation and processing began. Today, China has hundreds of different types of green teas. Other producers of green tea include India, Indonesia, Korea, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Green tea was first introduced in Japan during the Nara period (710-794), when numerous Japanese Buddhist monks visited China and brought tea seeds back to Japan. The Japanese tea industry is said to have begun in 1191, when the monk Eisai planted tea seeds from China on temple land. He then encouraged the cultivation of tea in other areas of Japan by extolling the health benefits of tea drinking.
The making and serving tea as an art form (sado, the way of tea) was introduced in Japan during the eleventh century. The origins go back to China's Tang dynasty (618-907), when a ritual was performed in Buddhist temples. A brick of tea was ground to a powder, mixed in a kettle with hot water, and ladled into ceramic bowls. One of the first Japanese uses of the tea ceremony in public was when Toyotomi Hideyoshi, then the most powerful warlord in Japan, held a tea party in his camp the evening before a large battle in order to calm his warriors and inspire morale. Hideyoshi's own sado teacher, Senno Rikyo, is also credited with elevating tea from a simple beverage to a highly respected method of self-realization. Today, there are tea schools in Japan to learn the proper methods of the tea ceremony or chanoyu. The Urasenke School is the most active and has the largest following. The form of chanoyu that is practiced today was established in the second half of the sixteenth century by Rikyu. Chanoyu involves more than merely enjoying a cup of tea in a stylized manner. The ceremony developed under the influence of Zen Buddhism aims to purify the soul by becoming one with nature. The true spirit of the tea ceremony has been described by such terms as calmness, rusticity, and gracefulness. The rules of etiquette are carefully calculated to achieve the highest possible economy of movement.
For some 500 years after tea was introduced to Japan, it was used in its powdered form only. It was not until the mid-sixteenth century that the processing method for conventional green tea was invented. Prior to the Edo period (1600-1868), the consumption of tea was limited to the ruling class. Only after the beginning of the twentieth century, with the introduction of mass production techniques, did tea achieve widespread popularity among the general population. Today, tea leaves for green tea are grown in the warmer southern regions of Japan, with about half produced in Shizuoka Prefecture. Uji, a district near the ancient city of Kyoto (and the district from which the finest Japanese tea comes from to this day) became the first tea-growing region in Japan. Later, tea plantations were planted in Shizuoka Prefecture and, finally to surrounding regions. A total of about 100,000 tons of green tea is produced per year from 60,000 hectares of tea fields. Only green tea is produced in Japan.
Though traditionally green tea was produced manually, the process has been fully mechanized in Japan. The various types of tea now produced differ according to cultivation practices and processing methods. Sencha is a tea with three quality levels: high, medium, and low. It is manufactured from the tender top two leaves and the shoots for the high and medium grades and from the third from the top leaf for the low grade. Sencha, which comprises 80% of all green tea production, consists of tiny dark green needle-shaped pieces. Almost immediately after picking, the leaves are steamed for about 30 seconds to seal in the flavour, followed by drying, pressing, and rolling steps. Gyokura is the highest grade of tea and is made from the most tender leaves that are grown under 90% shade using bamboo blinds. Matcha is made from similar leaves and is processed into a powder form for exclusive use in the tea ceremony. Bancha is a low-grade coarse tea made from older leaves picked after Sencha leaves are picked or picked in the summer. It is generally composed of lower grade tea leaves, which are divided into two kinds: large leaf, and small leaf.
According to Chinese legend, some 5,000 years ago the emperor Shen Nung was traveling the countryside. The water was foul and unfit for drinking, so he ordered it to be boiled. Suddenly the wind blew a tea leaf into his cup of hot water. The curious emperor let the leaf steep, then drank the brew. Tea as we know it was born. White tea became revered during China's Song Dynasty (960-1279). It was the choice of the royal court and was given as tribute to the emperor. White tea leaves and buds were ground into a silvery powder, which was then whisked in bowls during the Song Tea Ceremony. This was the inspiration for the famous Japanese Tea Ceremony.
One Song Emperor was renowned for his love of white tea. Hui Zong (1101-1125) became so obsessed with finding the perfect tea that he lost much of his empire. Over the next several centuries, powdered white tea and the Song Tea Ceremony were abandoned for loose-leaf tea. In 1885, select varieties of the tea plant were developed for white tea. White tea has come a long way in its long history. It was largely unknown outside China and the Orient until recently. Now, with a renewed interest in fine tea and remarkable discoveries about its health benefits, white tea is being discovered and enjoyed around the world.
White teas are traditionally a product of China’s tea plantations. The most expensive and rare of that country’s teas, the tender silvery-green buds are gathered in the spring in the very brief span of time between the new buds forming and just before they start to open. The leaves used for the most expensive, top quality white tea can be up to one inch long and are from two varieties of the Chinese tea bush-the Shui Hsien and the Dai Bai.
Firstly it has to be stated that Red Tea made from the Rooibos Plant is not classed as "tea" made from the tea plant Camellia Sinensis. This beverage is also sometimes called rooibos, a reference to the parent plant. In Afrikaans, the hybrid Dutch language spoken in South Africa, “rooibos” means “red bush.” Native Africans have been using the leaves of this bush to prepare tisanes for centuries, and when European explorers were introduced to red tea, they acquired a taste for it. While the common name of “red tea” is technically incorrect, it has become so pervasive that it is generally considered acceptable, except by tea purists.
The rooibos plant only grows in a small region of South Africa. In the summer, the leaves are harvested, lightly bruised, and allowed to oxidize, which turns them red. After a period of oxidation, the tea is dried and packaged for sale. It is also possible to find green rooibos, made from fresh leaves which are immediately dried without oxidation. In South Africa, red tea is a readily available and very popular drink. The flavour is mild and earthy, with faint mineral tones and a natural sweetness. Red tea has no tannins or caffeine, so it is safe for people on restricted diets and individuals with health concerns. When steeped, the tea acquires a rich red colour, and it can enjoyed plain or lightly sweetened and dressed with milk. Some people enjoy red tea iced as well, and it is often offered as a thirst quenching drink in hot weather.
Ice tea is not such a popular drink in Western Europe but it is huge in the USA especially the Southern States. Back in 1904, Americans mostly drank green tea from China. At the St. Louis World's Fair, an Englishman by the name of Richard Blechynden was trying to introduce Americans to the new India and Ceylon black tea. It so happened that there was a heat wave going on at the time and queues were not forming to try this steamy hot beverage. After a few days of frustration, he tried adding ice to the tea in order to entice people to try it. It was the hit of the fair and a new way of drinking tea had instantly taken hold!
There are two traditional iced teas in the United States. The only variation between them is sugar. Southerners swear by their traditional sweet ice tea and drink it by the gallons. In the South, ice tea is not just a summertime drink, it is served year round with most meals. When people order tea in a Southern restaurant, chances are they will get sweet ice tea. Outside of the southern states, iced tea is served unsweetened or “black,” and most people have never even heard of sweet tea.
Ice Tea - Make Your Own::
Making Ice Tea is very simple. To make simply make a pot of tea in the normal way using your favourite tea and freshly boiled water. After about 5 minutes drain the tea liquid into a jug and add cold water to dilute the taste to your preference. Let cool. At this stage you can add sugar to taste or even add your favourite fruit juice. Then pour over ice into a long glass. Garnish with a slice of lemon or some fresh mint leaves. It's really that simple and very enjoyable on a hot day.
Herbal Teas - A brief Outline::
Herbal tea is not made from the tea bush Camellia Sinensis, therefore we are not going to cover much information on these teas as they generally come under the term "Herbal Infusions" and are in fact exactly that "Herbal Infusions". Do not confuse these drinks with tea which is made from the tea bush Camellia Sinensis
Herbal tea has been imbibed nearly as long as written history extends. Also known as a tisane or herbal infusion, an herbal tea is simply the combination of boiling water and dried fruit, flower or herb. Documents have been recovered dating back to as early as Ancient Egypt that discuss the enjoyment and uses of herbal tea.