Tea is the second most-consumed beverage in the world, second to water. In its long history it has traveled across continents, helped build whole economies, been celebrated for it’s health benefits, and has been the center of various traditions. But what do you really know about tea?
The varieties of Black (referred to as Red Tea is China), White, Green, Yellow, and Oolong tea all come from the same cured leaves of the Camellia Sinesis, or the tea plant. What makes them different varieties depends on how they are processed (similar to different roasts of coffee). The term Herbal Tea refers to beverage infusions made from herbs or fruits with the omission of the tea plant, such as Rosehip, Mint, or Chamomile tea.
The process of curing begins with enzymatic oxidation, also called darkening, as the chlorophyll content of the leaves breaks down (it also releases their natural tannins). The darkening process is followed up with heating to stop the oxidation.
What’s In Your Cup
A typical cup has between 30 mg – 90 mg of caffeine in each 8oz serving (while your average 8oz cup of coffee has 90 mg – 200 mg).
Catechins, a type of antioxidant, is found in all varieties, however its most potent levels are in Green Tea. It is thought to prevent obesity-related cancers such as liver and colorectal. It’s protection against cardiovascular disease is found in both Green and Black Tea.
Tea drinking in China was first recorded in the 10th Century BC, during the Shang Dynasty as a medicinal drink.
Tea was first brought to Great Britain in 1660 by Catherine of Braganza, the wife of Charles II, but did not become popular until the 19th century.
The first teabag was distributed in 1907 by American tea merchant Thomas Sullivan. Using Chinese silk, the bag presented a way to reuse a steeping vessel for fresh tea. It did not become widely used until World War II when tea was being rationed, and became commercially distributed in 1953.
Tea Around The World
Ireland is, and has been for quite some time, the biggest per-capita consumers of tea with an average of 4 cups a day per person (sometimes up to 6).
The United States and Canada consume 80% of their tea in iced form.
It has been declared that by April 2013, tea will be the national drink of India.
The people of the Kashmir region enjoy noon chai, a creamy pink tea made with pistachios, almonds, and cardamom.
Switzerland brews a special type of iced tea using black tea, sugar, lemon juice, and a variety of Alp herbs. Lemongrass and Jasmine flavors are also very popular.
Burma has a fondness for iced sweet green and black tea. Laphet, or pickled tea leaves, are a national delicacy, served with roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, fried beans, and fried garlic chips.
mmm, doesn’t all this information make you want a hot cup?