Having been a tea drinker for several years, I have written about it before. Many of you might read that sentence, yawn and click past. I hope not, because I find tea to be fascinating. I’m one of those people who when I like something I have to know all about it. I want to know where it came from, who made it, and how it was made until I know all there is to know about it. Then and only then will I be satisfied. And knowing about something seems to help me to enjoy it more. So we are leaving all the usual subjects behind this time and delving into something a lot of people know little about. You can only immerse yourself in the troubles of the world so long before you start talking to yourself and bumping into walls.
Did you know that tea is the most popular beverage in the world after water? It’s true, it is. The Tea Association of the U.S.A. lists a number of facts concerning tea. The tea bush’s (or tree) scientific name is Camellia sinensis and it has three varieties, sinensis, assamica, and cambodi. All the tea in the world derives from that one plant. There are others that are called tea, such as Rooibos, which is grown in Africa, but it’s not really tea. Also, you may have heard of Tea Tree Oil. It is an essential oil used for a variety of uses but it comes from the Melaleuca alternifolia plant and not from Camellia sinensis. Now you may be thinking that there are different types of tea and how can they all come from the same plant? There are in fact, six types of tea: black, green, white, yellow, oolong, and Pu-erh. All of these varieties come from the processing of the leaves of Camellia sinensis.
Legend has it that the tea drink was discovered around 5000 years ago in China. It wasn’t until the Tang dynasty (618-907) however that tea drinking became popular. At that time it grew only in China but today tea bush is grown in over forty counties world wide. Many tea growers today use sustainability practices to create healthier plants and a healthier environment. Many tea companies are Rain Forest Alliance certified and Fair Trade listed so you can feel good about your tea drinking.
Most of the world’s tea is hand picked and processed and thus, very labor intensive. Some mechanical pickers are used but for the most part, tea is hand picked. The reason for this is that different types of tea are made by different configurations of leaf and bud. Which means that some teas are made by picking two leaves and a bud, some by one leaf and a bud, some by buds only, etc. Hand picking is the only reliable way to get this right. The processing of the tea leaves then produces the different types such as green tea or black, oolong, etc. And then of course there is the drinking of the tea, which is the best part. You may be interested to know that tea in tea bags, such as Lipton and other brands, is the poorest quality tea on the market. The tea in tea bags is crushed and usually derived from the processing of whole leaf teas. The best way to enjoy tea is by using a strainer and whole leaf tea. The flavors are so much better.
But even with all the processing techniques used to make quality tea, the best cup of tea is up to you. The temperature of the water and the steeping time combined with the right amount of tea will produce the best cup. And tea has less caffeine than coffee so if you’re looking for a reduction in socially acceptable drug addiction, tea is the way to go! I drink black tea, in a twelve ounce cup using a teaspoon and 1/4 of whole leaf tea. After the water comes to a boil, remove the tea pot from the heat and wait till the bubbling stops. Pour the water into the cup and wait one minute. Then put the tea strainer with the tea in and steep for four minutes constantly moving the strainer. During that time you can do a short meditation on being thankful for all of the hundreds of people who’s work has brought you this wonderful cup of tea. After four minutes remove the strainer and drink. I use a table spoon of honey for a sweetener. And there you have it, a great cup of tea!