History of Tea and Tea Trivia

Tea Facts - History of Tea

The consumption of tea can be traced to as far back as 2700 BC in China when it was mainly used for medicinal purposes. It was sometime during the third century that the use of tea as a beverage began. Tea is brewed by pouring boiling water over tea leaves. The tea leaves may be loose, in a teabag, or placed in an infuser. The first tea bags were made of silk and hand sewn. Teabags were first produced commercially by a coffee and tea merchant named Thomas Sullivan. In 1904 he initially used them in order to avoid using expensive tins to ship tea samples. The popularity of the teabag grew rapidly. The year 1904 is also the same year iced tea began to be sold commercially. Everyone is familiar with the flow thru tea bag designed by Thomas Lipton in 1952. Tea is also available in instant form, a powder that dissolves quickly in cold water and is primarily used in iced teas.

The Tea Plant - Camellia sinensis

Tea leaves come from the tea plant Camellia sinensis. There are two main varieties are used, Camellia sinensis sinensis and Camellia sinensis assamica. The CS sinensis is a small leafed tea and is also called the China plant. CS assamica is a large leafed Assam plant. Tea is further classified by region of origin and by the size of the processed leaf all of which is very complicated and much too involved to explain here. It is more important to those dealing in the cultivation and manufacturing of tea. Suffice it to say origin and leaf size are considered when classifying teas.

Differences Between Black Tea, Green Tea, Oolong and White Tea

For the consumer the most important and more easily understood classification is that of the manufacturing process. The four main categories of tea are fermented or black tea, unfermented or green tea, white tea, and semi fermented tea. The differences between teas is mainly in the processing. White tea is the least processed tea. Tea leaf buds are harvested before opening and simply allowed to dry. White tea is more scarce than other tea. Green tea comes from harvested leaves which are allowed to dry then heated or baked to prevent fermentation. Since there is no fermentation the tea leaf stays green. Semi fermented or oolong teas are made from harvested tea leaves which are allowed to dry. The leaves are then lightly bruised and allowed to dry again until leaves just begin to discolor. Black tea is the most processed tea. Tea leaves are allowed to dry, then they are rolled. allowed to dry and ferment, then baked to stop the fermentation. Each tea plant has it's own distinct flavor and most teas are a blend of more that one plant. Black teas are the most common with green teas rapidly gaining popularity. Semi fermented teas; oolong or pouchong, from a variety of a China plant, have an almost smoky taste. As with coffee, there are many varieties of tea and tea blends within each category available on the market. It is wonderful to sample and experience teas of the world. It is also fascinating to read and learn of the manufacturing of tea.

Tea has been and still is an important part of many societies and cultures. High tea, tea parties and tea ceremonies are still quite common in many parts of the world. Afternoon tea at 4 o'clock first gained popularity in England in the early1800's when people wanted to find a way to satisfy their hunger in the late afternoon while waiting for dinner. Dinner was typically served in late evening hours.
Tea remains a common beverage in both formal and informal settings throughout the world. The history of tea is a fascinating subject.

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