Each cup of tea represents
an imaginary voyage.
The story of tea begins in China. According to legend, in 2737 BC, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung was sitting beneath a tree while his servant boiled drinking water, when some leaves from the tree blew into the water. Shen Nung, a renowned herbalist, decided to try the infusion that his servant had accidentally created. The tree was a Camellia sinensis, and the resulting drink was what we now call tea.
Tea leaves were used in medicine and the firs documents witnessing the crop of leaves date back to 2000 BC.
It was under the Tang dynasty (618-906 AD), that tea became firmly established as the national drink of China. During this period, tea was ground and then boiled with a pinch of salt.
Under the Tang dynasty, a writer called Lu Yu wrote the first book entirely about tea, the Ch’a Ching, or Tea Classic.
It was shortly after this that tea was first introduced to Japan, by Japanese Buddhist monks who had travelled to China to study. Tea drinking has become a vital part of Japanese culture, as seen in the development of the Tea Ceremony, which may be rooted in the rituals described in the Ch’a Ching.
Only in the seventeenth century tea spread among Europeans. It is uncertain whether were the Portuguese or the Dutch living in the East as the first traders of tea. However, it is known that the first lot of tea was shipped in Amsterdam in 1610, and from there spread to London. The English, who became passionate about tea, decided to trade directly with China. It was in this period that the East India Company was founded and became the most powerful commercial organisation that the world has ever seen. Since then, in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the interest in tea spread throughout Europe and the USA.
Green tea is not fermented and leaves do not undergo the process of fermentation, keeping then their green color and producing a clear and fragrant infusion. The traditional processing method of green tea involves withering, heating, rolling and drying. After picking, the fresh leaves are spread out on bamboo trays and exposed to sunlight or warm air for one to two hours. Then, the leaves are heated to prevent oxidation and preserve freshness. Finally, the leaves are rolled into various shapes and then dried. The rolling also helps regulate the release of natural oils and flavor during steeping. In China, green teas are often panfired in very large woks and then rolled by hand into various styles: twisted, flat, curly or balled. In Japan, the plucked leaves are quickly steamed on a bamboo tray over water or in a steaming machine, making them easier to shape. The leaves are then rolled by hand or machine before being dried.
Black tea is mainly produced in India and African countries. The black tea processing involves four steps: withering, rolling, fermentation and drying. Firstly, leaves are left withering until they are soft enough to roll without the surface of the leaf splitting. The rolled lumps of leaf are then left in cool, humid atmospheric conditions for a few hours to absorb oxygen. The chemical change in the leaf turns them from green to a coppery red colour. The final stage requires the leaf to be fermented to prevent natural decomposition. At this stage the leaves turn black and are recognizable as tea.
Spice tea is made with green and black tea, and oolong. There are two methods of processing spice tea. The Chinese traditional one consists in adding to tea leaves petals or flower buds, that are remove afterwards. The most used essences are jasmine, sweet chrysanthemum, lotus and rose petals.
The other method consists in adding tea leaves of essential oils obtaining then a wide variety of aromas.
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