Tea is the agricultural product of the leaves, leaf buds, and internodes of various cultivars and sub-varieties of the Camellia sinensis plant, processed and cured using various methods. "Tea" also refers to the aromatic beverage prepared from the cured leaves by combination with hot or boiling water, and is the common name for the Camellia sinensis plant itself. After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world. It has a cooling, slightly bitter, astringent flavour which many enjoy.
The term herbal tea usually refers to infusions of fruit or herbs containing no actual tea, such as rosehip tea or chamomile tea. Alternative terms for this are tisane or herbal infusion, both bearing an implied contrast with tea. This article is concerned exclusively with preparations and uses of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis.
Cultivation and harvesting
Camellia sinensis is an evergreen plant that grows mainly in tropical and sub-tropical climates. Nevertheless, some varieties can also tolerate marine climates and are cultivated as far north as Pembrokeshire in the British mainland and Washington in the United States.
Tea plants are propagated from seed or by cutting; it takes approximately 4 to 12 years for a tea plant to bear seed, and about 3 years before a new plant is ready for harvesting. In addition to a zone 8 climate or warmer, tea plants require at least 127 cm. (50 inches) of rainfall a year and prefer acidic soils. Traditional Chinese Tea Cultivation and Studies believes that high-quality tea plants are cultivated at elevations of up to 1,500 meters (4,900 ft.): at these heights, the plants grow more slowly and acquire a better flavor.
Only the top 1-2 inches of the mature plant are picked. These buds and leaves are called flushes. A plant will grow a new flush every seven to fifteen days during the growing season, and leaves that are slow in development always produce better flavored teas.
A tea plant will grow into a tree of up to 16 meters (52 ft.) if left undisturbed, but cultivated plants are pruned to waist height for ease of plucking.
Two principal varieties are used: the China plant (C. sinensis sinensis), used for most Chinese, Formosan and Japanese teas (but not Pu-erh); and the clonal Assam tea plant (C. sinensis assamica), used in most Indian and other teas (but not Darjeeling). Within these botanical varieties, there are many strains and modern Indian clonal varieties. Leaf size is the chief criterion for the classification of tea plants, with three primary classifications being: Assam type, characterized by the largest leaves; China type, characterized by the smallest leaves; and Cambod, characterized by leaves of intermediate size.
Processing and classification
Tea leaf processing methods
There are at least six varieties of tea: white, yellow, green, oolong, black, and post-fermented teas of which the most commonly found on the market are white, green, oolong, and black. Some varieties, such as traditional oolong tea and Pu-erh tea, a post-fermented tea, can be used medicinally.
A tea's type is determined by the processing which it undergoes. Leaves of Camellia sinensis soon begin to wilt and oxidize, if not dried quickly after picking. The leaves turn progressively darker as their chlorophyll breaks down and tannins are released. This enzymatic oxidation process, known as fermentation in the tea industry, is caused by the plant's intracellular enzymes and causes the tea to darken. In tea processing, the darkening is stopped at a predetermined stage by heating, which deactivates the enzymes responsible. In the production of black teas, the halting of oxidization by heating is carried out simultaneously with drying.
Without careful moisture and temperature control during manufacture and packaging, the tea may become unfit for consumption, due to the growth of undesired molds and bacteria. At minimum it may alter the taste and make it undesirable.
Tea is traditionally classified based on the techniques with which it is produced and processed.
- White tea: Wilted and unoxidized
- Yellow tea: Unwilted and unoxidized, but allowed to yellow
- Green tea: Unwilted and unoxidized
- Oolong: Wilted, bruised, and partially oxidized
- Black tea: Wilted, sometimes crushed, and fully oxidized
- Post-fermented tea: Green tea that has been allowed to ferment/compost
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea"
Text is released and available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
Additional terms may apply.
How To Brew Tea
How Long Will My Tea Last?
Hot Tips for Iced Tea
New Choices for Discerning Palettes
Tea Novice? No Problem!
Tea Tasting Terms
Welcome to Kally Tea. We have to admit, once we started drinking loose leaf tea, it quickly turned from a pleasurable delight to a serious passion. We have discovered that drinking loose leaf tea has made us feel better in many ways, not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. Black tea, either straight, or flavored, fulfills our morning get-up-and-go-needs. Green tea, as well as white tea, both have a very calming and satisfying effect on the body. Oolong tea, with its distinct taste, is wonderful any time of the day, and is especially enjoyable after a session of Qi Gong. Herbals also provide wonderful health benefits that seem to have been suppressed for many years.
This website represents our long-time passion and vision for how to make a genuine contribution to people’s lives. We are so confident that you will enjoy our offerings of loose leaf tea that we offer this full satisfaction guarantee - you’ll love our tea or get your money back. We also offer free tea samples in every order shipped. Please browse our site and join us in what we feel is some of the best tea we have ever tasted.
Giving Back to the Community