Tea is certainly one of the most popular and consumed drinks on the planet. Although there are legends that trace the discovery and use of tea back to protohistory, its history probably begins in China around the third century, initially used as a ritual beverage, and then ended up being known and used on a large scale throughout the Asian continent and quickly in the rest of the globe. The first mention of tea in a European text dates back to the 16th century, when the tea ceremony (Cha no yu) was developed in Japan. Contrary to what one might think, in Europe the first to consume tea was not the English, but the Dutch, who were the first to import it into the European and American continent at the beginning of the seventeenth century.
There are countless types of tea available on the market, but they all come from the same species, Camelia sinensis. The difference between the different types is mainly due to the post-harvest treatment carried out on the leaves. The name of the type of tea therefore depends on the oxidation of the leaves, so we will have green tea from unoxidised leaves, black tea from completely oxidized leaves, and an intermediate variant between the two oxidations called oolong. There may be other variants and names always given by the particular type of oxidation. While the name of the variant is usually given by the growing region, such as Darjeeling, black tea grown in the Indian region of the same name, or by other important factors such as Lu Mu Dan, which owes its name (“Green Peony”) to the characteristic shape in which the shoots are woven.
We are often used to preparing tea in the same way, regardless of type or variety. Actually, every tea releases the best of its characteristics if properly infused. Black tea loves a decidedly high water temperature (even over 90°), while green and white teas are best enjoyed when poured into water at temperatures not exceeding 70°/80°. The same goes for the infusion minutes, which, although varying from a few seconds to well beyond 10 minutes depending on the specific variety and traditions, should be approximately 1-2 minutes for green and white tea and 2-3 minutes for oolong and black tea.
In addition to its ceremonial and recreational uses, tea has also been an important protagonist of historical events. As in 1773, when in the port of Boston, in protest against British taxes, some American settlers poured all the cargoes of tea from ships. Even in literature, tea is often an important element, as in the case of “Alice in wonderland” Lewis Carroll, where the mad hatter and white rabbit are intent on drinking (or not drinking) tea. Or as in the novel “In Search of Lost Time” by Marcel Proust, where tea can even lift the mind and self-respect, to name just a few examples. And if it’s charm is unquestionable, tea is equally loaded with beneficial properties, some of which are scientifically proven. Theanine for example, with its psychoactive properties, is able to reduce stress and perhaps, although not yet scientifically proven, has a positive impact on the immune system.
So all we have to do is drink a good cup of tea, be it 5 pm, as the British or at any time it’s more congenial!
If you want to give a new touch to your tea infusions, you could use one of my custom tea infusers. Take a look at my shop.
What kind of tea do you prefer? Do you have your own personal tea ritual? Do you drink it straight, or with milk or lemon? Tell me about your relationship with this noble and ancient drink.