All About Tea
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea” Henry James
After water, tea is the most consumed drink in the world. Widely accessible by all and enjoyed in a variety of ways. From a quick cuppa, an accessory to a catch up with friends and family, to the much celebrated high tea with cucumber sandwiches.
All tea comes from the tea bush Camellia Sinensis and was said to have originated in China. Camellia Sinensis flourishes anywhere it can find well-drained soils, rainfall of over 1,300 millimetres per year, and tropical or subtropical temperatures. Will Battle – The World Tea Encyclopaedia (2017)
That being said, the tea bush is also an adaptable plant and can also be found growing in the UK, with tea plantations being found in Scotland and Cornwall.
From green tea, Oolong, to the ever popular black tea, it is the way in which the picked leaves are processed which will determine which variety of tea it becomes.
The main stages of tea processing are:
Newly picked leaves are thinly spread to dry; this reduces the water content in the leaf. Heated air is used if the climate is not suitable. By the end of this process the leaves are pliable enough to be rolled.
When rolled leaves are pressed, twisted or rolled the leaf cells are broken up. This process can be done by hand or by using machinery. Oils are released and remain on the leaf; it is this process that gives tea its distinctive aroma.
It is during this chemical process that oxygen is absorbed, this step of the process started as soon as the leaf membranes were broken during the rolling stage. Oxidation changes the colour of leaf and it is this process which decides whether we have green, oolong or black tea.
In this stage the leaves are dried evenly and thoroughly without burning the leaves. Heating the leaves stops the oxidation process.