There is much more to tea than a mug and a tea bag, here are 10 things you probably didn't know about tea, as found in The Tea Book.
This first fact is rather unsurprising. With the wide varieties of tea available and the cultural traditions of afternoon tea, the social conventions of meeting for a “cuppa” and the many tea drinking rituals around the world, tea is an important part of life for many people around the world.
Countless types of tea are produced all over the world, in many different types and flavours; however, they all originate from the Camellia sinensis plant. There are two main varieties of the Camellia sinensis, the Camellia sinensis var. sinensis thrives in a cool misty climate, suited to the more elevated regions of China, Japan and Taiwan. The second, Camellia sinensis var. assamica, thrives in tropical regions such as India, Sri Lanka and Kenya. The types of tea created, depend on the way the leaves are treated.
Matcha tea is being touted as the “espresso of the tea world” due to its high caffeine levels and ability to perk you up. It is also packed full of antioxidants, including EGCg which is known for its cancer fighting properties, and L-theanine, which helps to calm the mind and improve memory and concentration. The nutritional benefits of Matcha are far higher than that of other teas, it helps to detox the body, improves the immune system, and boosts energy and metabolism.
The tongue is made up of 10,000 taste buds, each containing 50-100 taste receptor cells. The tongue is capable of identifying five tastes, sweet, sour, salty, bitter and the more recently discovered Umami, a Japanese term meaning, “pleasant savoury taste”. When tasting tea, it is important to ensure that it reaches all five taste areas of the tongue, so you can experience all the flavours. Quickly slurping tea allows it to hit all of the taste receptors and improving your tasting experience.
It is believed that tea was discovered in China by Emperor Shennong in 2737BCE. Legend has it, that he was resting under a tea tree when he noticed the aroma from leaves that had fallen into a bubbling kettle. Intrigued by the fragrance, he took a sip and found it refreshing. Tea arrived in Europe in the 16th Century, the Portuguese were the first to drink it, but the Dutch made it popular, trading with other European countries. Due to its high price, tea was exclusively a drink for the wealthy, until, in 1784, the government reduced the duty on tea and made it affordable for most people.
“Teatinis”, martinis made using tea, have arrived at upscale bars as mixologists have discovered tea’s rich variety of flavours make a great addition to the more commonly found cocktail ingredients. These cocktails can be easily prepared at home too.
Iced tea is still relatively new in some parts of the world, but has been consumed in America for more than a century. It is believed that Richard Blechynden, an English tea company representative, invented iced tea. Blechynden was promoting Indian tea at the St Louis State Fair in Missouri during a heatwave in 1904; however, the weather was so hot, that the tea that he was handing out was generating very little interest. So he added ice to the tea and it became a bit hit. Since then it has been a favourite amongst Americans, with them consuming more iced tea than any other type.
Contrary to popular belief, not all herbal beverages can be classified as tea. “Herbal teas” are actually tisanes, as they are not made from the Camellia sinensis plant. Tisanes use various parts of other plants including roots, flowers, seeds, bark, stems and leaves to make an infusion. All tisanes, aside from yerba mate, do not contain caffeine, but are popular for their restorative qualities. They are used to induce sleep, to calm and relax the body and mind, and to treat cold and flu symptoms along with many other ailments. The Ancient Egyptians used tisanes for their healing properties.
A combination of lavender, hibiscus and rosehip packs a powerful punch of vitamin C and can help treat colds.
The Long Island Iced Tea is named because of its colour; it does not contain the slightest hint of tea. The ingredients for a Long Island Iced Tea are gin, tequila, vodka, white rum, triple sec, simple syrup, lemon juice and cola. For full instructions on how to make this classic non-tea cocktail, see The Tea Book.
There are many different variables that affect the taste of tea, including the type of water, the brewing time, whether you use loose tea or tea bags and even the temperature of the water. Black tea, or as many people know it “regular tea”, requires the hottest temperature at 100⁰C (210⁰F), followed by pu’er and oolong at 95⁰C (200⁰F), white and yellow at 80⁰C (175⁰F) and finally green tea at 75⁰C (170⁰F).
The Tea Book guides you through the best ways to choose, prepare and taste the many different varieties of tea available around the world, with everything you need to know to bring the fragrance and allure of the tea shop into your home.