Who invented tea? During an extended day spent roaming the forest in search of edible grains and herbs, the weary divine farmer Shennong accidentally poisoned himself 72 times. But before the poisons could end his life, a leaf drifted into his mouth. He chewed thereon and it revived him, which is how we discovered tea. approximately an ancient legend goes a minimum of.
Where Did Tea Originate?
Tea doesn’t actually cure poisonings, but the story of Shennong, the mythical Chinese inventor of agriculture, highlights tea’s importance to ancient China. Archaeological evidence suggests tea was first cultivated there as early as 6,000 years ago, or 1,500 years before the pharaohs built the good Pyramids of Giza.
That original Chinese tea plant is that the same type that’s grown around the world today, yet it had been originally consumed very differently. It had been eaten as a vegetable or cooked with grain porridge. Tea only shifted from food to drink 1,500 years ago when people realized that a mixture of warmth and moisture could create a posh and varied taste out of the leafy green.
After many years of variations to the preparation method, the quality became to heat tea, pack it into portable cakes, grind it into powder, mix with the predicament , and make a beverage called matcha.
Matcha became so popular that a definite Chinese tea culture emerged. Tea was the topic of books and poetry, the favourite drink of emperors, and a medium for artists.
They would draw extravagant pictures within the foam of the tea, considerably just like the espresso art
you might see in coffee shops today. within the 9th century during the Tang, a Japanese monk brought the primary tea plant to Japan.
The Japanese eventually developed their own unique rituals around tea, resulting in the creation of the Japanese chanoyu. And within the 14th century during the Ming, the Chinese emperor shifted the quality from tea pressed into cakes to loose leaf tea.
At that time, China still held a virtual monopoly on the world’s tea trees, making tea one among three essential Chinese export goods, alongside porcelain and silk. This gave China an excellent deal of power and economic influence as tea drinking spread around the world.
History of Tea in Europe
That spread began in earnest around the early 1600s when Dutch traders brought tea to Europe
in large quantities. Many credit Queen Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese noblewoman, for creating tea fashionable English aristocracy when she married King Charles II in 1661.
At the time, Great Britain was within the midst of expanding its colonial influence and becoming the new dominant major power. And as Great Britain grew, interest in tea spread around the world.
By 1700, tea in Europe sold for ten times the worth of coffee and therefore the plant was still only grown in China. The tea trade was so lucrative that the world’s fastest sailboat, the clipper, was born out of intense competition between Western trading companies.
All were racing to bring their tea back to Europe first to maximise their profits. At first, Britain paid
for all this Chinese tea with silver. When that proved too expensive, they suggested trading tea for an additional substance, opium. This triggered public ill-health within China as people became hooked into the drug.
Then in 1839, a Chinese official ordered his men to destroy massive British shipments of opium as a press release against Britain’s influence over China.
This act triggered the primary Opium War between the 2 nations. Fighting raged up and down
the Chinese coast until 1842 when the defeated Qing ceded the port of Hong Kong to British and resumed trading on unfavourable terms.
The war weakened China’s global standing for over a century. British Malay Archipelago Company also
wanted to be ready to grow tea themselves and further control the market.
So they commissioned botanist Robert Fortune to steal tea from China during an operation. He disguised himself and took a dangerous journey through China’s mountainous tea regions, eventually smuggling tea trees and experienced tea workers into Darjeeling, India. From there, the plant spread further still, helping drive tea’s rapid climb as an everyday commodity.
Today, tea is that the second most consumed beverage within the world after water, and from sugary Turkish Rize tea to salty Tibetan butter tea, there are almost as some ways of preparing the beverage as there are cultures on the world.
Varietals and The Major Tea Categories
In the US, most tea drinkers assume anything other than coffee brewed in hot water is tea. However, like grapes for winemaking, all true tea comes from one species of plant: Camellia sinensis. Anything like chamomile, peppermint, or ginger is considered a tisane (or herbal tea) since these are not grown from the tea plant. True teas include green, white, oolong, black, and Pu’er.
What makes these styles different is the crafting method of the raw leaves, most importantly oxidation level. Oxidation is the reaction of the tea leaves to oxygen in the air, and is the same process that causes an apple to turn brown after cutting it; this process is halted once the tea leaves are roasted.
Green teas are leaves that are roasted straight away, with minimal exposure to air. There are two methods of crafting [Chinese] green teas: pan- and drum-roasting. These roasting styles give green teas a toasted, nutty aroma while maintaining a fresh, creamy finish.
Chinese green [teas] are less grassy and seaweed-like compared to Japanese green [teas] like matcha and sencha. White teas are similar to green [teas], but the leaves are allowed to wither and wilt before roasting. White teas are also variety- and region-specific, like champagne.
The best white [teas] originate in Fuding County of Fujian Province and have a refreshing finish with nuances of marzipan. The next category is oolong, which is between green and black and is defined by partial oxidation.
The oolong category is the most complex and has the widest range, similar to red wines. The lightest Formosa oolongs are known for their fresh, floral notes; classic Anxi oolongs possess nutty, butterscotch-like flavours; Phoenix oolongs are known for their intense fruit and floral aroma; while the charcoal roasted oolongs from Wuyi Mountain are similar to scotch in their intensity and finish. At the darkest end of the spectrum, black teas are defined by full oxidation. Many popular black teas like English Breakfast and Earl
Grey has created blends, many of them artificially flavoured and coloured. The traditional Chinese black teas we source at Red Blossom are all-natural, containing minimal tannin and no bitterness. Just as you wouldn’t use a good bottle of wine to make sangria, there’s no need to add milk and sweetener to a premium
tea. The final tea category is Pu’er.
However, unlike other teas, Pu’er is the only category that undergoes fermentation. Unlike oxidation, which is a chemical reaction between fresh leaves and the air, fermentation is caused by microbial breakdown of the tea.
Pu’er leaves are heat-dried right after harvesting, and they are kept in a cool, dry storage environment to ferment over a long period of time. Like vintage Bordeaux wines, the best Pu’ers come from specific growing regions and have been carefully stored to bring out rich, earthy flavours and a dried fruit finish.
Within this category, there are raw and cooked Pu’ers. Raw Pu’ers (known as sheng pu in Chinese) are processed similarly to green tea and are meant to store for a longer period of time to naturally ferment the leaves.
Cooked [or “ripe”] Pu’ers (shou pu in Chinese) are Pu’ers that undergo expedited aging in a humidity and temperature-controlled environment to create the flavours of an aged sheng pu [raw Pu’er] without having to wait years for this transformation.
This carefully controlled process allows more people to enjoy the taste of aged Pu’er tea, similar to modern cheese production. With their complexity and earthy taste, Pu’ers are usually preferred by more experienced tea drinkers. Most tea drinkers start out with scented teas like jasmine, which has captivating fragrances and is easy to drink, similar to sweeter white wines versus the richer reds.
Naturally scented tea requires a base tea (usually green or white) to which flowers are adding during the drying process. The base tea naturally absorbs the fragrances of the flowers, similar to perfume making. Premium quality scented teas go through this process multiple times, imparting a more intense floral flavour.