A Bit About Tea



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Tea, a thing of comfort.  Tea can be a welcome treat any time of the year.  Tea is simultaneously soothing and stimulating.  Most teas tend to be a bit gentler on your taste buds than coffee, to say nothing of being more genteel.  

A good cup of tea deserves to be brewed with anticipation and leisurely sipped from a favorite cup while curled up with a good book; not grabbed from a stand and slurped from Styrofoam as you dash to work.  A cup of tea can be as comfortable as an old cardigan or as stimulating as fresh spring air.


Whether you enjoy your tea with milk and sugar in the English tradition, served from a glass and accompanied by a spoon of sweet preserves in the Russian tradition, spiced in the Indian tradition or savored for its self alone in the Oriental tradition, the complex world of tea is well worth your attention.







There are many delightful myths about the origin of tea.  Perhaps the most prevalent is that the legendary emperor of China, Shennong, was drinking a bowl of boiling water.  A playful breeze blew a few leaves from a nearby bush into the water, changing the color.  His curiosity prompted him to take a sip and he found it to be pleasant, refreshing and healthful.



True tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant.  It is thought to have originated in southeast Asia in the vicinity of latitude 29°N and longitude 98°E; the point where India, Burma, China and Tibet are in close proximity to each other.  Yunnan Province in China claims to be the birthplace of tea and also to be the home of the world’s oldest cultivated tea plant, some 3,200 years old.

There are four major types of teas commonly found on the market today: black tea, oolong tea, green tea and white tea.  All are made from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, but handled differently after harvesting.  White tea however, is even grown differently.  And then there is Pu-erh tea, a Post-fermented tea.

Types of true Camellia sinensis teas, are determined by the process the tea undergoes.  The leaves begin to wilt and oxidize soon after being harvested, if not dried quickly.  The leaves darken as their chlorophyll breaks down and the tannins are released.  This is called fermentation  in the tea industry,  although since there is no micro-organism activity and is not an anaerobic process, it is not a true fermentation.  White tea is wilted and un-oxidized.  Green teas are un-wilted and un-oxidized. Ollong is wilted, brused and partially oxidized.  Black tea is wited, sometimes crushed and fully oxidized.  Post-fermented teas like Pu-erh, are green tea that has been allowed to ferment and compost.




The English Country Kitchen




             Did You Know:


Dry tea has more caffeine by weight than coffee; however, more dried coffee is used than dry tea in preparation so a cup of brewed tea has significantly less caffeine than a cup of coffee of the same size.



      A Few Black Teas:




            Dian Hong



A few of My Favorite Tea Blends and Flavored Teas:


Earl Grey

English Breakfast


Irish Breakfast


Lapsang Souchong

Lichee – flavored with the peel of the Lichee nut

Russian Caravan  

Scottish Breakfast – lightly smokey

Some Green Teas Worthy of Note:


                   Bi Luo Chun






Pu-erh Teas:


If you are unfamiliar with Pu-erh tea, you should make an effort to acquaint yourself with it.  Pu-erh is considered by true tea aficionados to be the top of the line.  Pu-erh enthusiasts are to their teas as a sommelier is to his wine.  Most people either love or hate Pu-ere tea. One of the fascinating things about Pu-ere tea is the form it comes in.  It is usually pressed into shapes that look like something you found in an archeological dig.   

Pu-erh is a beast unto its self.  Both its method of production and its flavor are unique in the world of tea.  While some hail Pu-erh as the Mercedes Benz, Glenmorangie

or Gevrey-Chambertin of teas while others abhor it. 










Tea Bricks:

There was a time when tea was so valuable that it was actually uses as currency.  Moist tea leaves were pressed into bricks, usually with a decorative design on one side and the other side scored so that the brick could be easily broken, thus making it easy to give change.  Tea pressed into bricks also took up far less space in the cargo hold of the China Tea Clippers.  A few manufacturers still produce Tea BricksThey make excellent gifts for tea lovers.  Incidentally, this is the form of tea that was dumped into the Harbor during the Boston Tea Party, not loose tea.

Herbal Teas:


The term "herbal tea" usually refers to infusions made from the leaves, flowers, roots, seeds, bark or fruit of plants other than Camellia sinensis.  They usually contain no caffeine and are often drunk for their supposed “health giving,” properties.  There are also “Red Teas,” which usually refers to infusions made from the South African Rooibos, or the related Honeybush.  They also contain no caffeine.


A Few Popular Herbal Teas Are:




Lemon grass



Rose hip










HEY!  Let’s get something straight!  Chai is not a drink unto it’s self.  It is tea, just plain ol’ black tea with “masala.” or spices, milk and sugar added to it. Chai is the word for tea in many eastern cultures.  What most westerners now call Chai is in fact, Masala chai





Yerba Mate:

Yerba maté is a South American drink.  Although it is technically an herbal, it is loaded with caffeine.   This is the stuff that kept the Argentinean gauchos in the saddle for hours at a time.





For an excellent selection of teas at reasonable prices, check out

                             The San Francisco Herb Co. 

They have an excellent selection of teas and are good source for herbs and spices as well.
















        Copyright © 2008 - Geraldine Duncann

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