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Tea is believed to have been discovered by the Chinese Emperor, Chen Nung, in 2737 BC. Legend has it that he was resting in the shelter of a tea plant one day, when some of its leaves blew into a nearby bowl of boiling water. Tempted by the aroma of the now-infused water, the Emperor took a sip... and the rest is history.
Initially, the Chinese took tea as a herbal remedy. But, by the third century BC, they had started to drink it simply for pleasure. The Chinese began to cultivate the plant to meet increasing demand, and introduced processing methods as a way of drying and preserving the fresh leaves.
In around 780 BC, the Chinese began fermenting green tea in a quest to discover new variations. This led to the discovery of black tea: a drink whose popularity soared when it was rediscovered and cultivated in India, more than two thousand years later.
In many respects, tea is much like wine. This is because its characteristics can vary considerably, depending on how and where it is grown and produced. Soil, climate and altitude all play their part, as do the shape of the leaf, the time of the harvest, and the production methods used.
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Green tea is usually produced from the youngest leaves of the plant. Its colour is subtle, its aroma mellow, and its flavours invigorating.
When a leaf is destined to become green tea, its natural fermentation process needs to be arrested soon after plucking. This results in a drink that is full of nutrients.
Green tea exists in a number of varieties, including: Japanese green
Traditionally, Japanese leaves are steamed to halt the fermentation process. They are placed in large drums, and blanched for at least two minutes. After this, they are rolled to break down their cells, and 'cooked' to remove their moisture.
This steaming process helps the leaves to retain their grassy green colour, and produces a flavour that is fresh and tart.
Once picked, Chinese leaves are pan-roasted to stop oxidation. They are placed in large iron pans or drums, and heated to 280 degrees for around 10 seconds. This makes them slightly paler in colour than their Japanese counterparts, and gives Chinese green tea a milder, sweeter flavour.
Green tea has been produced in Formosa (now Taiwan) since the 1850s, when Chinese growers migrated to the island. Its Chinese roots mean that Formosan green tea is pan roasted, rather than steamed, to halt fermentation.
As surprising as it may sound, both black and green teas are produced from the same leaves. So why do they look and taste so different?
The distinction lies in the method of processing. During black tea production, the harvested leaves are left to ferment completely before they are rolled and dried. This results in an infusion that is darker in colour, stronger in taste and higher in caffeine than the green equivilent.
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Assam is suitable for even the hardest water, and goes well with brown sugar and a dash of milk.
Tea has been cultivated in Nepal since 1920. The geography and climate of the country's Himalayan slopes produce a delightfully aromatic brew that is reminiscent of Darjeeling.
Ceylon's are defined by crisp, citrus flavours. They are delicious either as single estate teas, or as part of a blend.
Produced almost exclusively in the Fujian province of China, white tea is widely regarded as one of the finest in the world.
Oolong is a semi-fermented tea. This means that, after plucking, the leaves are allowed to ferment - but only partially.
Herbal infusions can be created from flowers, leaves, or any other part of a plant. Some are designed to relax you, while others are intended to give you a boost.
Well-known flavoured teas include Earl Grey and Chai.
And if this has whetted your appetite and you're looking for a wholesale purchase, an eco friendly tea caddy, a cup of tea set for one or a special tea gift for a friend or family member then visit https://www.cupoftea.co.uk/ to buy global teas online - they ship worldwide!
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