L. Golender, Tea, 2003
History of Tea
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The leaves, leaf buds, and internodes of Camellia sinensis, cured by various methods, are infused in hot or boiling water. This beverage is called tea. The southwestern part of China is the native place of Camellia sinensis (tea trees) in the world and Yunnan province is the center of China's tea tree origination. Then tea was developed mainly in Canton(Guangdong, or Kwangtung, or Kuang-tung) and Fukien(Fujian) regions.
Along the trade routes of antiquity went caravans with as many as 4,000 camels bearing spices and the rich merchandise of the East, plodding along from Goa, Calicut and the Orient to spice markets in Nineveh and Babylon, Carthage, Alexandria and Rome.
The routes had been traveled for hundreds, almost thousands of years, bringing pepper and cloves from India, cinnamon and nutmeg from the Spice Islands (or Moluccas), ginger from China.
For hundreds of years frail ships clawed their way along the Indian coast, past the pirate-infested Persian Gulf, along the coast of South Arabia and through the Red Sea to Egypt. Those were typical ways of bringing spices from the Orient to the Western world in ancient times.
Suddenly European merchants realized these places could be reached by ship. Much of the mystery had had been removed from the lands of spicery, and Europe was awakened to a new quest.
All classes of tea come from the same plant. The different classes of tea (e.g. Black tea, Green tea, Pouchong tea, Oolong tea) are the result of differences in the tea manufacturing process, and not due to different types of tea plants. However, from experience, tea manufacturers have discovered that certain varieties, locations, and seasons tend to produce Camellia Sinesis (tea plants), which produce better qualities of certain classes of tea.
One of the key steps in the tea manufacturing process, that determines the type of tea that is produced, is the degree of fermentation the tea leaves are allowed to undergo. The term fermentation when applied to tea is something of a misnomer, as the term actually refers to how much a tea is allowed to undergo enzymatic oxidation by allowing the freshly picked tea leaves to dry. This enzymatic oxidation process may be stopped by either pan frying or steaming the leaves before they are completely dried out. Teas are generally classified based on the degree of fermentation: a) Non-fermented, b) Semi-fermented, c) Fully-fermented.
White tea is considered among, if not the rarest types of tea available, because of its limited availability. What separates white tea from black, oolong, and green teas is the way it is processed: like green tea, white tea is unfermented and has a light, delicate flavor, but rather than being rolled like green tea, the leaves are plucked and dried for a perhaps "fresher" or more natural state. This happens only a few times a year, from a rare strain of the Chinese tea plant. White tea is produced only in China, primarily in the province of Fukien.
Fine little white hairs cover the leaves, the liquor is clear and almost colorless, caffeine level is low, and some research indicates that white teas have even more (or stronger) health benefits than incredible green teas. Among the rarest of the white teas :
For centuries this very famous aromatic light green tea was known by the name Xia Sha Ren Xiang (Astounding Fragrance).
A legend explains why. Once in the distant past, some pickers of a particularly good crop filled their baskets before they were ready to go home.
Wanting to carry more leaves, they stuffed the excess inside their tunics. By another version they were stealing the tea.
Warmed by body heat, the leaves began to give off a rich aroma.
"I was astounded," many pickers said, and the name stuck.
Sometime in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century while on an inspection of his realm,
Emperor Kang Xi visited the Lake Taihu area in Zhejiang province and his host, the governor of Jiangsu, presented him with this tea.
Striking the Emperor as a tea of purity he asked the name. "Astounding Fragrance" was his host's reply.
The Emperor, with disdain, replied that such a name for this treasure was vulgar and an insult.
Ordering the unused leaves brought for his examination,
the Emperor declared that a more fitting name would be Green Snail Spring because the rolled shape looked like a snail shell.
The original name is most popular, however.
Peach, apricot and plum trees are planted among the bushes. When these fruit trees bloom, the tender spouts and buds of tea absorb the aromas to be passed on to those who drink their infusion. The name is now known all over the world, for this is one of China's famous rare teas. Its home is two mountains known as East and West Dongting which poke up out of Taihu, the great lake not far west of Shanghai, and where the garden city of Suzhou is located. One mountain is an island in the lake and the other a peninsula. The water evaporating from the lake keeps them overhung with clouds and mist, thus the young leaves stay moist. The prime time to pick the tea leaves is during the Pure Brightness festival when the buds are jade-green tinged with white. Bi Luo Chun is picked during the spring until April when the spring rains begin. Only one leaf and the bud are plucked. Harvesting is done completely by hand and great skill is required to roll and fire the leaves. Bi Luo Chun was selected as the offering of local government to the emperor in Qing Dynasty.
While flavored teas evolve from these three basic teas, herbal teas contain no true tea leaves. Herbal and "medicinal" teas are created from the flowers, berries, peels, seeds, leaves and roots of many different plants.
Long, thin, wiry leaves which sometimes contain bud leaf; light-or pale-colored liquid. Orange pekoe is simply a size; the term does not indicate flavor or quality.
Tea contains a number of antioxidants substances called polyphenols , especially flavonoids such as catechins, that may help reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases. Catechins are highest in concentration in white and green teas, while black tea has substantially fewer due to its oxidative preparation. Tea contains theanine, and the stimulant caffeine at about 3% of its dry weight. Tea also contains small amounts of theobromine and theophylline. Tea also contains fluoride, with certain types of brick tea made from old leaves and stems having the highest levels.
There is growing evidence that a diet high in polyphenols, which include naturally-occurring chemicals such as tannins, lignins and flavonoids, can help to increase an individual's chance of reaching their genetically-determined lifespan.
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