History of Tea
The story of tea goes back as far as 2737 BC, during the reign of the Chinese Emperor Shun Nung, who was known as the ‘Divine Healer.’Shun Nung always drank boiled water in the belief that it benefitted his health. Legend has it that, one day, some leaves were blown from a nearby tree into his bowl of hot water. Noting the delightful aroma, the Emperor tasted the beverage and declared it ‘Heaven sent.’
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Freshly plucked green leaves are dehumidified and lose approximately 30% of their humidity. This takes place in 25 to 30 metre long wilting trays. Big ventilators blow air over the trays, which are stringed with wire. The process takes between 12 and 18 hours.
The cell walls of the leaf are opened with big rolling machines. The cell juice escapes and connects with oxygen. This enables the essential oils, which determine the flavours and scent of the tea, to develop and begins the fermentation process.
The oxidation or fermentation process of the escaping cell juice would already have begun when the leaves were rolled. During the fermentation process, which takes 2 to 3 hours, the leaf turns copper red in colour. This same copper colour returns when the tea is infused.
Drying / Firing
Once the desired fermentation degree is reached, the drying process starts. For this purpose, special drying machines are used. These are fired either with wood or oil. The tea passes through a treadmill heated to a temperature of 90 degrees. After about 20 minutes, the cell juice which escaped during the rolling process dries and becomes part of the tea leaf. During the drying process, the tea turns black in colour. The remaining humidity of the tea is about 6%. Only 1 kg of black tea is extracted from 4 kg green tea leaves.
The tea is sorted into its different grades by means of a variety of sieves. These grades range from standard leaf quality to broken grade tea.
CTC Method (Crushing – Tearing – Curling)
After the withering process the leaf is rolled only once and then broken and crushed by specially constructed machines with big thorn-equipped cylinders. During this process, stems and leaf veins are eliminated as far as possible and only the chopped “meat” of the leaves goes into further processing.
Leaf grades in CTC production
BP = Broken Pekoe
PF = Pekoe Fannings
PD = Pekoe Dust
Usual orthodox leaf grades – percentages of total tea production
Large leaf size (SFTGFOP1, FTGFOP1, TGFOP1, GFOP, FOP) = 6%
Small leaf size (FP, PEKOE) = 15%
Rough broken (FBOP) = 20%
Fine Broken (GFBOP, GBOP) = 20%
Fannings (BOPF, OF) + Dust (PD) = 39% (both grades for tea bags only)
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Definition of Our Use of Flavours
We only use flavours* which are, according to strict guidelines, fit for human consumption.
We do not use artificial flavours for our tea.
*Natural Flavours are taken from natural vegetable such as fruit, spices, herbs or roasted coffee. They may only be produced by using physical, enzymatic or microbiological processes, for example squeezing, distilling, warming, and filtration, grinding, blending, fermenting or crushing.
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Types of Tea
Fully-fermented tea (100% fermentation) which varies in appearance from broken to long black leaves. Infusing these leaves results in a dark coloured liquid – hence the name. Black tea is the most widely consumed tea in the world, especially in the West. Flavoured black tea, which is becoming increasingly popular, results from the addition of various ingredients such as flower petals, fruit peel and natural essences.
Semi-fermented tea (10~70% fermentation). There are many varieties of oolong tea, the colours of the leaves varying from dark green to green-brown in colour. Liquid varies from honey-green to honey-yellow in colour. Taste varies from delicate and floral or fruity in character to sweet / astringent. Like green tea, oolong is also rich in vitamin C. Of all teas, oolong tea is the most highly regarded and is naturally rich in flavour. Oolong tea is commonly drunk in the Fujian and Canton provinces of China and Taiwan. Taiwan has the technology necessary to produce high quality oolong teas.
There is no fermentation for green tea and it has jade-green leaves. Liquid varies from green to yellow – hence the names, i.e. Lung Ching and Sencha. Green teas are commonly consumed in Korea, Japan, the Middle East and North Africa – all areas of high meat consumption. Green tea is a good way to offset the effects of a diet high in animal protein and too low in fresh produce. In addition, green tea is a good source of natural antioxidants and contains plant polyphenols and vitamin C.
This popular tea is generally made from either green or quality white teas. Well known as a classic tea served in many Asian restaurants, it has a light floral taste which is ideal as a refreshing accompaniment to meals.
There is no fermentation for white tea and it is the least processed of all teas. It has long slender white leaves, which result in a clean, ivory liquid. White tea comes from the youngest, most tender leaves of the tea tree and gets its name from the fine silver hair that covers them. Most white tea is harvested carefully by hand in China and Taiwan. Because white tea is not rolled (nor processed as much as other teas), it retains its chlorophyll, which is why we are hearing more and more reports of the health benefits of white tea. This is also considered by tea connoisseurs to be the finest of teas.
Water Garden Tea
A high quality white tea that is a drinkable work of art for those special moments. Watch as each exotic green/white tea ball blossoms into a fragrant sea of premium silver needle leaftips with a centre of hand-beaded flowers. Each tea ball can serve up to 8 ~ 10 cups of quality tea.
Fully-fermented tea which can be loose leaf or compressed. Geographically, Assam and Pu-erh are not particularly far away from each other, and this fact - plus the use in both places of the same subspecies - explains why tea from Pu-erh has a similar strength and pepperiness to Assam tea. But tea producers in Pu-erh add an earthy flavour to their tea by fermenting it twice and then storing it to give it time to mature. The brew produced is dark and strong and is said to be very healthy and good for the digestion and weight loss. The older the Pu-erh tea, the more expensive it is.
Compressed tea is made by packing green, oolong or black processed tea leaves tightly together into balls, cakes or bricks. The balls are available in different sizes and are sometimes wrapped in dried grasses, sometimes in strings of five. The cakes are made in several forms – tiny little nests each wrapped carefully in paper, larger bird’s nest shapes individually packaged in cloth or paper, or large or small flat round slabs. Flat rectangular bricks are hydraulically made using very fine tea dust. On one side is usually a typical Chinese design of a temple or gateway, and on the other are markings that divide the slab into small portions rather like a bar of chocolate.
Teas that are ideal to drink in their pure state are not as readily available as others that are more suitable for blending. Hence, a challenge: how to come up with the perfect blend - an ideal marriage of colour, aroma and flavour. A difficult task indeed, which is why the more usual approach is to create particular flavour profiles, resulting in a variety of tea blends, such as our Romantic Ocean and Christmas Tea.
Tea is often blended with other natural ingredients such as herbs, flower petals, fruit peel and seeds, a tradition that goes back a long way. In the Arab world, green and black teas are often flavoured with mint, while the Indians make Chai by boiling black tea leaves with cardamom and other spices, sugar and milk. The idea of flavoured teas is highly fashionable in North America and Europe, where an extensive range is available – from apricot, caramel or mango through to peach, toffee and vanilla. These are normally added either in the form of granules which release their flavour slowly into the tea, or as a liquid that is sprayed on to the leaves while they are tumbled in a large drum. Given the wide range of flavours, the number of origin teas and their potential combinations, the taste / aroma profile possibilities are endless!
Chai has been a well-known Indian blend all over the world. Traditional Chai is black tea blended with a number of spices. Nowadays, it is generally brewed with milk or soy and honey and is consumed as a Chai Latte. Iced Chai is getting more popular, too! You now have more options for Chai such as Green Chai, Herbal Chai ...etc. Just more choices for the Chai Lovers! In India, this tea is traditionally brewed with 50% water and 50% milk. Pour tea (1 teaspoon per cup) into saucepan, add milk & water, bring to boil, serve in tall glass with sugar.
The procedure used to decaffeinate our tea is the CO2 high pressure Decaffeination method. This is one of the most modern technologies existing so far. Carbon dioxide is a natural part of the air and is physically harmless. It protects the tea from oxidation and prevents undesirable smells and tastes.
This method is a cycling process. There is a slight loss of the raw material with this process, however, it leaves a decaffeinated tea with full colour and a smooth flavour.
A refreshing combination of berries, grapes, black currants, apple pieces, orange peel, rose hips and more topped off with natural flavour. High in Vitamin C, these infusions are sugar & caffeine-free, and they taste great hot or iced.
Herbal remedies have been around for a long time all over the world and have long been valued for their beneficial properties, i.e. diuretic, digestive and calming. Herbal infusions are not technically tea, but are a blend of selected herbs designed to improve your well being by targeting specific problems, i.e. indigestion, arthritis, or women’s problems.
NB: Always check the ingredient list prior to trying. Some herbs, such as St. John’s Wort, are known to interact with certain medications. Others, such as liquorice root, are contraindicated for certain conditions such as pregnancy or hypertension.
Rooibos / Honeybush
This South African tea has a fine needle-like leaf. The production of this tea is much the same as black tea. Rooibos comes in green and red varieties. Green Rooibos is unfermented and red Rooibos is fermented. Rooibos or honeybush does not contain caffeine, artificial colours, preservatives and is low in tannin. It is suitable for both adults and children. While it is high in antioxidants, it also contains calcium, iron, potassium and fluoride.
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The worst thing for tea is exposure to heat and moisture, so always store your tea in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight (it is also a great idea to store your tea in the fridge).
As tea absorbs other aromas easily, keep it well away from strong-smelling foods and beverages and store individual teas in sealed tins, airtight if possible.
When making tea, always use a spoon to get your tea, not your hand. Follow the above storage instructions and most teas will remain fresh and full of flavour for at least 12 months.
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C: Crush, T: Tear, C: Curl. Small round leaf.
Shorter pieces of leaf than Orange Pekoe.
Orange Pekoe (OP)
Long, pointed leaves plucked as the buds open into leaf.
Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP)
Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP)
High-quality tea made from the end bud and one new leaf.
Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (GFOP)
The same as Flowery Orange Pekoe but with lots of little golden tips (these are the lighter-coloured ends of the buds and leaves that do not darken during manufacture).
Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (TGFOP)
Flowery Orange Pekoe with a higher proportion of tips.
Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (FTGFOP)
Exceptionally high-quality tea with plenty of little golden tips.
Superior Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (SFTGFOP)
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More Tea Terms
Assam - located in Northern India, Assam is the world’s largest black tea producing region. Depending on personal taste, Assam teas can be drunk on their own or with milk and sugar. They are known for their distinctive fragrant malt qualities.
Darjeeling - is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. During the monsoon season, the unpredictable weather can produce up to 16ft of rain. During the growing season, a yield of at least 3 flushes is common due to the hot days and cool nights.
Ceylon – currently known as Sri Lanka, was once renowned only for its coffee. This changed in 1867 when Scotsman James Taylor planted 19 acres of tea plant seeds and from there an exciting new industry was formed. Ceylon is now the producer of superb teas.
China – is synonymous with tea. For centuries, tea has been produced in China. Due to the world wide demand for fine teas, China is now set to increase its market share. After silk and grain, tea is currently China’s 3rd largest export industry. There was a time when the Chinese had categorized over 8000 different types of tea. Today, tea is grown in 18 regions, the majority being green tea, and it is generally sold by identifying names that let the buyer know their quality and origin. While mechanization is altering the way tea is produced, hand made teas are still common place in China due to the large workforce and the love of tea.
Flushes –the new growth of leaves and buds on a tea plant. On average, there are usually 3 flushes, however, due to their year-round hot weather, some temperate regions can produce up to 10 flushes.
Orthodox – is the term used for the great care taken in the hand picking of tea. Tea was produced this way for centuries, and today some of the great teas are still produced in this manner.
CTC – (Crush – Tear – Curl) –Taking over from the orthodox method that was used for centuries, this mechanized method of harvesting leaf is used for its efficiency.
Camellia Sinensis - a shrubby evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia, is a relative of the common garden Camellia. The top few leaves and sometimes the new buds of this plant are what “tea” is comprised of. If it doesn’t originate from this plant then it is not “tea”. When it is allowed to grow of its own accord, the tea plant can reach heights of 60 feet. As a tea bush, it is usually kept pruned to heights of no more than 3 – 5 feet and produces black, green and oolong teas. The processing of the leaf is what makes the different tea varieties.
Polyphenols – are a group of naturally occurring plant chemicals that account for the pungency and unique flavour of tea. This component of tea accounts for approximately 30% of the soluble matter in tea. We have learnt through modern science that these compounds are powerful anti-oxidants, immune stimulants and potent cancer fighters. Therefore, tea is now known as one of the best things a human can consume.
Antioxidant – is the substance that can protect cells from damage caused by free radicals that are unstable molecules made by oxidation during normal metabolism. It is believed that free radicals may play a part in diseases such as cancer, heart problems, stroke and other diseases associated with ageing.
Chlorophyll – is the molecule that absorbs sunlight and uses its energy to synthesis carbohydrates from CO2 and water.
Tannin - a necessary component in the ageing of wine. It is found in the skin of grapes and can be supplemented by oak tannins from barrels. In the terms of tasting it identifies a dry sensation, with flavours of tea and leather.
Withering – is the process that removes moisture from the freshly plucked leaf. For a period of 24hrs the leaves, after being spread on trays, are left in a cool room. The leaf by this stage will have lost about 50% of its weight and is now soft and pliable, which makes it ready for the next stage.
Rolling – The twisting of the leaf results in bruising, which in turn releases enzymes that react to the air. This chemical process is called oxidation. As a twisted leaf releases its essences slower than a flat leaf it makes a smoother and milder tasting cup of tea.
Fermentation – is the process that applies mainly to black tea. After the withered and rolled leaves are spread out on a table they are allowed to ferment for up to 5 hrs. This does not apply at all to green tea and a lesser period applies for Oolong tea. The longer a leaf ferments, the darker it becomes. The flavour of the tea is altered in this process, allowing the true elements to be released, which result in the ultimate cup of tea.
Firing – The fermented leaves are heated to a constant temperature of 120F, thereby stopping the fermentation process. This is a critical in the making of black tea. Oolong and green teas are fired for a shorter period of time. This process is where black tea turns black and only retains 2 – 3% of its original moisture content. Too much heat can produce a tea lacking in flavour, colour and aroma.
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Tea and Caffeine
Caffeine, a member of the xanthine family of chemicals, is naturally present in coffee, cocoa, tea and many other plants. It is slightly bitter to the taste and is extremely hot water soluble. This means, of course, that the caffeine that naturally occurs in tea is released through steeping in hot water.
Caffeine, in moderation, can have positive effects on the body, including boosting awareness and kindling metabolism. It can also improve your mood by boosting dopamine levels.
In fact, there are a number of positive and negative physiological effects of caffeine consumption that it would be useful to explore here:
The positive effect of boosting awareness and kindling metabolism caused by caffeine stimulating the central nervous system can also lead to nervousness, irregular heartbeats and interrupted sleep.
Caffeine has been proven to act as a mild bronchodilator. Because of this, it has potential to be used as an asthma treatment. Conclusions from a recent study suggested that caffeine seemed to be responsible for improved airway function in asthmatics for up to four hours after consuming it.
Some diehard caffeine addicts have noticed withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, fatigue and headaches, when they cease caffeine consumption abruptly. These symptoms are usually brief and go away after about a day. Caffeine drinkers can usually avoid them altogether if they gradually decrease their caffeine consumption over a few days.
On the other hand, those who suffered from routine headaches found that a mixture of caffeine and ibuprofen was better at relieving headaches than either substance alone. However, because headaches can be a symptom of caffeine withdrawal, researchers still urge chronic headache sufferers to avoid caffeine as much as possible.
Many researchers have tried to determine whether there is a link between caffeine consumption and certain diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and Parkinson’s disease. So far, they have yet to establish any real link between caffeine consumption and the incidence of any cancer or heart disease. In addition, observational studies seemed to suggest that, far from being a causal factor, caffeine might have a part to play in warding off Parkinson’s disease. This is a preliminary finding, but scientists are preparing further studies to determine the exact method by which this might occur.
As long as an expectant mother maintains a moderate caffeine intake, it doesn’t appear that her caffeine consumption during pregnancy will harm the foetus in any way. However, caffeine does enter the mother’s breast-milk, and, over time, it can build up in a newborn baby’s blood stream. Infant sleeplessness and hyperactivity can result from a steady diet containing caffeine levels found in six to eight cups of coffee per day. Drinking one cup of tea, of course, won’t bring you close to this level, but it might be best to avoid caffeine altogether while breastfeeding.
Despite some of the negative publicity that has surfaced about caffeine, a moderate intake of caffeine equal to 300mg per day (or six cups of tea) shows no evidence of detrimental side effects in most adults. Consequently, the average adult can easily drink three to four cups of tea per day and still remain well within the consumption level considered safe. However, some adults experience sensitivity to caffeine, and therefore may want to limit their intake.
The amount of caffeine in a cup of tea varies, depending on the type of tea leaf used and the preparation method used to make the tea.
Tea leaves range in caffeine content from 1.4 to 4.5 percent of their overall weight. Every tea contains caffeine, and many different factors -- such as the chemistry of the soil, altitude and the type of tea plant -- help to determine the amount of caffeine present in the leaf. Even something as simple as where the leaf is positioned on the tea bush can have an effect on the amount of caffeine. For example, leaves from the lower part of the tea bush generally have slightly less caffeine than those from the upper portion of the bush.
The method of tea preparation can also have an effect on caffeine content. The factors here include the amount of tea leaves used, the temperature of the water, and the amount of time the tea leaves are steeped. For instance, the longer you steep tea leaves in hot water, the more of its caffeine will be released. Also, surprisingly, teas with smaller leaves emit more caffeine than those with larger leaves.
If you are particularly sensitive to caffeine and would like to lessen the amount of it in your tea, we suggest you try the following:
Begin by steeping your tea leaves in hot water for 45 seconds. (The vast majority of the caffeine in any tea will be released in 30 seconds of steeping.) Drain the liquid from the leaves, then add fresh water and brew for the desired time. Enjoy!
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The ratio of caffeine per cup of tea to coffee is as follows:
Black Tea – approx. 1 / 2
Green Tea – approx. 1 / 3
Iced Tea – approx. 1 / 2
Mate Herbal Infusion – approx. 1 / 3
Fruit Infusions – Zero
Herbal Infusions / Rooibos / Honeybush – Zero
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Aiding weight control, lowering cholesterol, fighting bacteria and tooth decay, blocking cancer cells – these are just a few of the many positive effects attributed to tea. The many health benefits of drinking tea, particularly green tea, have been largely anecdotal and based on human observation; a history going back at least three thousand years. Until recently, they have been ignored in the realms of Western science and medicine. All over the world, however, more and more clinical trials are being undertaken to verify the positive effects of substances found in tea, green tea in particular. There is still a lot to learn and, while green tea is not a “quick fix” solution, it is refreshing and enjoyable. Drinking tea on a daily basis will certainly contribute to your long term well being.
For more about the health benefits of tea, click on any of the following:
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