" Better to be without food for three days, than without tea for one. " - Old Chinese Saying
y great love of Tea has been with me as long as I can remember. Tea is a comforting and healthful brew. In the past I was involved with the buying and selling of Tea and I would like to share some of my knowledge on the subject.
ea is native to China, Southeast Asia, and India, preferring a warm humid climate. There are many 'Types' of Tea but ALL Tea comes from the Tea plant, Camellia sinensis (sinensis is Latin for Chinese). There are two sub-species; Camellia sinensis sinensis which is the most common Chinese variety, and Camellia sinensis assamica which is the more robust Indian Assam variety.
☕ Tea is the most consumed beverage on earth (after water).
☕ 5,000 metric tons (11 million pounds) of dried Tea is consumed globally each year.
☕ It takes about 10,000 tea leaves to make a pound of loose tea.
The First Cup of Tea
t is said that Shén Nóng
(神农), a famous Chinese leader of antiquity known as The Divine Farmer
first discovered Tea in the year 2737 BC. As the story goes, he was sitting outside by an open pot of boiling water when a breeze blew a few leaves from a nearby Tea plant into the pot. The ensuing fragrance enticed him to sample the brew which he found both refreshing and comforting. And so the first cup of Tea was born. He spread the word and Tea quickly became a common drink throughout China.
uring one of my many journeys within mainland China, I had the honor and great pleasure of personally touring a Tea field in Lao Shan, which is outside of Qingdao. I was invited to take Tea with the Tea farmer and his family in their home adjacent to the fields. It was an experience I will always treasure - sitting and conversing with the farmer and his family in Mandarin while sipping the wonderful Lao Shan Green Tea.
In Chinese, Tea is pronounced chá (as if asking a question).
Types of Tea
he many different types of Tea come from HOW the Tea leaves are handled AFTER they are picked, the climate conditions, and the soil & altitude where they are grown. Generally high mountain teas are more highly prized. Some Teas are also harvested during different seasons. All Tea is picked by hand and it takes about 10,000 Tea leaves to make a single pound of finished Tea. Also it is important to pick just the right leaves on the plant at just the right time of the year depending on the desired kind of Tea and to ensure the Tea plant is kept alive and healthy. All Hail the Tea Pickers!
As soon as the leaves are picked time is of the essence. The leaves must be handled quickly and properly.
fter all that work, it would be sacrilege to brew Tea using anything less than the purest water possible.
WHITE TEA (bái chá 白茶)
Typically 1 Teaspoon of loose Tea will brew a Standard 6 oz Teacup.
White Tea is the first 'flush' of new leaves, usually in the spring. The Tea is picked before the leaves have fully matured. The new leaves are covered in a light white fuzz, like down feathers. The taste is wonderful - light but very flavorful. I actually like to snack on White Tea leaves - so nice. These leaves have less caffeine than other Teas and usually contain more of the powerful antioxidant, EGCG
. White and Green Teas should brewed with fresh cold water brought to no more than 185°F (85°C) to help preserve the powerful antioxidants.
GREEN TEA (lü chá 绿茶)
Green Tea may be picked whenever the Tea master deems it is time. The leaves are quickly gathered and layed out to air dry. Many times the leaves are 'rolled' or 'flattened' which ruptures the cell walls of the Tea leaves and opens them up to enhanced oxidation. This is done while they still contain some moisture. Then the leaves are air dried. Steaming may also be used sometimes to prevent the leaves from aging or fermenting before they are dried. All this ensures the leaves are 'fresh' and green. Green Teas contain a great deal of the antioxidant EGCG
. Brew Green Teas with water brought to no more than 185°F (85°C).
🐲 OOLONG TEA (wū lóng chá 乌龙茶)
Oolong Teas go through very special processing. In Chinese this Tea is pronounced "Wū Lóng
" which means Black Dragon. These Teas usually demand much higher prices in China than the more common Green Teas. Depending on the climate and the desired result the picked leaves may be dried and then partially re-hydrated, may be tossed or 'bruised', and even heated on a steel plate. All this processing brings out the distinctive floral overtones of the Tea leaves. Oolong Teas can be closer to Green Teas or closer to Black Teas depending on how the leaves are processed. Brew Oolong Tea with fresh cold water brought to about 185°F (85°C).
DRAGON PEARL JASMINE TEA
(lóng zhū mò lì huā chá 龙珠茉莉花茶)
Tea blends well with many other plants. One of the most famous of which is the fragrant Night Blooming Jasmine
. Jasmine flowers are picked at night and then combined with a long leaf premium Green Tea. The leaves and flowers are rolled together into small balls which are known as Dragon Pearls. This Tea is exceptionally fragrant and relaxing but care must be taken to brew the leaves for no more than 90 seconds. This will prevent the Jasmine flowers from making the Tea bitter. Also the water cannot be too hot - only 180°F (82°C). Properly done the result is wonderful and the Tea can be chilled to make a very refreshing beverage.
BLACK TEA (hóng chá 红茶)
In China black Tea is called Red Tea and Pu-Er Tea is known as Black Tea. These Chinese names are more representative of the color of the brewed Tea. To produce Black Tea the oldest leaves (pekoes and souchong) are generally used. Leaves destined for Black Tea are gathered and then laid out to dry for 12-36 hours. This allows the leaves to 'ferment' and change chemically while they turn coppery red to dark brown. When the desired color is reached they are steamed to halt the fermentation and dried. Usually the leaves are then broken into somewhat smaller pieces. Black Teas have a great deal of the powerful antioxidant polyphenols known as Theaflavins
. Brew Black Teas with fresh cold water brought almost to a boil (210°F or 99°C).
PU-ER TEA (pŭ-ĕr chá 普洱茶)
goes through a specially controlled 'aging' process. The exact details of the processing are a guarded secret, but generally the leaves are laid out between layers of burlap and turned every few days in a locked climate controlled room. The prepared leaves are pressed into large cakes about 8 inches in diameter which are then stamped, dated, & certified. Sometimes they're pressed into single serving balls called 'Tuo Pu-Er' and allowed to age further. The best Pu-Er comes from 500 year old Tea trees that grow in the pristine mountains of the Yunnan Province of China and the cakes are aged there in caves. This cool controlled environment is perfect for the cakes to age properly.
A Perfect Cup of Pu-Er Tea
Pu-Er cakes can last many decades and are said to be a Living Tea
. Pu-Er Teas are extremely high in antioxidants and also contain many trace elements including Fluoride. Pu-Er Tea is sometimes used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and is said to be very good for the digestion. Pu-er cakes can sell for $100 to $1,000+ depending on the quality. Brew this smooth and satisfying Tea with fresh water brought to a boil (212°F or 100°C).
🔗 Pu-Er Tea Discussion Video (14 min)
SMALL GREEN MANDARIN (shăo qīng gān 少青柑)
The Small Green Mandarin Pu-Er
is very special. Fine Pu-Er Tea is placed inside a hollowed out Small Mandarin Orange while the Tea and the Fruit are still not quite dry. They are then wrapped and sealed and allowed to dry together. This embues the Tea with delightful Mandarin Orange Overtones
. This Tea is fairly rare but a real treat if you ever have the opportunity.
EARL GREY TEA (bójué huī chá 伯爵灰茶)
Earl Grey Tea
is a Fine Black Tea flavoured with Oil of Bergamot
, which is a variety of Orange, Citrus bergamia
, grown in France and Italy. The Tea is very aromatic and smooth. Earl Grey is named after the British Prime Minister, Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, circa 1830.
Constant Comment Tea
is a Fine Black Tea also flavoured with rinds of Orange and select spices. The recipe is a guarded secret. It was first created by the Bigelow Tea Company in 1945. It is still available today in most supermarkets.
hen I was 18 years old I began climbing mountains and SCUBA diving. I wanted to be surrounded by the wilderness and really experience nature one on one. I fell in with a group of like minded people from all professions, from nuclear physicists to auto mechanics, and our lifelong friendships were cemented by our shared experiences in the wild. What we did 'Back on Shore
' or 'Down Off the Mountain
' did not figure into our relationships. Our Real Life
was in the wild.
uring this time I had the rare opportunity to meet with Tenzing Norgay
who is sadly no longer with us. Tenzing and Sir Edmund Hillary were the first two men to climb to the top of Mount Everest on 29 May, 1953. Tenzing was a quiet peaceful man who lived in Darjeeling, India. He was proud of his culture and, like me, in love with the special taste of Darjeeling Tea (which he had taken along on the Everest climb). We talked for a time about his culture, the quiet of the high mountains, and our shared love of the special quality of Darjeeling Tea. From that day forth I have ALWAYS carried Darjeeling Tea into the mountains on my climbing, back packing adventures, and extended diving trips. I continue to drink it daily. Darjeeling Tea
is grown just outside Darjeeling, India at an elevation of 6,700 feet. It has been a grounding force in my life ever since, tying me to that fateful meeting with that gentle spirit and reminding me of the peace and serenity of the high mountains.
nfortunately, Tea Pickers everywhere throughout Asia are not paid very well for their incredible labors. They are women who go tirelessly out into the fields that blanket the mountains to pick Tea leaves 10 hours a day. The situation MUST improve for them. God Bless Them All
Photos with great music dedicated to Women Tea Pickers
Photos of Darjeeling Tea Pickers
India Black Tea Terms
INDIA TEA LEAVES
Tea leaves have an alternate branching orientation and each leaf has its own name based on how old it is on the Tea plant. The Tea Pickers are exceptionally skilled at picking just the right leaves.
- The newest leaf is referred to as "Flowery Orange Pekoe". These are used for making 'White Tea'.
- The second leaf is referred to as "Orange Pekoe".
- The third leaf is referred to as "Pekoe".
- The fourth leaf is referred to as "Pekoe Souchong".
- The fifth leaf is referred to as "Souchong".
- The sixth leaf is referred to as "Gong Fu".
- The seventh leaf is referred to as "Bohea".
the term "Orange" does NOT
refer to the color of the leaf but rather to the "House of Orange", a branch of the Dutch East India Company
which was involved with importing India Teas from 1620-1800. The House of Orange created a standardized Grading and Naming of tea leaves which is still used today.
INDIA TEA GRADES
In addition to the different types of leaves for India Black Teas, there are varying Grades of quality. The lowest grade, known as 'Dust', is used for Tea bags. Please do yourself a favor and always buy Loose Leaf Tea!
- WHOLE LEAF
- SFTGFOP - Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
- FTGFOP - Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
- TGFOP - Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
- BROKEN LEAF
- FTGBOP - Fine Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
- TGBOP - Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
- FBOP - Fine Broken Orange Pekoe
- BOP - Broken Orange Pekoe
- GFOF - Golden Flowery Orange Fannings
- GOF - Golden Orange Fannings
Tea Poems & Quotes
"If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty.
" - Japanese Proverb
BALLAD OF THE TEA PICKERS
"While there's tea there's hope."
Where thousand hills the vale enclose,
our little hut is there.
And on the sloping sides around
the tea grows everywhere.
So I must rise at early dawn,
as busy as can be.
To get my daily labor done,
and pluck the leafy tea.
- Le Yih, Early Ch'ing Dynasty, 1644
- a famous line uttered by the character 'Horace' in the popular 1888 play "Sweet Lavender
" by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero