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Introduction to the World of Tea

Introduction to the World of Tea
Introduction to the World of Tea

Tea is more than just a beverage; it’s a journey through time and culture, a celebration of diversity in flavour and tradition that has been cherished for centuries. By understanding the distinctions between orthodox tea, CTC tea, organic tea standards, and herbal infusions, you empower yourself to make informed choices and embark on a delightful exploration of the world of tea. Let’s unravel the essence of tea and shed light on its captivating history.

So, steep a cup, savour the moment, and let the enchanting world of tea unfold its wonders before you!

All tea is derived from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, it comes in various forms, each offering a unique taste and aroma profile, as well as a set of health benefits.

Primary varietals are:

  • Camellia sinensis var. sinensis: smaller leaf, imparts a sweeter and more aromatic profile making it suitable for green tea, white tea, and oolong; commonly grown in China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, etc.
  • Camellia sinensis var. assamica: characterised by a bigger leaf and more robust palette, which makes it suitable for black tea production, predominantly grown in India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, etc.

Additionally, various other Camellia species, including wild varieties, play a crucial role in tea production.

Tea encompasses six primary types:

  • Green
  • Yellow
  • White
  • Oolong
  • Black (referred to as red in Asia)
  • Dark (post-fermented, encompassing teas like puerh, heicha, and other fermented teas).

Each type undergoes specific processing methods and varying levels of oxidation. Within these broad categories, a multitude of styles emerges, shaped by the distinctive techniques, terroir, varietals, and cultivars introduced by different countries, prefectures, and even individual farmers.

This intricate tapestry of tea styles offers a diverse palette of sensory experiences, inviting tea enthusiasts to explore the rich world of flavours, aromas, and traditions.

Tea, steeped in legends and a history that spans at least four millennia, if not five, holds a rich tapestry of stories. Among the most renowned tales, the journey of tea traces back to ancient China, where Emperor Shen Nong, a herbalist, is said to have discovered tea around 2737 BCE. Initially prized for its medicinal properties and used as a food, tea gradually transformed into a beloved beverage that traversed borders to neighbouring countries.

In the 8th century, tea found its way to Japan through Buddhist monks studying religion in China. These monks brought tea seeds and the culture of tea drinking, giving rise to the revered tea ceremony and the now-famous matcha. By the 17th century, tea had reached Europe, embodying sophistication and luxury, one of the phenomenons being the British afternoon tea.

The narrative of tea intertwines with significant historical events such as trading routes like the Ancient Tea Horse Road and Silk Road, Opium Wars, and the Boston Tea Party. This humble yet sophisticated plant, with its roots in ancient traditions, carries the weight of centuries-old culture, art, philosophy, and poetry. Simultaneously, it evolves with the times, inventing new trends that seamlessly integrate with the 21st-century world.

Tea stands as a universal symbol of warm hospitality, forever transforming and symbolising the confluence of history, culture, and contemporary trends.

Orthodox tea refers to traditional whole-leaf tea production methods that emphasise craftsmanship and quality. Through meticulous plucking and processing, a careful and precise approach is taken to retain the natural characteristics of the tea leaves, resulting in a nuanced and complex flavour profile.

Connoisseurs revel in the subtleties of orthodox tea, savouring the distinct notes reflective of the region where it was cultivated. At Tea Kulture, we champion artisanship, offering exclusively whole leaves to enhance your tea experience.

Contrastingly, CTC (Crush, Tear, Curl) tea is a modern and mechanised approach to tea production, originating with the British establishment of plantations in the Indian subcontinent. The leaves undergo a rigorous process that involves crushing, tearing, and curling, creating granular and dusty tea particles. CTC tea is known for its strong, robust flavour, making it a popular choice for bold, hearty brews of black tea, often included in the convenient tea bags and enjoyed with milk. 

Often colloquially labelled as tea, herbal infusions technically diverge by not incorporating tea leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant. Instead, these delightful infusions are crafted from an array of herbs, fruits, flowers, and spices, with popular examples encompassing chamomile, peppermint, and hibiscus teas. Functioning as a caffeine-free alternative, herbal infusions present a diverse range of flavours and potential health benefits.

It’s worth noting that exceptions exist concerning caffeine content; for instance, the globally renowned yerba mate in South America, while considered a tisane, acts as a natural energy drink.

In a time where consumers prioritise environmental impact, the demand for organic products, particularly tea, is surging. Choosing organic not only benefits personal health but also protects the environment and supports the well-being of farmers, wildlife, and biodiversity.

Organic tea production avoids harmful chemicals, with certification by bodies like USDA or Soil Association ensuring strict adherence to chemical-free principles.

However, small tea farmers face challenges due to prohibitive certification costs, emphasising the need for a nuanced approach to organic tea. 

Beyond certification, “artisanal” and “handcrafted” denote a traditional, small-scale method in tea cultivation. Despite financial constraints, these farmers contribute to a rich variety of flavours in teas refined over centuries. Our commitment involves supporting both organic and traditional tea farmers, some of whom may not possess expensive certifications yet produce organic and natural teas. This approach fosters a diverse range that accommodates varied preferences while upholding our dedication to the global tea community and sustainability.

Embarking on a tea journey is a personal and delightful experience. As you explore the diverse world of tea, consider your taste preferences, desired caffeine levels, and the unique characteristics of each type.

Whether you find solace in the delicate artisanal nuances of orthodox tea or the aromatic wonders and health benefits of herbal infusions, there’s a tea for every palate.

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