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1. Brief history of Tea

TEA is a drink prepared through the infusion of leaves, flowers and roots of the tea plant – CAMELLIA SINENSIS -, generally prepared with hot water.

Each variety acquires a defined flavor, depending on the processing used, which may include oxidation, fermentation and contact with other herbs, spices and fruits.

The word “cha” is used in Portugal and Brazil as a synonym for infusion of fruits, leaves, roots and herbs containing or not tea leaves (herbal teas).

This article is about tea and not herbal teas.

The use of tea as a social drink dates back to at least the Tang dynasty. The first Europeans to come into contact with tea were the Portuguese when they arrived in Japan in 1543. It was soon used throughout Europe, becoming a very popular drink, especially among the wealthier social classes in France and the Netherlands. The use of tea in England is attributed to Catherine of Bragança, a Portuguese princess who married Charles II of England. In 1660, Catherine sponsored “Tea Parties”, where tea was enjoyed by women and later by men. Tea was drunk in cafes and its consumption grew from the end of the 17th century, being drunk at any time until the beginning of the 19th century, when the “five o'clock tea” tradition was established by the seventh Duchess of Bedford, In London.

The Chinese character for tea has two completely different ways of pronouncing it:

One is “té” which comes from the Malay word for drink, used in the Ming Dialect. The other is used in Cantonese and Mandarin which sounds like tea and means “to gather, to harvest”. This duplicity caused non-Chinese languages ​​to be divided into two groups:

Languages ​​that use derivatives of the word té: German, English, French, Danish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Finnish, Indonesian, Italian, Latvian, Tamil, Dutch, Castilian.

And languages ​​that use derivatives of the word tea: Hindi, Japanese, Portuguese, Persian, Dutch, Romanian, Czech, Russian, Tibetan, Arabic, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Greek, Korean, Swali and Croatian.

2. Tea Processing

Four types of tea are recognized, distinguishable by their processing. Camellia Sinensis is a green shrub, whose leaves, if not dry immediately after picking, quickly begin to oxidize. The leaves become progressively dark as the chlorophyll breaks down. The next procedure is to stop the oxidation process at a predetermined state by removing water from the leaves via heating.

Tea is traditionally classified into four main groups based on the degree of oxidation.

- White Tea: young leaves (new buds that have grown) that have not suffered the effects of oxidation: the buds can be shielded from sunlight to prevent the formation of chlorophyll.

- Green Tea: oxidation is stopped by applying heat, either through steam (traditional Japanese method) or in hot trays (traditional Chinese method).

- Oolong Tea: whose oxidation is stopped between green tea and black tea.

- Black Tea: substantial oxidation. The Chinese word translates to red tea, which is used among tea fans.

2.1. Black Tea Processing

Black tea is processed in two ways, in CTC (Crush, Tear, Curl – Crushing, tearing, rolling) or orthodox, that is, in whole leaves, these were the processes used until 1973.

The CTC method is used for medium and low quality leaves, which end up in tea bags and are processed by machines. Manual processing is used for high quality teas. This orthodox processing style results in high quality tea, sought after by many connoisseurs and tea lovers.

3. Tea Varieties

Black tea produced outside of China is usually named after the region of origin: Darjeeling, Assam, Ceylon, Nilgiri, among others. In China, the most famous black tea is probably Keemun, but there are many other varieties.

Most green teas, however, are produced in China and Japan and therefore kept their name in Japanese or traditional Chinese: Sencha, Matcha, Genmaicha, Houjicha, Pouchong, among others.

Teas can be sold as simple teas or “blends” – mixtures.

Mixing can occur at the level of a single plantation area (for example Assam) or teas from different areas can be mixed. The objective of creating mixtures is to obtain a stable flavor over the years and a better price. In a blend, more expensive and tastier tea can cover up the inferior flavor of cheaper tea.

Tea has the ability to acquire any aroma easily, which can cause problems in processing, transport or storage, but this ability is also used advantageously to prepare aromatic teas.

- Jasmine tea is sprinkled together with jasmine flowers during oxidation and occasionally some flowers are left. It can be made with other flowers.

- Earl Gray tea is generally a blend of black teas with the addition of Bergamot essence.

-Spiced teas, such as Indian Massala Chai flavored with spices: ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper and cloves.

- Tea with mint, prepared for Maghreb countries.

4. Tea Preparation

The best way to prepare tea is to place the leaves in a teapot and add boiling water. You can also do it with bags but the result with leaves is always better. Keep the infusion for 30 seconds to 5 minutes. After this process, tannin is released, which has the opposite effect to the stimulation by theophylline and caffeine and makes the tea bitter. Some, especially green tea and other delicate teas like Oolong or Darjeeling need less time.

In order to preserve the tea's tannin flavor, the entire drink must be placed in a second cup. Preferably, unvarnished earthenware. The tea serving pot should be made of porcelain to retain more heat.

Water for black tea should be added at a boiling point, 100 ° except for delicate teas.

The water for green tea should be around 80 ° to 85 ° , and the higher the quality of the leaves, the lower the temperatures.

Popular additives to tea include sugar or honey, lemon, milk and fruit jelly. Milk is believed to be useful in neutralizing remaining tannins.

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