Monday, March 08, 2010

From Field to Cup

By Kaitlin Koppenal

Dried camellia sinensis leaves (the plant from which tea is derived) and other plants and herbs make a fantastic brew when allowed to steep for a period of time. Herbal tea is actually not tea at all. Herbal tea is a variation of dried leaves and/or flowers from herbs such as Chamomile, Peppermint, and Lavender. Fruit teas (Tisane) are also not technically tea as well because it is dried out leaves or flowers from the fruit plants.

Despite all teas deriving from the same plant, there are three main varieties.

The India (Assam) – Interesting enough, India produces and consumes more tea than any other country in the world. The first documentation of tea in India dates back to 750-500 BC. Indigenous to northern and eastern India, tea has been cultivated and consumed there for years. Compared to the other varieties, Indian tea has larger leaves and generally thrives in areas with low altitudes. Interesting Fact: Over 70% of tea is consumed in India!

The China - According to legend, tea was discovered by Chinese Emperor Shennong in 2737 BC when a leaf from the camellia sinensis tree fell into a pot of water the emperor was boiling. Seen as being on of the necessities of life, tea is woven tightly into the history of China. Chinese tea leaves are generally smaller and thrive in higher altitudes. Interesting Fact: During the Song Dynasty, tea farms covered 242 countries.

The Hybrid - A cross between the China tea and the India tea. Just like many other crops, conditions of its surroundings affect the tea end result, the taste. The taste of the tea can be radically different based on where the tea is harvested in different parts of the world. The way the tea is processed also will affect the overall taste of the tea. With only type of plant yielding all the different types of teas, it is amazing that it can have so many different flavors!