To Milk Or Not To Milk…?

To milk or not to milk…that is the rather weird sounding question of the day! This blog post was supposed to be a deep dive into the 5 types of tea – I’m trying to keep a consistent, easy to follow mindset when it comes to my study of tea, However, there’s something I wanted to take a look at before I forget…

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a post entitled 5 things I know about tea, that I didn’t know last week. On that post was a brief snippet about my discovery regarding why we put milk, and sugar, into our tea… I wanted to dig deeper into this, rather than just go on the story of the man at Fortnum & Masons, who told me the reason we put milk & sugar into our tea is a direct result of the British trying to boost the economy back in the 17th Century.

Now originally I wanted to pull together proven, historical reasoning for this article, however, one search of the phrase ‘why do we put milk in our tea?’ on Google, leads me down a rabbit hole of stories, rumours, and more learnings about the very dark past of tea. (I will eventually be getting into this!)

So here are just a few of the stories/suggestions I’ve found that, although interesting, haven’t really helped me piece together anything…

  • In the 17th and 18th centuries teacups were so delicate they would crack from the heat of the tea. Milk was added to cool it down! According to Google: “This is why, even today, many English people add milk to their cups BEFORE adding the tea!”
  • According to a recent story on the ol’ BEEB, it looks as though the sugar came before milk (mass produced by slaves in the Caribbean & America)  – some bright spark thought let’s sweeten up the tea, and let’s add milk – thus creating a process of ‘domestication’ that resulted in taking tea mainstream, so making it really easy & fashionable to drink!
  • Numerous forum discussions  & Blogs suggest that adding milk to tea came from France in 1680. A french writer named Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, talked about adding milk to her tea in her letters. The reason was to enhance the flavour…

NEWS JUST IN – thought I’d actually go and check out what the F&M site said, and they are in agreement with my first bullet… so the guy behind the counter might need to read up!!?! #Confused

So right now, it’s all still a bit of a mystery, I can’t categorically tell you why we put milk into our tea. Can anyone help me find an answer?!

Until next time,

Elizabeth c(_)

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How Tea Is Grown

The plant that tea comes from grows across much of Asia, its native home – Sri Lanka, India, Viet Nam, China etc… it grows, and is cultivated, in 35 countries across the world such as Africa, Argentina and even the UK (!) to name just a few. It can grow anywhere, and in most climates – from small gardens, to giant plantations spanning acres. However, there’s a common set of criteria needed for the successful cultivation of the real grade-A stuff.

High Altitude – you tend to find wet, misty conditions the higher up you go, which is great for a plant that needs to be protected from harsh sunlight, and access to plenty of water & minerals as it grows. The leaves can mature slowly without the worry of being scalded by fierce temperatures, and despite it taking longer to grow at higher altitudes, the flavor produced is better – in other words, it’s worth the wait!

Steep mountain slopes – some of the highest quality tea comes from mountain ranges with an altitude of over 1200m. This creates a perfect atmosphere of misty & humidity to help leaves absorb as much water, and nutrients as possible.

Sub-tropical climate – despite being able to grow in most climates, the best type of tea comes from plantations in humid climates – typically above 10 degrees. This climate gives the plants the best chance of maturing slowly, and developing the perfect flavors.

Moist, acidic, deep soil – tea needs rainfall, at least 50inches of rainfall to be precise, in order to flourish. They prefer deep, acidic soils in order to soak up some of the much needed minerals for successful growth.

As mentioned earlier, there are other areas, climates and conditions that tea can and does grow, i.e The UK – something I’m looking forward to exploring in more detail as I progress with this project. Must admit, I’m finding it difficult to imagine the UK as a tea-friendly environment, I shall have to write to the team at Tregothan, to find out!

For now however, getting the basics is key. And on that, I’ve invested in two great books to help me on my quest. I’ll be reviewing them shortly, and sharing all my learnings.

World Atlas of Tea, Krisi Smith

Tea: The Extraordinary Story of the World’s Favourite Drink, Roy Moxham

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See you next time,
Elizabeth c(_)

Sources: teaclass.com / World Atlas Of Tea, Krisi Smith, Wikipedia 

1 Shrub, 5 Tea Types & A World Of Change

When I think of the word shrub, I think of how my Granny would tend to her garden, secateurs in hand, the snippety snip snip snip as she trained her prize plants. The sweet smell of English summer surrounding her, and usually a fat, Wiltshire pigeon warbling in the distance. I don’t think of tea. When I think of  the word tea, I give little to no regard to where it has come from, or why I’m drinking it. I think only about having it.

Now I have to admit, starting out on this quest has already been a bit of a headspinner – there is SO much information on the internet about tea. Knowing where to start is near impossible. What type of do I study first? Do I study rituals & history as a starter, or the science!? Help me please help me. Like any sensible person, I’m going to start at the beginning and find the answer to the the most obvious question:

What exactly is tea?

It’s a shrub, and one that’s changed the world. Native to Asia, Camellia sinensis aka Tea, has given us the 5 types of tea that exist in the world (I say types, official types – herbal teas, infusions etc… a whole other bag!). So that’s Green Tea, Black Tea, White Tea, Oolong Tea & Pu-erh Tea. Please be aware that at point of writing, 5th Jan 2017, I couldn’t tell you a single thing about what distinguishes these types from each other. Eek.

First major revelation: All tea comes from the same shrub, albeit different parts.

Hang on, wait… what?! All tea comes from the same plant!? What a lovely concept – and one plant has produced so much in the way of wellbeing! It has changed the world, and continues to do so on a daily basis.

From economy to mood, tea is a driver of change. I like that. Feels like I’m drinking something supernatural.

Now I know what tea is and a a tiny bit about where it originates, I need to know how the different types are made. How does the plant grow, what does harvesting look like etc… From my research so far, it appears to be all in the process – a bit like wine, different processes create different types, but more on this later.

From this exercise I now have 2 things:

Categories to study later down the line. I think I’ll start with Black, as I’m most familiar with that taste.
My next clue to unlocking the secrets of loving tea rituals – investigating its hometown glory, Asia. I need to find out more about where this magical plant originates!

Until my next lesson!

Elizabeth c(_)

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Page One, The Tea Journals

 

Additional learning: there are actually 3 types of Camellia sinensis, ‘assamica’ & ‘sinensis’, widely grown and cultivated, and then japonica, not suited to drinking, but fun to grow in most back gardens.

 

 

Sources: teaclass.comwww.samovartea.com – many thanks for your info!