The sciencey bit: what is actually in Tea?

I’m not going to spend too long on discussing the chemical composition of tea & this is for a couple of reasons – a) I’ve never been a sciencey kinda girl and back at school I used to wince each time photosynthesis was mentioned! I just couldn’t get my head around it – this piece of research has been hard going. And, b) there is SO much to tell that we’d be here all day! Excuses excuses I know!

That being said, I do think it’s important to give the top line of what actually makes up tea, to help understand further what I’m drinking day in day out! The big learning is that there is sooo much more in tea than what I’d originally thought! I thought it was just caffeine- and errr water? Yes, this is going to be embarrassing!

So here’s the top line: pigments, enzymes, carbs, minerals, Polyphenols, Caffeine (aka Methylxathines), Amino Acids, Volatiles, Flavanoids and many more!  For a great breakdown of exactly what these chemical compounds  are, check out this blog post from the world of tea. It goes into far more detail than I ever could!

Each of these compounds/things found in tea, come into their own at different stages of oxidation & the other processes of tea production! For example, caffeine, responsible for all those feel good awesome feelings you get when drinking tea, is unbelievably strong in the tea leaf, like would send you over the edge kinda strong! But when the tea leaves go through the process of withering, oxidation – aka the photosynthesis kinda stuff, it turns into the perfect amount to give you that much needed natural boost.

This infographic & article from teabox is a super simple way of showing the chemistry of tea.

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Anyway, for now, I’m going to move on – I hope to come back to the Chemistry when I’m further along in my journey.
Elizabeth c(_)

5 Things I Know About Tea, That I Didn’t Last Know Week

A week into the Tea Journals, I already feel super excited, a little overwhelmed (there is so much to learn) and really positive about my future as an enlightened tea drinker!

To help summarise my learnings, on a weekly basis I’m going to do a rundown of between 5 & 10 things I’ve learnt from all the sources I’ve been accessing and reading. I’ll try and keep them as consistent & coherent as possible, without flitting between subjects, teas, histories, rituals, plants etc… but think it’s important to help consolidate my learnings.

Ok so here goes!

1. There are 3 types of Camelia sinesis, 2 of which (“Camellia sinensis var. sinensis for Chinese teas, and Camellia sinensis var. assamica for Indian Assam teas”) are widely grown & cultivated to make some of the highest qualities of teas, then there’s the cambodiensis variety which isn’t exactly the best for drinking, but fun to grow in your garden – I might do this although I have a track record of plant murder!

2. It takes approximately 2000 tea leaves to make just 1Lb of the tea that you and I know & love. I’m starting to see just how big the scale of this whole tea thing is!

3. There are different methods of making tea, but the two most commonly used in mass production are the orthodox method and the unorthodox method. I’m going to do a full investigation into the many methods of tea making later down the line, but from what I can tell so far these methods depend on the parts of the leaves used. For example, orthodox methods rely on the tender leaves at the top of the tea plant, and the buds. There’s also different processes attached to each method, mixtures of old and new! But, like I said – more on that later – wayyyy too complex for a bullet point.

4. Milk & Sugar were introduced to tea wayyy back in the day by the brits with a bit of a sneaky motive! At least this is what the man behind the counter at Fortnum & Mason told me! In the 16th century when tea was becoming a thing in the U.K. (You wait till you hear the stories of Smugglers & War – actually crazy) the British encouraged drinkers to include milk & sugar to ‘ better the taste’ – this is not common practice across the world – however, as the British relied heavily on the cash brought in by sugar, milk & tea, by associating one with the other, the economy was driven forward. The more tea was used, the stronger it was, so as a result more milk & sugar were used and so on… all very crafty if you ask me!

5. And on that, yesterday for the first time in… well for the first time ever, I made myself a cup of Darjeeling (thank you Teapigs) to enjoy with no milk, and no sugar… (this is what the pack told me to do) and holy mole my eyes were opened! Probably one of the most refreshing cups of tea I’ve ever had! It tasted so wonderful – light, smooth and just like…tea! No clouds, no muddy water, just pure tea! So I think moving forward I’m going to make the concerted effort to try teas in the way they are supposed to be enjoyed.

So that’s it for now – there’s so much more, but who wants to trawl through text heavy blog posts?! Not me! Until next time!

Elizabeth C(_)

 

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

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