Tea – a short word with a long history, a large variety of types and colours, and an exciting spectrum of aromas and flavours. Tea has been an irreplaceable beverage for millennia. In recent years, however, we have witnessed the development of a veritable tea craze. And as colder the days get, as higher the tea consumption rises.
Top-quality teas are being served almost everywhere in exclusive purity and in a sheer inexhaustible range of flavours. People who drink tea do so mindfully. The accessories have to be just right and teatime must be celebrated in proper style. The presentation can be sophisticated or relaxed, romantic in fine porcelain or exclusive in crystal-clear glass.
No two teas are alike
A good tea – with the exception of herbal and fruit teas – requires that only the top bud and the two youngest leaves of the tea plant be plucked by hand. The best teas go through five complex stages: withering, rolling, fermenting, drying and sorting. This is usually done through painstaking manual labour. No wonder that some teas cost what they do. A brew of herbs, leaves, roots, spices or fruits, as well as the popular caffeine-free rooibos or honeybush, is – strictly speaking – not a tea but an infusion. Real tea means black, white or green tea in leaf form. The difference between a black tea and a green tea lies in the fermentation alone.
The most important tea-growing areas in the world…
…are India, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan and East Africa. The best quality comes mainly from the high-elevation tea gardens of Darjeeling in the Lesser Himalaya; the central highlands of Sri Lanka (Ceylon); the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Fujian and Anhui; and Japan. Japan produces exclusively green tea, which grows on the slopes of holy Mount Fuji and in Kyoto. Especially exquisite white teas like Yinzhen (Silver Needle Tea) from the Chinese province of Fujian are made using only unopened leaf shoots of the tea plant. One kilogramme of this specialty tea requires about 30,000 hand-plucked buds. In the past, this tea had been the exclusive preserve of the Chinese emperors and high nobility.
How to tea
Unlike black tea, green and white tea should never be brewed with boiling water as this would destroy their fine aroma. Perfect would be a temperature of about 80°C. It’s best to boil the water and let it cool before pouring. Important to note is that only pure, soft water will bring out the full flavours of the tea. A tea’s optimal steep time depends on the drinker. But here’s a guideline: green tea and other unfermented teas require just one to three minutes, while black tea should steep for two to four minutes. You should plan at least a quarter of an hour for a good cup of tea – including steep and cooling time. If you’re in a hurry, tea is not for you.
For your health
By now most people have probably heard that the regular consumption of tea is associated with a number of health benefits as it contains numerous trace minerals, antioxidants and vitamins. But tea not only works from the inside – many beauty products also include valuable tea extracts.
Did you know…
…, that the tea bag was actually invented to save money? In 1904, American merchant Thomas Sullivan began filling his tea into small, space-saving bags to avoid having to send large, heavy jars. His overseas customers found it easier to simply hang the bags into the hot water directly. And that’s how we’ve been doing it ever since.