Where does tea come from??
Before we go into all the different varieties of tea -it would nice to know where it comes from and how it is grown.
What is tea made from?
All teas come from a plant called Camellia Sinensis ( it is a bit like the pretty Camellia flowers we see in gardens but don’t try brewing those). So tea basically comes from a plant. It originally was grown in Asia and needs a sub-tropical climate to flourish where the soil is loose. The tea also likes to grow on slopes although it can grow on flat lands on the large tea estates. So rain and shine is perfect to grow the tea plant.
Although it is grown in Asia, it is now grown all over world in countries such as Kenya, Malawi, China, Japan, Sr Lanka, India, Indonesia, USA, Argentina and shockingly the UK!!!
The way tea is made – from the plant to the drink.
So the tea comes from the young leaves and the buds of the Camellia Sinensis plant. Historically tea has always been handpicked by the pickers for the farmers to turn into tea but for commercial reasons this is now cropped by machine. It is argued that the best teas are always hand picked as the pickers are very precise as to which leaves to choose and results in a tea giving a better flavour.
The real tea production occurs in the tea factory. The teas need to be processed quickly (within 24 hours) and it is often the case that the tea factories are located. near the tea gardens where the tea is grown. At the factory, the tea leaves are sorted in size as this will affect the type of tea they will produce when brewed.
Once picked, the tea leaves are laid out to dry and oxidizes which simply means they are laid out to enable the leaves to react to the air. The air and drying process changes the colour of the leaves which develops the flavour of the tea as the leaves turn from green to black. The oxidation is stopped by blasting the leaves in hot ovens and once it has reached the right consistency it is taken from the ovens to be given to the tea companies. Tea is kept in foil wrapped sacks or in tea chests for transportation.
The different types of tea
So what can we say about how tea is grown and made
There are so many flavours of tea which is the result of the ways the Camellia Sinensis is processed. The plant is affected by the place it is grown, soil types, how high it is grown or the altitude so environment is very important. Once the tea is processed it depends upon how the teas are blended or mixed which gives us the various types of tea we can enjoy.
The tea masters will put the tea produced through stiff and systematic tasting tests to ensure that the tea produced is of a satisfactory quality for the consumer.