The Tea Plant
Tea comes from a plant named Camellia Sinensis. Sinensis meaning Chinese in Latin and Camellia coming from Rev. George Kamel who was a prominent Botanist and missionary (Carl Linnaus named the plant after Kamel to honour his name).
Camellia sinensis is the species of plant whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce the popular beverage tea. The plant which is indigenous to China and India has green shiny leaves and produces yellow and white flowers. The best conditions for the plant to thrive are; a warm humid climate, 100cm rainfall annually and deep, light, acidic, well drained soil.
White tea, yellow tea, green tea, oolong, pu-erh tea and black tea are all harvested from this species, but are processed differently to attain different levels of oxidation.
Types of Tea
There are two major varieties used for tea, Chinese tea and Assam tea.
The Chinese plant is a small-leafed bush with multiple stems that reaches a height of some 3 meters. It is native to southeast China. The first tea plant to be discovered, recorded and used to produce tea was at least three thousand years ago. The Chinese plant yields some of the most popular teas.
There are three main kinds of tea produced in India
Assam tea comes from the northeastern section of the country. Tea from here is rich and full-bodied. It was in Assam that the first tea estate was established, in 1837.
Darjeeling – the Darjeeling region is cool and wet, and tucked in the foothills of the Himalayas. The tea is delicately flavored, and considered to be one of the finest teas in the world. The Darjeeling plantations have 3 distinct harvests, termed 'flushes', and the tea produced from each flush has a unique flavor. First (spring) flush teas are light and aromatic, while the second (summer) flush produces tea with a bit more bite. The third, or autumn flush gives a tea that is lesser in quality.
More Tea Facts
Fresh leaves from the plant will contain approximately 4% caffeine. Camellia Sinensis can grow to be 17m tall but are normally kept to be 2m tall by regular pruning.
Leaf bearing shoots are produced every 7-12 days and are plucked by tea pickers. Hand picking tea is the traditional method and the tea leaves are placed in baskets carried on the tea pickers back.
"An experienced tea picker can gather up to 35Kg of leaves each day."
Plants can remain in production for up to 50 years.
United Kingdom is the largest consumer of tea in the world with more than 100 millions cups of tea are consumed in the UK everyday
Kenya is the world's largest tea exporter followed by Sri-Lanka
After water, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world
Tea was introduced to the West 400 years ago
Tea was rare and expensive in the nineteenth century and only drunk by the wealthy. In England the poorer classes drank beer! The establishment of large grocery chains by entrepreneurs such as Sir Thomas Lipton finally brought tea to the masses.