The Tea Plant
Tea is an evergreen plant of the Camellia genus. Its scientific name is "Camellia Sinensis) and it originated in China, Tibet and Northern India. The tea plant has thick leaves, dark green in color, and a strong thick stem. The tea flowers bloom in white or pink and have a delicate fragrance.
There are about 200 different species of the tea plant around the world.
Growing Conditions For Tea
The tea plant needs a hot, moist climate. It grows in temperatures ranging from 10 -30 degrees Centigrade, in areas with an average yearly rainfall of 2,000 mm. and at a ground level of between 600-2000 meters above sea level.
A carefully chosen source plant can be used for creating new tea seedlings.
The soft seedlings develop in a nursery for ten months, which protects them from difficult weather conditions. After they have strengthened, the tea plants continue to develop in open fields that are sheltered by the shade of wide trees.
Tea picking is still conducted in the traditional manner: the tea leaves are handpicked and gathered into wide baskets on the backs of the tea pickers. The hand picking ensures that only the best leaves of the tea plant are collected and used for producing the tea.
In Asian countries, the tea picking season starts with the beginning of spring and continues from May until August. In Africa, the tea picking continues all year long.
The first tea crops of every year are called "new tea" and it is rich in flavor and aroma.
Only the plant's bud and two young leaves are used for processing the tea. The tea flowers are also picked, dried and added to the blend to supplement the aroma.
A common myth about tea is the belief that different types of tea -
black tea, white tea, green tea - are produced from different tea plants. In fact, all types of tea are produced from the same plant and the differences between them result from the different processing procedures while producing the tea.
The picked tea leaves are made up of 80% liquid while the tea sold to the consumers has less than 10% liquids. A crucial phase in the production processes of every type of tea is the stage in which the leaves are dried. This stage is necessary for reducing the moisture of the leaves and thereby strengthening and preserving the tea leaf.
1st drying: The leaves picked from the tea plant are spread out over mats for vaporization in the sun. Another method for drying the leaves is by blowing currents of warm air over them. In the drying phase the leaves lose about 60% of their moisture.
Rolling: The process of rolling the leaves has the purpose of releasing the liquids found in the leaf in order to allow the fermentation and oxidization of the leaf to begin.
Fermentation: During the leaves' fermentation process, the enzymes within the leaves are bound to the oxygen in the air. This process causes the leaves to blacken and this is what creates the typical flavor of the tea. The fermentation is conducted by blowing currents of humid air over the leaves. This stage takes about 3 hours.
2nd drying: An additional drying stage is crucial to stopping the oxidization process. At the end of this process a long-lasting, stable product is produced.
1st drying: After the tea picking, the leaves are sun-dried on bamboo trays for a few hours.
Roasting The tea leaves are "stir fried" in hot roasting pans in order to vaporize additional moisture.
Rolling: The leaves are manually rolled.
2nd drying: The tea leaves are put back into the pans for additional drying and are also often rolled once more. This is done in order to give them their final shape.
Green tea production does not include the fermentation stage. Without the oxidization which occurs during the fermentation stage, the leaves retain their original green color and their delicate flavor.
Tea picking: The tea buds are picked before ripening and opening
Drying: The closed buds are sun-dried.
The process of producing white tea does not include the rolling and fermentation stages.
The delicate leaves are hardly processed at all in order to preserve the original refreshing taste of the tea plant. White tea is produced in small quantities and is very expensive.
The process of producing oolong tea is almost completely identical to that of black tea, except for a shorter fermentation stage. This makes the flavor of oolong tea slightly weaker than that of black tea.
Herb And Fruit Infusions
Herb and fruit infusions are comprised of various combinations of natural plants and fruits and include: blossoms, stems, roots, fruits, herbs and buds. The infusion mixtures are caffeine and sugar free and are sweetened by the natural sugars in the fruits.
Rooibos Infusion - Red Tea
The rooibos plant was discovered in the 17th century in South Africa by the local tribes of the Cape town area. These tribes used the entire rooibos plant to create a refreshing, aromatic drink with medicinal benefits. When dried, the leaves take on a red-brown hue which is where the plant gets its name: rooibos meaning "red bush". Similar to the benefits of green tea, the rooibos plant is also rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which help prevent numerous chronic diseases. The rooibos infusion also assists the digestive system and eases heartburn and nausea. The rooibos infusion is caffeine free as well.