What is tea?

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So what is tea and where does it come from?

Tea originated in China as a medicinal drink. All tea comes from an evergreen shrub called “camellia sinensis” . If you are drinking something that did not come from this plant (chamomile, mint, rooibos, etc) it is not tea. There are five basic types of tea: black, white, green, oolong and pu-erh. Tea plants need at least 50 inches of rain per year and it takes them from four to twelve year to produce seed. What type of tea you are drinking is determined of the kind of process on the tea leaves after they have been harvested. The quality of tea depends on many factors such us: where the tea is from, who grew it, how it was processed and most important of all -when the tea was harvested.

And now here is a few words about how is tea processed before it’s ready to be brewed.

people harvesting tea
People harvesting tea in Japan

First, tea leaves are harvested and spread out onto big trays or tables and are then left to dry. After moisture is removed and the leaves have  become soft  they are ready for rolling. This step is called withering.

Next step is rolling during which the cells in the leaves are being broken by machines. This helps to release tea leaf juices and enzymes and exposes them to the air to enhance oxidation.

Fermentation or oxidation, begins during the rolling process. The rolled leaves are spread out in a climate-controlled room where they progressively turn darker.

Finally, in a process called firing,  the tea leaves are dried by slowly heating them in a drying chamber. This ends the oxidation process and the leaves can now be prepared for storage.

So this is the main process your favorite tea undergoes before it’s ready for you to enjoy. Of course every kind of tea is processed differently but we will get to talk about that later.