Tea was called “tu” in the Chinese ancient classic Shi Jing (The book of Songs). Tea was also called “jia” in the ancient Chinese classic Er Ya compiled during the early Han Dynasty: “Jia is bitter tu”. The word tu was further annotated by a Jin scholar, Guo Pu (276-324 AD): “Tu is a small plan, its leaves can be brewed into a beverage”. Tea was also called “She” in a West Han monograph on dialect: Fang Yian. During the Han Dynasty, the word tu took on a new pronunciation, “cha”, in addition to its old pronunciation “tu”. The phoneme “tu” later developed into “te” in the Fujian dialect, and later “tea”. The phoneme “she” later became “soh” in Jiangsu province, Suleiman´s “Sakh” also came from “she”. The phoneme “jia” later became “cha” and “chai” (Russia, India). During the Sui and Tang dynasties, drinking tea became a widespread custom, then spread west to Tibet. The first use of the word Cha instead of “tu” for tea was in Lu Yu´s Cha Jing, the classic of tea of 760 AD.

Tea Process

Most fine teas are harvested by hand; the major exception is Japan where specially designed machines do much of the work. The production of lesser quality teas – most of which end up as standard bagged tea – are processed mechanically. Here´s more for the die-hard fans:

Harvesting: All tea types begin as a fresh green leaf plucked from a tea bush. After picking, tea leaves are transported and weighed.

Withering: Next up, a process called withering reduces the moisture content of the tea leaves, making them pliable and more easily rolled.

Crushing: After being rolled, tea leaves are crushed by hand or machine to break their cell walls and release enzymes that initiate and catalyze oxidation.

Oxidation: This is the same process that turns an apple brown when it’s cut open. The degree of oxidation largely determines the type of tea. Green and white teas are non-oxidized, oolong teas are partially oxidized and black teas are fully oxidized.

Firing: Firing is the process in which tea leaves are heated in ovens, woks or baskets to destroy enzymes in order to halt oxidation.

Grading: Machine or hand grading sorts tea leaves by size or color.

Tea types

White: This is the least processed of all teas and has high levels of antioxidants and low caffeine.

Green: Green tea undergoes slightly more processing than white tea and has a little more caffeine.

Oolong: Oolong tea occupies that middle territory between green tea and black tea in oxidation levels. It is commonly brewed to be strong, with the bitterness leaving a sweet aftertaste.

Black: The most widely consumed tea in the world; black tea is so called because of the relatively lengthy oxidation period (several hours) that darkens its leaves. This color is transferred to the cup in a pale sienna and red-orange tones. Black tea flavors can be differentiated by region more so that other teas.

Red: A type of tea made from the completely oxidized  and highly fermented black tea leaves.

Fruit Infusions: Infusion is referred to the introduction of a new element or quality into something. In the case of tea, lemon, chamomile, apple, ginger, and many other plants and fruits are combined to create unique flavors.

Rooibos: Rooibos originates in Africa and is referred to as “red bush” tea. The product has been popular in southern Africa for generations and is now consumed in many countries.

Making Tea

Step 1: Purchase good quality tea, such as the Cuida-te selection. You’ll have to weight the convenience of bags with the full-bodied taste that only loose tea can give you. Stop by your local tea shop or check the imported shelves at the market to find some high quality tea.

Step 2: Get a good tea pot. This is an important step. Tea needs room to move around to develop the best taste. A stainless, clay or ceramic pot will do just fine.

Step 3: Use fresh water. Pull fresh cold water into the kettle – preferably filtered to avoid any contaminants that might alter the taste of the tea. Water quality is very important.

Step 4: Boil the water. You need a good rolling boil to get the water at the right temperature to meet the tea. A good electric or stove-top kettle will help you with this.

Step 5: Heat the pot. While your kettle is boiling, run some hot water into the tea pot and let it sit. “Warming the pot” helps to keep the boiling water at the right temperature to brew the tea and will keep you brewed tea hotter, longer.

Step 6: Get the tea ready. Just before the water comes to a boil, pour the hot water out of the standing tea pot and add your tea. Usually each grade of tea will require different amounts per serving. For one cup, spoon in approximately 2g of Cuida-te tea per cup.  You may want to use a tea ball to hold the loose tea and that’s fine. There will be a slight difference in flavor by using a tea ball because the tea won’t have as much room to unfurl and develop its full flavor.

Step 7: Add the boiling water to the tea. Notice that the instruction is to add the WATER to the TEA, not the other way around.

Step 8: Leave the tea to rest. Tea needs time to unfurl its leaves and develop its flavors. This usually takes about five minutes but you can adjust that time up or down depending on your personal preference. Cover the tea pot with a tea cozy or tea towel to keep it warm.

Step 9: Pour the tea. Preferably into porcelain cups or any cup or mug. Before pouring the tea, rest a tea strainer on your cup to catch any leaves. It is best to serve the full port right away or else the sitting leaves will make the tea bitter and undrinkable. If you have used a tea ball and don’t plan on drinking the whole pot right away, remove the tea ball so the tea doesn’t get too strong and bitter.

Step 10: Add the extras. After the tea is poured you may add your sugar, honey, milk, etc…

Health: Myth or Fact?

Recent studies show that antioxidants, which are found in the natural properties of tea, reduce the oxidation reactions in the body associated with aging and other disease processes.

Other properties of tea are also beneficial to us confirming what tea drinkers in Asia have commonly understood for centuries: tea is good for you.

Other benefits associated to health include:

  • Promotes healthy cholesterol levels
  • Increases metabolism
  • Improves mental performance
  • Inhibits plaque buildup on teeth (green tea, that is)
  • Helps the body deal with stress (gree tea again)

Modern Tea Party

Trendy night clubs such as Budha Bars and the phenomenon of the First Fridays, artistic events usually taking place in the heart of international cosmopolitan areas, are setting the pace for a new generation of tea drinkers.

Traditional tea parties are now being replaced by “modern tea parties”. This is an event where a young, modern, sophisticated and health conscious group of friends get together at home, listen to electronic music, surf the internet and drink tea.

10 Interesting Tea facts

  1. Drinking milk may mean stronger bones, but the same goes for a cup of tea!
  2. In one day, an experienced tea picker can collect around 70 pounds of tea! That’s enough tea to make 14000 cups!
  3. Did you know that tea can help abate your appetite? Good news for people who are dieting.
  4. To get the most flavor and benefits out of tea, try brewing it by loose leaf instead of by tea bag. You will find a whole new world of tea awaits!
  5. One pound of loose tea can make about 200 cups.
  6. A cup of tea may keep the dentist away. This is because tea helps fight cavities.
  7. Don’t throw that old tea out! Instead try putting it in the refrigerator to help absorb odors, or use in your garden as fertilizer.
  8. Cold season coming up? Drinking tea helps boost the immune system to its natural antibacterial properties.
  9. It is recommended to drink at least 3 or more cups of tea a day to maintain the most benefits.
  10. One cup of white tea contains the same amount of antioxidants as 10 cups of apple juice!