HistoryTea L. Golender, Tea, 2003

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History of Tea

* Version to print

* What is Tea?

The southwestern part of China is the native place of tea trees in the world and * Yunnan province is the center of China’s tea tree origination. Then it was developed mainly in * Canton(Guangdong, or Kwangtung, or Kuang-tung) and * Fukien(Fujian) regions.


* China *

* Japan *

* Sri Lanka (Ceylon)(the success of Thomas Lipton...) *

Europe *

Turner Joseph Mallord William
Grand Canal, Venice
Oil on Canvas,
London, 1794

Along the trade routes of antiquity went caravans with as many as 4,000 camels bearing spices and the rich merchandise of the East, plodding along from Goa, Calicut and the Orient to spice markets in Nineveh and Babylon; Carthage, Alexandria and Rome.

The route from Gilead to Egypt was part of the "golden road to Samarkand" traveled for hundreds, almost thousands of years, bringing pepper and cloves from India, cinnamon and nutmeg from the Spice Islands (or Moluccas), ginger from China.

For hundreds of years frail ships clawed their way along the Indian coast, past the pirate-infested Persian Gulf, along the coast of South Arabia and through the Red Sea to Egypt. Those were typical ways of bringing spices from the Orient to the Western world in ancient tunes.

Suddenly European merchants realized these places could be reached by ship. Much of the mystery had had been removed from the lands of spicery, and Europe was awakened to a new quest.

While tea was at this high level of development in both Japan and China, information concerning this then unknown beverage began to filter back to Europe by Arabs via * Venetians. By the 10th century Venice was beginning to prosper in the trade of the Levant. By the early part of the 13th century it enjoyed a monopoly of the trade of the Middle East, and by the 15th century it was a formidable power in Europe. Part of Venice's great wealth came from trading in the spices of the East, which it obtained in Alexandria and sold to northern and western European buyer-distributors at exorbitant prices. Earlier caravan leaders had mentioned tea, but were unclear as to its service format or appearance (One reference suggests the leaves be boiled, salted, buttered, and eaten!).

The earliest mention of tea in the literature of Europe was in 1559. It appears as "Chai Catai'(Tea of China) in the book 'Delle Navigatione et Viaggi (Voyages and Travels) by Giambattista Ramusio (1485-1557). He served in diplomatic posts for the Venetian state and eventually filled the position of secretary in the Council of Ten. In the republic of Venice, a special tribunal created (1310) to avert plots and crimes against the state. It was a direct result of the unsuccessful Tiepolo conspiracy against the Venetian oligarchy. In 1335 the body was given permanent status. It consisted actually of 17 members : the doge, 10 members chosen by the grand council, and 6 elected by the lesser council. After 1539 three members served as inquisitors of state and investigated, by means of a secret police, all criminal, moral, religious, and political offenses. The inquisitors reported their findings to the Ten, who rendered an irrevocable verdict. As the power of the Council of Ten expanded, it came to control foreign relations and financial matters. In 1582 the conservative nobles attempted to reduce its authority but failed; the Ten remained the most important governing body of the state until the fall (1797) of the republic. Although the mystery that veiled its operations gave it an aura of tyrannical despotism, it was in general an efficient and highly effective body.

Ramusio's book was a collection of narratives of voyages and discoveries in ancient and modern times, including those of the Persian merchant Hajji Mahommed, who visited Venice, who is credited with first bringing tea to Europe. The reference describing tea says, 'One or two cups of this decoction taken on an empty stomach removes fever, headache, stomach ache, pain in the side or in the joints . . . besides that, it is good for no end of other ailments, which he could not remember, but gout was one of them. He said 'it is so highly valued and esteemed that everyone going on a journey takes it with him, and those people would gladly give a sack of rhubarb for one ounce of Chai Catai'. The beverage was first called Cha, from the Cantonese slang for tea. The name changed later to Tay, or Tee, when the British trading post moved from * Canton(Guangzhou) to * Amoy(Xiamen), where the word for tea is T'e.

Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) came to Macau in 1582, and when he died in Beijing in 1610, he had spent 28 years in China. Charged with the mission to spread Christianity in China, Ricci felt obliged to learn the Chinese language, its writing system, and the * Confucian classics as basic tools to communicate with his potential Chinese converts. He also felt the need to acquaint himself with Chinese social customs and daily life so that he could work out a better strategy for the reception of a religion alien to the Chinese mind. His discerning observations of late sixteenth-century China and his own life experience as a foreign missionary were recorded in his journals, written in Italian in his later years. Ricci's knowledge of tea and tea drinking is mostly first hand. His accounts of the history, manufacturing process, and drinking habits of tea are general and reasonably accurate by sixteenth-century standard, although they become fuzzy insofar as detailed knowledge is concerned. Ricci also states that the use of tea "cannot be of long duration among the Chinese," because "no ideography in their old books designates this particular drink and their writing characters are all ancient." This bold statement that Chinese didn't drink tea until much later in their long history is interesting, but perplexingly misleading. It is true, however, that the word for tea, cha, never appeared in ancient Chinese texts; the character cha was created by Lu Yu in the eighth century during the Tang dynasty. Ricci knew that the ideograph cha did not exist in ancient Chinese texts, and for a foreigner, his knowledge of Chinese is quite impressive. However, the fact that the ancient texts do not contain the ideograph cha does not necessarily preclude the actual use of tea as a beverage in ancient times. Based on written records and more recently excavated archaeological evidences, we know that tea as a beverage had become rather popular in Central China along the Yangzi River and its tributaries during * the Western Han period, or by the second century B.C. at the latest. All in all, Ricci's accounts of tea are basically accurate, provided his observations are confined to sixteenth- century practices. He made one major mistake, however. He believed that the tea plant could be found in the fields of Europe. Let's see how it really has got there.

* Portugal *

* Holland *

* England *

* Russia *

* America (tea bags, iced tea...)*

The China Routes

There are several routes that could be followed by ships leaving or approaching China, the chief deciding factor on where the ship was to enter or leave the china sea being the time of year, though the vessel's capabilities had also to be taken into account. Ships built specially for the China trade on fine lines would always lay a course right down *the China Sea when homeward-bound, regardless of the season, unless they had a timid or inexperienced captain, or else met with strong south-westerly winds immediately they left, say, * Foochow(Fuzhou), which case they would probably stand out into the Pacific go down the eastern cost of *Formosa and if the wind was still south/westerly continue down the east side of the * Philipines and then via Gillolo Strait(near island * Halmahera), Pitt Passage, and * Ombai Strait, into the * Indian Ocean past the * island of Timor. Such a route was termed the Eastern Passage. * The Sir Lancelot under command of Richard Robinson did this in 1867, and only took 99 days on the homeward passage. Other masters might have occupied a week or more extra spent in beating down the China Sea against the south-westerlies, trying to get through by the China Sea Passage. Many ships used to make for the coast of * Cochin China since land breezes were experienced there at night which enabled the ship make good progress south. A third homeward route was down the west coast of Luzon and then into Sulu Sea past Minhoro and from there into the Celebes Sea, Strait of Macassar and thence into the Indian Ocean through Lombok Strait(* See the map). Ships going down the China Sea would pass into the Indian Ocean by way of Sunda Strait, separating Sumatra from Java, calling at Anjer(a village on west end of Java, where were a light-house and signal-station for the many vessels passing through the strait) on the way( * See the map). The sea between Borneo and Sumatra was studded with islands, there being three passages known as Bangka(between Sumatra and Bangka), Gaspar(between Bankga and Belitung(Billiton)) and Karimata(between Belitung(Billiton) and Borneo) Straits (* See the map). The first was frequently used, though it would appear to be a tortuous and hazardous channel.

The Watering Place at Anjer Point in the Island of Java,
Oil on Canvas,
William Daniell, London, 1794

* Map
* South China Sea

The Clipper Days

The Challenge, Clipper, New York, 1851

Until the mid 1800's, cargo ships including those carrying tea, usually took between twelve and fifteen months to make passage from ports in the East to those in London.

The Americans were the first to design a new type of clipper. Recognising that the old ships had to carry too much weight, they designed a more streamlined vessel (based on the old ( * Baltimore clippers) capable of carrying greater cargo (providing it was loaded correctly) at a greater speed. The new, faster clipper was born - so called because they were designed to "clip"; or get the last ounce of speed from the wind. The first of these three masted, full-rigged vessels was the 750 ton * Rainbow launched in New York in 1845. Every line promised speed - from the sharp, curving stem to the slim, tapering stern, with tall raking masts carrying a huge area of sail. The journey time of the slow East Indian clippers was halved.

Perhaps the most famous clipper ever built was the British clipper *Cutty Sark. The Cutty Sark was built in 1868 in * Dumbarton and only carried tea on just eight occasions. It is preserved as a museum ship at * Greenwich, London. The name comes from the poem * 'Tam o' Shanter' by * Robert Burns, about a Scottish farmer chased by a young witch who wore only her 'cutty sark' (= short shift); the ship's figurehead is a representation of the witch with her arm outstretched to catch the tail of the horse on which the farmer was escaping.

Each year the tall ships would race from China to the Tea Exchange in London to bring in the first tea for auction. the races between the tea clippers had become a great annual competition. The race began in China where the clippers would leave the * Canton River, race down the China Sea, across the Indian Ocean, around * the Cape of Good Hope, up the * Atlantic, past the Azores and into the English Channel. The clippers would then be towed up the River Thames by tugs and the race would be won by the first ship to hurl ashore its cargo at the docks. The first cargo home fetched as much as an extra sixpence (2.5p) per 1lb (450g) - and gained a cash bonus for Captain and crew. Though beginning half way around the world, the mastery of the crews was such that the great ships often raced up the Thames separated by only by minutes.

the Great Tea Race of 1866

The picturesque era of the tea clippers was celebrated by the Great Tea Race in 1866, (these legendary ships carried both tea and adventurers across the China seas). The race began at Foochow, ending in the London Docks, took 99 days and after 16,000 miles by sail, only 10 minutes separated the winners. An unprecedented sixteen clippers assembled at the Pagoda Anchorage in the Min River at Foochow. Or from other sources nine ships laden with the first crop left FooChow (South China Coast) on dates varying from the 29th May to the 6th June last, but only four of the nine really competed for the prize -- the Fiery Cross, the Ariel, the Taeping, and the Serica. Three sailed on the 30th of May, the Fiery Cross started on the 29th, but, though she had a day's clear start of her rivals she lost the race. Five of them were stellar performers: Serica 708 tons, Capt. George Innes; Taeping 767 tons, (one year old), Capt. Donald McKinnon; Taitsang 815 tons, Capt. Daniel Nutsford; Fiery Cross 888 tons, Capt. Richard Robinson; and, rounding out the favourites, Ariel a slender beauty of 853 tons, (also one year old), Capt. John Keay of the Esplanade, Anstruther - odds on favourite with the public. The others, leaving China at the same time, sailed almost neck-and-neck the whole way, and finally arrived in the London docks within two hours of each other. A struggle more closely contested or more marvellous in some of its aspects has probably never before been witnessed. The Taeping, which won, arrived on the Lizard at literally the same hour as the Ariel, her nearest rival, and then dashed up the Channel, the two ships abreast of each other. During the entire day they gallantly ran side by side, carried on by a strong westerly wind, every stitch of canvas set, and the sea sweeping their decks as they careered before the gale. Off Dungeness the following morning the pilots boarded them at the same moment, and at the Downs steam tugs were in waiting to tow them to the river. It was at this point that the fight was really decided. Both vessels were taken in tow simultaneously and again they started neck-to-neck. The Taeping, however, reached Gravesend first, the Ariel at her heels and the Serica a good third; and she entered the dock at a quarter before ten o'clock on Thursday evening just half an hour in advance of the Ariel and an hour and three quarters before the Serica. Taeping has this secured the prize, which is an extra freight of 10s. a ton on her cargo of tea. But to spin our "seafaring yarn" a little longer here, throughout the daylight of September 5th, after more than ninety hard-pressed days, while sailors aboard other Channel vessels and spectators along the English Coast looked on in fascination, the two clippers, Ariel and Taeping, fought out the last leg of their marathon. Both captains had every scrap of canvas sent aloft, clocking over 14 knots, Ariel in the lead, but Taeping gaining by the hour. By 4am next morning they were "hove-to" off Dungeness firing rockets to summon the pilot boats. Keay called for more sail, steered NE to meet the pilots and glided straight towards Taeping's bows and McKinnon had to bear away to avoid being rammed. Then on through the Downs, Ariel in the lead, and into the Thames, both ships anxious to get their steam tugs, the Ariel and the Taeping exchanging their leads twice, as they manouvered with tugs, tides and low waters. Everyone agreed the race was won by Ariel at the moment she took the tug outside Deal Harbour, eight minutes ahead of the Taeping after 99 days at sea, since no further seamanship was required once command had passed to the tugs. But in fact Taeping was the first to dock, after all, and the owners Liverpool's Shaw, Maxton & Co (Ariel) and Cellardyke's Rodger & Co (Taeping) decided to split the prize money. The Serica arrived on the same tide as the Ariel and Taeping, on September 6th; two days later in came the Fiery Cross and the Taitsing, each logging 101 days.

But by 1871 the newer steamships began to replace these great ships. Tea Clippers were vital to the tea trade until the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and were in operation until the end of the 1880's.

* Sailing Section
* Clipper Ship Museum
* A concise history of the development of square-rigged ship

Global Tea Plantations Develop

The Scottish botanist/adventurer * Robert Fortune, who spoke fluent Chinese, was able to sneak into mainland China the first year after * the first Opium War. His second journey to China was for the East India company to obtain the finest tea plants to establish plantations in India. He obtained some of the closely guarded tea seeds and made notes on tea cultivation. With support from the Crown, various experiments in growing tea in India were attempted. Many of these failed due to bad soil selection and incorrect planting techniques, ruining many a younger son of a noble family. Through each failure, however, the technology was perfected. Finally, after years of trial and error, fortunes made and lost, the English tea plantations in India and other parts of Asia flourished. The great English tea marketing companies were founded and production mechanized as the world industrialized in the late 1880's.

* Manufacture process

* Camellia sinensis, the common tea plant, was first cultivated in the 4th century CE, after wild specimens were brought to China from India. Actually an evergreen tree which may grow up to 50 feet, the domesticated plant is pruned to a bush-like state and kept at a height of five feet. After three to five years of growth, its leaves may be harvested to make tea. Today, women constitute the majority of pickers, and there is no machine that can exceed the 60 to 70 pounds of leaves per day that an experienced worker can collect. These 60 to 70 pounds of fresh leaves produce approximately 20 pounds of dry tea, or 2800 cups of tea.

All classes of tea come from the same plant. The different classes of tea (e.g. Black tea, Green tea, Pouchong tea, Oolong tea) are the result of differences in the tea manufacturing process, and not due to different types of tea plants. However, from experience, tea manufacturers have discovered that certain varieties, locations, and seasons tend to produce Camellia Sinesis (tea plants), which produce better qualities of certain classes of tea.

Production of Black Tea

  1. The tea leaves are withered for about 24 hours under controlled temperatures ranging from 80 to 90 degrees farenheit.
  2. After the withering step, the procedures for orthodox and CTC (cut, tear, and curl) methods diverge. Following the orthodox method, the leaves are then gently rolled for 1 to 3 hours depending on the reduction in weight from withering in a machine to bruise, crush or thereby release the leaf's juices and chemicals. Using the CTC method the leaves are machine chopped into uniform and very small pieces. After that both methods similarly complete the process.
  3. The leaves are spread out in thin layers in a cool environment to oxidize; to preserve the liquor (briskness) of the final tea product, temperatures during this step should be below 70 degrees farenheit.
  4. The leaves are dried in oven-like machines which blow heat of approximately 200 degrees farenheit; the drying time is less for leaves that have been more fully withered during Step 1.

Production of Green Tea (basic Japanese method)

  1. Tea leaves are packed into large, revolving containers that are blasted with hot air; the leaves' moisture is reduced to about 60 percent.
  2. A machine is used to roll the leaves without further drying them.
  3. The leaves are again turned in a container until the moisture is reduced to about 30 percent.
  4. The leaves are rolled in a ridged trough until the moisture is reduced to 10 percent of its original level.


One of the key steps in the tea manufacturing process, that determines the type of tea that is produced, is the degree of fermentation the tea leaves are allowed to undergo. The term fermentation when applied to tea is something of a misnomer, as the term actually refers to how much a tea is allowed to undergo enzymatic oxidation by allowing the freshly picked tea leaves to dry. This enzymatic oxidation process may be stopped by either pan frying or steaming the leaves before they are completely dried out. Teas are generally classified based on the degree of fermentation: a) Non-fermented, b) Semi-fermented, c) Fully-fermented.

  • Black
    The tea which has been fully oxidized or fermented and yields a hearty-flavored, amber brew. The Chinese call this "red tea" (hung - ch'a).
    • English Breakfast Tea
    • The prototype of this most popular of all teas was developed over a hundred years ago by the Scottish Tea Master Drysdale in * Edinburgh It was marketed simply as "Breakfast Tea". It became popular in England due to the craze * Queen Victoria created for things Scottish (the summer home of Victoria and Albert was * the Highland castle of Balmoral). Tea shops in London, however, changed the name and marketed it as "English Breakfast Tea". It is a blend of fine black teas from * India and * Ceylon, often including some Keemun tea. Many tea authorities suggest that the Keemun tea blended with milk creates a bouquet that reminds people of "toast hot from the oven" and maybe the original source for the name. It should be offered with milk or lemon. (One never serves lemon to a guest if they request milk-the lemon is never used. It would curdle the milk.) It may also be used to brew * iced tea.
    • Earl Grey
    • * Earl Grey (1764-1845) was an actual person who, though he was prime minister of England under * William IV , is better remembered for the tea named after him. Tea legends say the blend was given to him by a Chinese * Mandarin seeking to influence trade relations. By another legend, he gave to the earl the recipe in gratitude for saving his life. This is unlikely, especially since * the bergamot orange is unknown in China. A smoky tea with a hint of sweetness to it, it is served plain and is the second most popular tea in the world today. It is generally a blend of black teas and bergamot oil. The Chinese bitter orange, * citrus aurantium, besides being introduced in Spain and Sicily was also grown on the Italian mainland around * Bergamo in * Calabria where it gradually changed its form to citrus aurantium sub-species, bergamot. During the 18th and 19th centuries the oil from bergamot was used to flavour snuff and gin and subsequently tea. The likely connection is that during the Earl's time, the Greek island of Corfu was the world's leading market for * bergamot oil as well as the Mediterranean base for the * British Royal Navy Although the Earl wasn't in the Navy, some of his friends may have introduced him to the oil or maybe there was a fortunate accident. Another likely explanation of Earl Grey's link to the tea lies in the fact that when tea was coming to public attention he was an extremely popular reforming prime minister of Britain.

      For generations, the tea firms of Twinings and Jacksons have been arguing over which firm was used by the Earl to blend his tea. In a way, the question became superfluous when * Twinings bought out Jacksons in 1990.

      * Earl Grey Teas
      * British Royal Navy - official site
    • Darjeeling
      Refers to tea grown in this mountain area of India. The mountain altitude and gentle misting rains of the region, produce a unique full bodied but light with a subtly lingering aroma reminiscent of *Muscatel. Reserved for afternoon use, it is traditionally offered to guests plain. One might take a lemon with it, if the Darjeeling were of the highest grade, but never milk. (Milk would "bury" the very qualities that make it unique.)

      * Darjeeling Tea Network

    • Keemun
      Is the most famous of China's black teas. Because of its subtle and complex nature, it is considered the "burgundy of teas". It is a mellow tea that will stand alone as well as support sugar and/or milk. Because of its "wine-like" quality, lemon should not be offered as the combined tastes are too tart. In 1875 a young entrepreneur, Yu Quianchen, began producing black tea in the county of Qimenin * southwestern Anhui province of China, where before only average quality green tea had been produced. Since then Keemun has gained a reputation for an indescribable flavor, with hints of smoky pine, orchid, crushed apple and a rich sweet taste.
    • Pu-er
      Pu-er teas are post "fermented" (oxidized) teas. Teas which are allowed to fully fermented and then water is sprinkled on the leaves to allow them to ferment again are known as post-fermented tea. They are named after a tea-trading town by the same name in China's southern Yunnan province. The leaf used is from the broad leaf variety. It is well known and respected for it's medicinal uses of lowering cholesterol, expelling toxins, combating heat in the body, and general fatigue. This tea is oxidized to a degree that lies between oolong and black teas. The leaves are withered, rolled; fermented and dried using similar methods but are then left to age in cool cellars. Sometimes the leaves are steamed after drying or pressed into forms and then dried. Pu-er can be aged from anywhere from one to sixty or more years, generally the more aged the more preferred. Its flavor has an elemental or earthy smooth taste that is quite distinct and appreciated.

  • Green - *
    Green tea skips the oxidizing step. Most green teas like Dragon Well stop the fermentation process through pan frying while a few will stop the fermentation process through steaming. Tea brewed from unfermented tea leaves have a green to slightly yellow hue, mild aroma, and natural taste. The japanise tea service uses the green tea.

    • Gyokuro
      Japanese tea industry produced a prototype of high quality "Gyokuro" tea (shade grown green tea) in 1904.
    White Tea

    White tea is considered among, if not the rarest types of tea available, because of its limited availability. What separates white tea from black, oolong, and green teas is the way it is processed: like green tea, white tea is unfermented and has a light, delicate flavor, but rather than being rolled like green tea, the leaves are plucked and dried for a perhaps "fresher" or more natural state. This happens only a few times a year, from a rare strain of the Chinese tea plant. White tea is produced only in China, primarily in the province of Fukien.

    Fine little white hairs cover the leaves, the liquor is clear and almost colorless, caffeine level is low, and some research indicates that white teas have even more (or stronger) health benefits than incredible green teas. Among the rarest of the white teas :

    • Yin Zhen Bai Hao
      "Silver Needles White Hair" (a.k.a. yinzhen tea) is made completely from spring-picked, inch-long buds of two bushes known as "Big White" and "Water Sprite" (Dai Bai and Sui Hsien). Said to have a more pronounced flavor, though also delicate like other white teas, Yin Zhen is arguably the finest of white teas.
    • Bi Luo Chun - Green Snail Spring
      * For centuries this very famous aromatic light green tea was known by the name Xia Sha Ren Xiang (Astounding Fragrance). A legend explains why. Once in the distant past, some pickers of a particularly good crop filled their baskets before they were ready to go home. Wanting to carry more leaves, they stuffed the excess inside their tunics. By another version they were stealing the tea. Warmed by body heat, the leaves began to give off a rich aroma. "I was astounded," many pickers said, and the name stuck. Sometime in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century while on an inspection of his realm, Emperor Kang Xi visited the Lake Taihu area in Zhejiang province and his host, the governor of Jiangsu, presented him with this tea. Striking the Emperor as a tea of purity he asked the name. "Astounding Fragrance" was his host's reply. The Emperor, with disdain, replied that such a name for this treasure was vulgar and an insult. Ordering the unused leaves brought for his examination, the Emperor declared that a more fitting name would be Green Snail Spring because the rolled shape looked like a snail shell. The original name is most popular, however.

      Peach, apricot and plum trees are planted among the bushes. When these fruit trees bloom, the tender spouts and buds of tea absorb the aromas to be passed on to those who drink their infusion. The name is now known all over the world, for this is one of China's famous rare teas. Its home is two mountains known as East and West Dongting which poke up out of Taihu, the great lake not far west of Shanghai, and where the garden city of Suzhou is located. One mountain is an island in the lake and the other a peninsula. The water evaporating from the lake keeps them overhung with clouds and mist, thus the young leaves stay moist. The prime time to pick the tea leaves is during the Pure Brightness festival when the buds are jade-green tinged with white. Bi Luo Chun is picked during the spring until April when the spring rains begin. Only one leaf and the bud are plucked. Harvesting is done completely by hand and great skill is required to roll and fire the leaves. Bi Luo Chun was selected as the offering of local government to the emperor in Qing Dynasty.

  • Oolong (wulong)*
    Oolong tea (Oolong - a Chinese word meaning "black dragon" ) is partly oxidized(10% to 80% fermentation) and is a cross between black and green tea in color and taste. The elegant tea is sometimes known as the "champagne of teas". British tea merchant John Dodd introduced pouchong tea from mainland China in 1860, which soon came into cultivation throughout the hills of northern * Taiwan. As tea became increasingly popular in the West, booming exports from northern Taiwan became one of the island's biggest sources of foreign currency. It was first imported to England in 1869 by the same John Dodd. Today, the highest grade Oolongs (*Formosa Oolongs) are grown in Taiwan. It is fermented to achieve a delicious fruity taste that makes milk, lemon, and sugar unthinkable.
    • Pouchong tea
      The oxidizing step is reduced to about one-quarter of the full length. Oolongs (which are more popular), ferment longer, about half as long as a black tea. Predictably, the flavor of a semi-fermented tea is somewhere in between black tea and green tea. Particularly good oolongs are supposed to have a peachy flavor and aroma. One of the best of these, *Formosa Oolong, is produced on the island of Taiwan. The word *Formosa comes from the name given to Taiwan by 16th-century Portuguese explorers - Ilha Formosa (Beautiful Island).
    • Ti Kwan Yin "Monkey Picked" tea
      It earns its place in the beverage hall of fame for its legendary origins: Originally, the tea was grown at such heights in Fujin, China, that monkeys were trained to pick the leaves.

      The first Monkey tea allegedly came from Mount Ying-T'ang near Wenchow in Chekiang Province. It is a lonely place haunted by wild beasts, but in the hidden valleys there were numerous monasteries with monks or tenants engaged in farming and fruit growing. According to the legend, a very young novice from Heavenly Wisdom Monastery was looking after some pear trees covered with ripening fruit. Suddenly a large tribe of monkeys came swarming from the forest and set about gobbling up the pears. By the time a few monks came running over in response to the little novice's piercing cries for help, the trees had been stripped and the branches broken. They returned to the monastery with heads held low, expecting a severe scolding from the abbot. Instead, the old man said resignedly, "Heaven commands us to show compassion to all living creatures, and so does the teaching of the Buddha. Things come and go. Moreover, monkeys, like all sentient beings, have a spiritual nature. They have taken our pears. Well, so be it."

      Henceforward those holy men allowed the mischievous animals to come and go freely, and the latter, gradually losing their inborn fear of humans, came to regard the monks as friends. The winter that year was unusually cold - heavy falls of snow lay upon trees and mountains and hundreds of pitiful beasts starved to death. After some weeks a horde of ravenous monkeys invaded the monastery grounds and, in an agitated state, ran about half-pleading, half menacing, as though to say, "Please give us food, or else we shall just have to break in and take it." So the abbot ordered that bags of food be taken out and distributed to the monkeys whereupon the animals, responding in loud cries, seized the bags and ran back into the forest.

      With the arrival of spring came the time for harvesting tea leaves. While this arduous labor was being performed, monkeys came swarming down from the peak dragging along the old food bags which now bulged with freshly picked young tea leaves. It was as though one's friends were to come back with baskets of peaches to make return for a gift of pears! The tea, having been picked in places inaccessible to the monks, was found to be of unrivaled quality. In view of these circumstances, fine tea from that locality became known as Monkey tea.

      Today, monkeys don't bring us these cliff-grown leaves (people do now, plucking the leaves only a few days a year), but one can still understand why people went to such trouble to get the them. Ti Kwan Yin is described as "richly fermented, dark roasted, and incredibly flavorful. Other characteristics of the tea include subtle taste, a strong flowery fragrance, and nutty and caramel undertones.

    While flavored teas evolve from these three basic teas, herbal teas contain no true tea leaves. Herbal and "medicinal" teas are created from the flowers, berries, peels, seeds, leaves and roots of many different plants.

    Grades of Tea

    Leaf Grades
    This refers to the larger leaves left after the broken grades have been sifted out. In brewing, flavor and color come out more slowly from leaf grades versus broken grades. Leaf grades are popular in continental Europe and in South America.

    Orange Pekoe
    The word "pekoe," which is used in grading black teas, is a corruption of the Chinese word meaning "silver-haired." This refers to the silvery down found on especially young tea leaves. "Orange" probably comes from the Dutch royal family, *House of Orange.

    Long, thin, wiry leaves which sometimes contain bud leaf; light-or pale-colored liquid. Orange pekoe is simply a size; the term does not indicate flavor or quality.

    Shorter leaves than orange pekoe and not as wiry; the liquid generally has more color.
    Round leaf, with pale liquid.
    Broken Grades
    Smaller, broken leaves; comprise about 80 percent of the total crop. They make a darker, stronger tea than the leaf grades; only kind used in tea bags.

    Broken Orange Pekoe
    Much smaller than the leaf grades; usually contains bud leaf; the mainstay of a blend.
    Broken Pekoe
    Slightly larger than broken orange pekoe, with somewhat less color; useful as a filler in a blend.
    Broken Pekoe Souchong
    A little larger than broken pekoe; also used as a filler.
    Much smaller than broken pekoe Souchong; main virtues are quick brewing and good color.
    The smallest grade; useful for a quick-brewing, strong cup of tea;only used in blends of similar-sized leaf, generally for catering purposes.

    *Botanics( a common error about green and black teas...)


    Tea Accessories

    The first tea cups in England were handless tea bowls that were imported from China and then later copies made in England. The first saucers appeared around 1700, but took some time to be in common use. The standard globular form of teapot had replaced the tall oriental teapots by 1750. * Robert Adam's Classically inspired designs for tea sets popularized handles and other Greek and Roman motifs.

    Mote skimmer

    Silver mote skimmer (also called strainer tea spoons) appeared on tea tables in the 1690s. The spoons had long, slender handles with sharp tips that were used to dislodge trapped leaves from the teapot spout. "Mote" is an old english word for a speck of foreign matter in food or drink. The flat, decorativeli perfoated strainer at the other end removed tea dust and errant leaves that floated to the surface after the tea haf been poured. Skimmrs were used the late 1700s, when tea strainers came into the use.

    Health Issues

    * Tea and Caffeine
    * TEA, for the Health of It
    * Tea may help prevent cancer
    * Imperial Tea Court

    In news

    * One Cup of Tea Daily Can Reduce Heart Attack Risk
    * Tea helps fight off infections


    * The Tea Shop
    * In Pursuit of Tea
    * Holy Mountain
    Rare Teas, teapots


    * Britannica : Tea
    * XRefer : Tea
    * The History of Tea at Stash Tea
    * A Brief History of Tea
    * The Tea Council, UK
    * Tea Concepts
    * Serendipitea
    * A different cup of tea : Sri Lanka Perspective
    * Tao of Tea
    * Anything about Tea
    * Adagio Teas
    Has Tea Club
    * Tea and Sympathy
    * Rec.food.drink.tea FAQ
    * NYC Tea resource guide
    * NewsGroup : rec.food.drink.tea
    * Yahoo Tea Groups
    * Tea reviews
    * Tea related posters from AllPosters.com
    * A nice cup of tea by George Orwell
    His own recipe of tea

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