User:Phil Sandifer/Tea2

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Tea leaves in a gaiwan.
A tea bush.

Tea is a product made by processing the leaves or buds of the tea bush Camellia sinensis. [citation needed] It is commonly consumed in the form of a beverage made by steeping the processed leaves in hot water for a few minutes. [citation needed] Tea can refer both to the brew thus produced or to the material used to make it. [citation needed]The English word tea derives from the Min Nan dialect pronunciation of the Chinese word .{{fact} The flavour of the raw tea is developed by processes including oxidation, heating, drying and the addition of other herbs, spices, or fruit. [citation needed]Tea is a natural source of caffeine and Theophylline. Tea is also diuretic.[citation needed]

The term herbal tea usually refers to infusions of fruit or herbs containing no actual tea, for example rosehip tea or chamomile tea. [citation needed]Alternative terms for this are tisane or herbal infusion, which lack the word tea.[citation needed] This article is concerned exclusively with preparations and uses of the tea plant.

Tea is often referred to by one of its many slang names, including cuppa (short for cup of tea), cha (Japanese for tea), and brew. [citation needed]

A total of 3,200,000 tonnes of tea were produced worldwide in 2004 FAO figures.


A Malaysian Tea Plantation

Tea is produced from leaves and leaf buds of Camellia sinensis, the tea plant. All tea varieties, such as green, oolong and black tea, are harvested from this species; they differ in processing. [citation needed]

In the wild, the tea tree may grow from 5 to 15 m, and sometimes even to 30 m[1]. The wild distribution is in the foothills of the Himalayas, stretching from northeast India to southwest China[1]. Cultivated tea shrubs are usually trimmed to below 2 m (six feet) to stimulate the growth of leaves and to ease plucking.[citation needed] Many insects, including the green leafhopper, mites, caterpillars, and termites, are natural enemies to tea plants. [citation needed]

World tea production by country in 2004, according to Food and Agriculture Organization estimates.

Tea grows wild in subtropical monsoon climates with wet and hot summers and relatively cold and dry winters.[2] Today, it is cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions. In tropical regions, the best conditions are at higher altitudes. [citation needed] Important tea producing countries are India, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, Nepal, Australia, Argentina, and Kenya.{{fact} (In the tea trade, Sri Lanka and Taiwan are still referred to by their former names of Ceylon and Formosa, respectively.)[citation needed]

Processing and classification[edit]

The three types of tea are distinguished by their processing.[citation needed] Leaves of Camellia sinensis, if not dried quickly after picking, soon begin to wilt and oxidise. [citation needed]This process resembles the malting of barley, in that starch is converted into sugars; the leaves turn progressively darker, as chlorophyll breaks down and tannins are released. [citation needed] The next step in processing is to stop the oxidation process at a predetermined stage by removing the water from the leaves via heating. [citation needed]

The term fermentation was used (probably by wine fanciers) to describe this process, and has stuck, even though no true fermentation happens (i.e. the process is not driven by microbes and produces no ethanol). [citation needed]Without careful moisture and temperature control, fungi will grow on tea. [citation needed]The fungi will cause fermentation which will contaminate the tea with toxic and carcinogenic substances. {{fact}In fact, when real fermentation happens, the tea must be discarded.[citation needed]

Tea is traditionally classified based on the degree or period of fermentation (oxidation) the leaves have undergone:[citation needed]

White tea (白茶)
Young leaves (new growth buds) that have undergone no oxidation; the buds may be shielded from sunlight to prevent formation of chlorophyll. White tea is produced in lesser quantities than most of the other styles, and can be correspondingly more expensive than tea from the same plant processed by other methods.[citation needed] It is also less well-known in the western countries, though this is changing with the introduction of white tea in bagged form.[citation needed]
Green tea (綠茶)
The oxidation process is stopped after a minimal amount of oxidation by application of heat; either with steam, a traditional Japanese method; or by dry cooking in hot pans, the traditional Chinese method. [citation needed]Tea leaves may be left to dry as separate leaves or rolled into small pellets to make gun-powder tea. [citation needed]The latter process is time consuming and is typically done only with pekoes of higher quality.[citation needed] The tea is processed within one to two days of harvesting.[citation needed]
Oolong (烏龍茶)
Oxidation is stopped somewhere between the standards for green tea and black tea. [citation needed]The oxidation process will take two to three days.[citation needed]
Black tea/Red tea (紅茶)
The tea leaves are allowed to completely oxidise. [citation needed]Black tea is the most common form of tea in southern Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan etc) and in the last century many African countries including Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Malawi and Zimbabwe. [citation needed]The literal translation of the Chinese word is red tea, which may be used by some tea-lovers. [citation needed]However, red tea may also refer to rooibos, an increasingly popular South African tisane. [citation needed]The oxidation process will take around two weeks and up to one month. [citation needed]Black tea is further classified as either orthodox or CTC (Crush, Tear, Curl, a production method developed about 1932). [citation needed]Unblended black teas are also identified by the estate they come from, their year and the flush (first, second or autumn). [citation needed] Orthodox and CTC teas are further graded according to the post-production leaf quality by the Orange Pekoe system. [citation needed]
Pu-erh (普洱茶)
Two forms of pu-erh teas are available, "raw" (生) and "cooked" (熟). [citation needed]"Raw" or "green" pu-erh may be consumed young or aged to further mature.[citation needed] During the aging process, the tea undergoes a second, microbial fermentation.[citation needed] "Cooked" pu-erh is made from green pu-erh leaf that has been artificially oxidised to approximate the flavour of the natural aging process.[citation needed] This is done through a controlled process similar to composting, where both the moisture and temperature of the tea are carefully monitored. [citation needed]Both types of pu-erh tea are usually compressed into various shapes including bricks, discs, bowls, or mushrooms. [citation needed]Compression occurs to start the second oxidation/fermentation process, as only compressed forms of pu-erh will age. [citation needed]While most teas are consumed within a year of production, pu-erh can be aged for many years to improve its flavour, up to 30 to 50 years for raw pu-erh and 10 to 15 years for cooked pu-erh, although experts and aficionados disagree about what the optimal age is to stop the aging process. [citation needed]In China and amongst some westerners, the tea is traditionally brewed in the gong fu style, which is a process of several short steepings in a yixing pot. [citation needed]Most often in the west, pu-erh is steeped for up to five minutes in boiling water. [citation needed]Additionally, Some Tibetans use pu-erh as a caloric food, boiled with yak butter, sugar and salt to make yak butter tea. [citation needed]Pu-erh also has medicinal uses in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is used to cure cough, balance qi, and help in weight loss.[citation needed] Teas that undergo a second oxidation, such as pu-erh and liu bao, are collectively referred to as Black tea (黑茶) in Chinese. [citation needed]This is not to be confused with the western term Black tea, which is known in Chinese as Red Tea (紅茶).[citation needed]
Yellow tea (黃茶)
Either used as a name of high-quality tea served at the Imperial court, or of special tea processed similarly to green tea, but with a slower drying phase.[citation needed]
Kukicha (茎茶)
Also called winter tea, kukicha is made from twigs and old leaves pruned from the tea plant during its dormant season and dry-roasted over a fire. [citation needed]Popular as a health food in Japan and in macrobiotic diets.[citation needed]

Blending and additives[edit]

Main article: Tea blending and additives

Tea weighing station north of Batumi, before 1915

Almost all teas in tea-bags and most other teas sold in western countries are blends. [citation needed]Blending may occur at the level of tea-planting area (e.g., Assam), or teas from many areas may be blended.[citation needed] The aim of blending is a stable taste over different years, and a better price. [citation needed]More expensive, more tasty tea may cover the inferior taste of cheaper tea.[citation needed]

There are various teas which have additives and/or different processing than "pure" varieties.[citation needed] Tea is able to easily receive any aroma, which may cause problems in processing, transportation or storage of tea, but can be also advantageously used to prepare scented teas.[citation needed]

Content of Tea[edit]

Tea origin and early history in Asia[edit]

The cradle of the tea plant is in southeast Asia. Spontaneous (wild) growth of the assamica variant is observed in area ranging from Chinese province Yunnan to the northern part of Myanmar and Assam region of India. The variant sinensis grows naturally in eastern and southeastern regions of China. [3] Recent studies and occurrence of hybrids of the two types in wider area extending over mentioned regions suggest the place of origin of tea is in an area consisting of the northern part of Myanmar and the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces of China. [4]

Origins of human use of tea are described in several myths.[citation needed]

Tea creation myths[edit]

In one popular Chinese story, Shennong, the legendary Emperor of China, inventor of agriculture and Chinese medicine, was on a journey about five thousand years ago. The emperor, known for his wisdom in the ways of science, believed that the safest way to drink water was by first boiling it. One day he noticed some leaves had fallen into his boiling water. The ever inquisitive and curious monarch took a sip of the brew and was pleasantly surprised by its flavour and its restorative properties. Variant of the legend tells that the emperor tried medical properties of various herbs on himself, some of them poisonous, and found tea works as an antidote. [5] Shennong is also mentioned in Lu Yu's Cha Jing, famous early work on the subject. [6]

A Chinese legend, which spread along with buddhism, Bodhidharma is credited with discovery of tea. Bodhidharma, a semi-legendary Buddhist monk, founder of the Chan school of Buddhism, journeyed to China. He became angered because he was falling asleep during meditation, so he cut off his eyelids. Tea bushes sprung from the spot where his eyelids hit the ground. [7] Sometimes, the second story is retold with Gautama Buddha in place of Bodhidharma [8]) In another variant of the first mentioned myth, Gautama Buddha discovered tea when some leaves had fallen into boiling water. [9]


See also: History of tea in China

Whether or not these legends have any basis in fact, tea has played a significant role in Asian culture for centuries as a staple beverage, a curative and a symbol of status.[citation needed] It is not surprising its discovery is ascribed to religious or royal origins.[citation needed] The fact is that the Chinese have enjoyed tea for centuries: Scholars hailed the brew as a cure for a variety of ailments, the nobility considered the consumption of good tea as a mark of their status and the common people simply enjoyed its flavour.[citation needed]

While historically the origin of tea as a medicinal herb useful for staying awake is unclear, China is considered the birthplace of tea drinking with recorded tea use in its history to at least 1000 BC. [citation needed]The Han Dynasty used tea as medicine.[citation needed] The use of tea as a beverage drunk for pleasure on social occasions dates from the Tang Dynasty or earlier. [citation needed]

Lu Yu statue in Xi'an.

The Tang Dynasty writer Lu Yu's 陆羽 (729-804) Cha Jing 茶经 is an early work on the subject. [citation needed](See also Tea Classics) According to Cha Jing written around 760, tea drinking was widespread. [citation needed]The book describes how tea plants were grown, the leaves processed, and tea prepared as a beverage. It also describes how tea was evaluated. [citation needed]The book even discusses where the best tea leaves were produced. [citation needed]

At this time in tea's history, the nature of the beverage and style of tea preparation were quite different from the way we experience tea today. [citation needed]Tea leaves were processed into cakes.[citation needed] The dried teacake, generally called brick tea was ground in a stone mortar.[citation needed] Hot water was added to the powdered teacake, or the powdered teacake was boiled in earthenware kettles then consumed as a hot beverage.[citation needed]

A form of compressed tea referred to as white tea was being produced as far back as the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.). [citation needed]This special white tea of Tang was picked in early spring when the new growths of tea bushes that resemble silver needles were abundant.[citation needed] These "first flushes" were used as the raw material to make the compressed tea. [citation needed]

Advent of steaming and powder tea[edit]

During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), production and preparation of all tea changed. [citation needed]The tea of Song included many loose-leaf styles (to preserve the delicate character favoured by the court society), but a new powdered form of tea emerged. [citation needed]Tea leaves were picked and quickly steamed to preserve their colour and fresh character.[citation needed] After steaming, the leaves were dried.[citation needed] The finished tea was then ground into fine powders that were whisked in wide bowls. [citation needed]The resulting beverage was highly regarded for its deep emerald or iridescent white appearance and its rejuvenating and healthy energy. [citation needed]Drinking tea was considered stylish among government officers and intellectuals during the Southern Song period in China (12th to 13th centuries). [citation needed]They would read poetry, write calligraphy, paint, and discuss philosophy, while enjoying tea.[citation needed] Sometimes they would hold tea competitions where teas and tea instruments were judged. [citation needed]When Song Dynasty emperor Hui Zhong proclaimed white tea to be the culmination of all that is elegant, he set in motion the evolution of an enchanting variety. [citation needed]

This Song style of tea preparation incorporated powdered tea and ceramic ware in a ceremonial aesthetic known as the Song tea ceremony. [citation needed]Japanese monks traveling to China at this time had learned the Song preparation and brought it home with them. [citation needed]Although it later became extinct in China, this Song style of tea evolved into the Japanese tea ceremony, which endures today.[citation needed]

Many forms of white tea were made in the Song Dynasty due to the discerning tastes of the court society.[citation needed] Hui Zhong, who ruled China from 1101-1125, referred to white tea as the best type of tea, and he has been credited with the development of many white teas in the Song Dynasty, including "Palace Jade Sprout" and "Silver Silk Water Sprout".[citation needed]

Producing white teas was extremely labour-intensive.[citation needed] First, tea was picked from selected varietals of cultivated bushes or wild tea trees in early spring. [citation needed]The tea was immediately steamed, and the buds were then selected and stripped of their outer, unopened leaf. [citation needed]Only the delicate interior of the bud was reserved to be rinsed with spring water and dried. [citation needed]This process produced white teas that were paper thin and small.[citation needed]

Once processed, the finished tea was distributed and often given as a tribute to the Song court in loose form. [citation needed]It was then ground to a fine, silvery-white powder that was whisked in the wide ceramic bowls used in the Song tea ceremony.[citation needed] These white powder teas were also used in the famous whisked tea competitions of that era.[citation needed]

Tea roasting and brewed tea[edit]

Tea roasting

Steaming tea leaves was the primary process used for centuries in the preparation of tea. [citation needed]After the transition from compressed tea to the powdered form, the production of tea for trade and distribution changed once again. [citation needed]The Chinese learned to process tea in a different way in the mid-13th century.[citation needed] Tea leaves were roasted and then crumbled rather than steamed. This is the origin of today's loose teas and the practice of brewed tea. [citation needed]

In 1391, the Ming court issued a decree that only loose tea would be accepted as a "tribute". [citation needed]As a result, loose tea production increased and processing techniques advanced. [citation needed]Soon, most tea was distributed in full-leaf, loose form and steeped in earthenware vessels.[citation needed]


In 17th century China numerous advances were made in tea production. [citation needed]In the southern part of China, tea leaves were sun dried then half fermented, producing Black Dragon teas or Oolongs. [citation needed]However, this method was not common in the rest of China.[citation needed] Chinese would rather drink green teas.[citation needed] So-called black teas were for "barbarians".[citation needed]


Importing tea and tea culture[edit]

The earliest known references to green tea in Japan is in a text written by a Buddhist monk in the 9th century.[citation needed] Tea became a drink of the religious classes in Japan when Japanese priests and envoys sent to China to learn about its culture brought tea to Japan. [citation needed]The first form of tea brought from China was probably in a teacake.[citation needed] Ancient recordings indicate the first batch of tea seeds were brought by a priest named Saicho in 805 and then by another named Kukai in 806.[citation needed] It became a drink of the royal classes when Emperor Saga, the Japanese emperor, encouraged the growth of tea plants.[citation needed] Seeds were imported from China, and cultivation in Japan began. [citation needed]

Kissa Yojoki - the Book of Tea[edit]

In 1191, the famous Zen priest Eisai (1141-1215) brought back tea seeds to Kyoto.[citation needed] Some of the tea seeds were given to the priest Myoe Shonin, and became the basis for Uji tea. [citation needed]The oldest tea specialty book in Japan, Kissa Yojoki (how to stay healthy by drinking tea) was written by Eisai.[citation needed] The two-volume book was written in 1211 after his second and last visit to China. [citation needed]The first sentence states, "Tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one's life more full and complete".[citation needed] The preface describes how drinking tea can have a positive effect on the five vital organs, especially the heart. [citation needed]It discusses tea's medicinal qualities which include easing the effects of alcohol, acting as a stimulant, curing blotchiness, quenching thirst, eliminating indigestion, curing beriberi disease, preventing fatigue, and improving urinary and brain function. [citation needed]Part One also explains the shapes of tea plants, tea flowers and tea leaves and covers how to grow tea plants and process tea leaves.[citation needed] In Part Two, the book discusses the specific dosage and method required for individual physical ailments. [citation needed]

Eisai was also instrumental in introducing tea consumption to the warrior class, which rose to political prominence after the Heian Period.[citation needed] Eisai learned that the general Samurai (Shogun) Sanetomo Minamoto had a habit of drinking too much every night.[citation needed] In 1214, Eisai presented a book he had written to the general, lauding the health benefits of tea drinking.[citation needed] After that, the custom of tea drinking became popular among the Samurai.[citation needed]

Very soon, green tea became a staple among cultured people in Japan -- a brew for the gentry and the Buddhist priesthood alike. [citation needed]Production grew and tea became increasingly accessible, though still a privilege enjoyed mostly by the upper classes.[citation needed]

Roasting process introduced to Japan[edit]

In the 13th century Ming dynasty, southern China and Japan enjoyed much cultural exchange. [citation needed]Significant merchandise was traded and the roasting method of processing tea became common in Kyushu, Japan. [citation needed]Since the steaming (9th century) and the roasting (13th century) method were brought to Japan during two different periods, these teas are completely distinct from each another[citation needed].

Japan tea culture emerges[edit]

Japanese tea ceremony

The pastime made popular in China in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries -- reading poetry, writing calligraphy, painting, and discussing philosophy while enjoying tea – eventually became popular in Japan and with Samurai society. [citation needed]The modern tea ceremony developed over several centuries by Zen Buddhist monks under the original guidance of the monk Sen-no Rikyu (1522-1591). [citation needed]In fact, both the beverage and the ceremony surrounding it played a prominent role in feudal diplomacy. [citation needed]Many of the most important negotiations among feudal clan leaders were carried out in the austere and serene setting of the tea ceremony.[citation needed] By the end of the sixteenth century, the current "Way of Tea" was established.[citation needed] Eventually, green tea became available to the masses, making it the nation's most popular beverage.[citation needed]

Modern Japanese green tea[edit]

In 1740, Soen Nagatani developed Japanese sencha (Japanese: 煎茶), which is an unfermented form of green tea. [citation needed]To prepare sencha, tea leaves are first steam-pressed, then rolled and dried into a loose tea. [citation needed]The dried leaves are then ground and mixed with hot water to yield the final drink.[citation needed] Sencha is now one of Japan's mainstay teas.[citation needed]

Rolling machines[edit]

At the end of the Meiji period (1868-1912), machine manufacturing of green tea was introduced and began replacing handmade tea.[citation needed] Machines took over the processes of primary drying, tea rolling, secondary drying, final rolling, and steaming. [citation needed]


Automation contributed to improved quality control and reduced labour.[citation needed] Sensor and computer controls were introduced to machine automation so that unskilled workers can produce superior tea without compromising in quality. [citation needed]Certain regions in Japan are known for special types of green tea, as well as for teas of exceptional quality, making the leaves themselves a highly valued commodity. [citation needed]This combination of Nature's bounty and manmade technical breakthroughs combine to produce the most exceptional green tea products sold on the market today.[citation needed] Today, roasted green tea is not as common in Japan and powdered tea is used in ceremonial fashion.[citation needed]

Tea spreads to the world[edit]

As the Venetian explorer Marco Polo failed to mention tea in his travel records, it is conjectured that the first Europeans to encounter tea were either Jesuits living in Beijing who attended the court of the last Ming Emperors; or Portuguese explorers visiting Japan in 1560. [citation needed]Russia discovered tea in 1618 after a Ming Emperor of China offered it as a gift to Czar Michael I. [citation needed]

Soon imported tea was introduced to Europe, where it quickly became popular among the wealthy in France and the Netherlands. [citation needed]English use of tea dates from about 1650 and is attributed to Catherine of Braganza (Portuguese princess and queen consort of Charles II of England).[citation needed]

The high demand for tea in Britain caused a huge trade deficit with China. [citation needed]The British set up tea plantations in colonial India to provide their own supply. [citation needed] They also tried to balance the trade deficit by selling opium to the Chinese, which later led to the First Opium War in 1838–1842.[citation needed]

The Boston Tea Party was an act of uprising in which Boston residents destroyed crates of British tea in 1773, in protest against British tea and taxation policy.[citation needed] Prior to the Boston Tea Party, residents of Britain's North American 13 colonies drank far more tea than coffee.[citation needed] In Britain, coffee was more popular.[citation needed] After the protests against the various taxes, Americans stopped drinking tea as an act of patriotism.[citation needed] Similarly, Britons slowed their consumption of coffee.[citation needed]

These days, contradicting tea economies do exist.[citation needed] Tea farmers in Japan, Taiwan and China often enjoy better incomes compared to farmers in black tea producing countries.[citation needed]

The word tea[edit]

The Chinese character for tea is 茶, but it is pronounced very differently in the various Chinese dialects. [citation needed]Two pronunciations have made their way into other languages around the world.[citation needed] One is 'te' (POJ: tê) which comes from the Min Nan dialect spoken around the port of Xiamen (Amoy). [citation needed]The other is 'cha', used by the Cantonese dialect spoken around the ports of Guangzhou (Canton) and Hong Kong, as well as in the Mandarin dialect of northern China.[citation needed] Yet another different pronunciation is 'xoo', used in the Wu dialect spoken around Shanghai.[citation needed]

Languages that have Te derivatives include Afrikaans (tee),[citation needed] Armenian, Catalan (te), [citation needed]Danish (te), [citation needed]Dutch (thee), [citation needed]English (tea), [citation needed]Esperanto (teo), [citation needed]Estonian (tee), [citation needed]Faroese (te),[citation needed] Finnish (tee), [citation needed]French (thé),[citation needed] Galician (), [citation needed]German (Tee), [citation needed]Hebrew (תה, /te/ or /tei/), [citation needed]Hungarian (tea),[citation needed] Icelandic (te), [citation needed]Indonesian (teh),[citation needed] Irish (tae), [citation needed]Italian (), [citation needed]scientific Latin (thea),[citation needed] Latvian (tēja), [citation needed]Malay (teh), [citation needed]Norwegian (te),[citation needed] Polish (herbata from Latin herba thea),[citation needed] Singhalese, [citation needed]Spanish (),[citation needed] Swedish (te), [citation needed]Tamil (thè), [citation needed]Welsh (te),[citation needed] and Yiddish (טיי, /tei/).[citation needed]

Those that use Cha or Chai derivatives include Albanian (çaj), [citation needed]Arabic (شَاي),[citation needed] Bangla (চা), [citation needed]Bulgarian (чай), [citation needed]Capampangan (cha),[citation needed]Cebuano (tsa),[citation needed] Croatian (čaj), [citation needed]Czech (čaj), [citation needed]Greek (τσάι),[citation needed] Hindi (चाय), [[citation needed][Japanese language|Japanese]] (茶, ちゃ, cha),[citation needed] Korean (차), [citation needed]Macedonian (čaj), [citation needed]Malayalam,[citation needed] Nepali (chia),[citation needed] Persian (چاى),[citation needed] Punjabi (ਚਾਹ), [citation needed]Portuguese (chá),[citation needed] Romanian (ceai), [citation needed]Russian, (чай, chai),[citation needed] Serbian (чај),[citation needed] Slovak (čaj), [citation needed] Slovene (čaj),[citation needed] Swahili (chai), [citation needed]Tagalog (tsaa),[citation needed] Thai (น้ำชา), [citation needed]Tibetan, [citation needed]Turkish (çay),[citation needed] Ukrainian (чай),[citation needed] Urdu (چاى) [citation needed]and Vietnamese (trà and chè are both direct derivatives of the Chinese 茶; [citation needed]the latter term is used mainly in the north).[citation needed]

The Polish word for a tea-kettle is Czajinik, which could be derived from Cha.[citation needed]

It is tempting to correlate these names with the route that was used to deliver tea to these cultures, but this correspondence does not follow. [citation needed] For example, most British trade went through Canton, which uses cha.[citation needed]

In Ireland, or at least in Dublin, the term "cha" is sometimes used for tea, with "tay" as a common pronunciation throughout the land, and "char" was a common slang term for tea throughout British Empire and Commonwealth military forces in the 19th and 20th centuries, crossing over into civilian usage.[citation needed] In North America, the word "chai" is used to refer almost exclusively to the Indian "chai" (or "masala chai") beverage.[citation needed]

Perhaps the only place in which a word unrelated to tea is used to describe the beverage is South America (particularly Andean countries), because a similar stimulant beverage, hierba mate, was consumed there long before tea arrived. [citation needed] In various places of South America, any tea is referred to as mate.[citation needed]

Tea culture[edit]

Tea is often drunk at social events, such as afternoon tea and the tea party. It may be drunk early in the day to heighten alertness; it contains theophylline and bound caffeine (sometimes called "theine"), although there are also decaffeinated teas.

There are tea ceremonies which have arisen in different cultures, Japan's complex, formal and serene one being the most known. Other examples are the Korean tea ceremony or some traditional ways of brewing tea in Chinese tea culture.


Main article: Chinese tea culture. See also Fujian tea ceremony.

Due to the importance of tea in Chinese society and culture, tea houses can be found in most Chinese neighbourhoods and business districts. Chinese-style tea houses offer dozens of varieties of hot and cold tea concoctions. They also serve a variety of tea-friendly and/or tea-related snacks. Beginning in the late afternoon, the typical Chinese tea house quickly becomes packed with students and business people, and later at night plays host to insomniacs and night owls simply looking for a place to relax. Formal tea houses also exist. They provide a range of Chinese and Japanese tea leaves, as well as tea making accoutrements and a better class of snack food. Finally there are the tea vendors, who specialise in the sale of tea leaves, pots, and other related paraphernalia.

Two Periods[edit]

In China, at least as early as the Tang Dynasty, tea was an object of connoisseurship; in the Song Dynasty formal tea-tasting parties were held, comparable to modern wine tastings. As much as in modern wine tastings, the proper vessel was important and much attention was paid to matching the tea to an aesthetically appealing serving vessel.

Historically there were two phases of tea drinking in China based on the form of tea that was produced and consumed, namely: Tea bricks versus Loose Leaf Tea.

Tea Bricks[edit]

Tea served prior to the Ming Dynasty was typically made from tea bricks. Upon harvesting, the tea leaves were either partially dried or were thoroughly dried and ground before being pressed into bricks. The pressing of Pu-erh is likely a vestige of this process. Tea bricks were also sometimes used as currency. To improve its resiliency as currency, some tea bricks were mixed with binding agents such as blood. Serving the tea from tea bricks required multiple steps:

  • Toasting: Tea bricks are usually first toasted over a fire to destroy any mold or insects that may have burrowed into the tea bricks. Such infestation sometimes occurred since the bricks were stored openly in warehouses and storerooms. Toasting also likely imparted a pleasant flavour to the resulting tea.
  • Grinding: The tea brick was broken up and ground to a fine powder resembling Japanese powdered tea (Matcha).
  • Whisking: The powdered tea was mixed into hot water and frothed with a whisk before serving. The colour and patterns formed by the powdered tea were enjoyed while the mixture was imbibed.

The ground and whisked teas used at that time called for dark and patterned bowls in which the texture of the tea powder suspension could be enjoyed. The best of these bowls, glazed in patterns with names like oil spot, partridge-feather, hare's fur, and tortoise shell, are highly valued today. The patterened holding bowl and tea mixture were often lauded in the period's poetry with phrases such as "partridge in swirling clouds" or "snow on hare's fur". Tea in this period was enjoyed more for its patterns and less for its flavour. The practice of using powdered tea can still be seen in the Japanese Tea ceremony or Chado.

Loose-Leaf Tea[edit]

After 1391, Emperor Hung-wu, the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, decreed that tributes of tea to the court were to be changed from brick to loose-leaf form. The imperial decree quickly transformed the tea drinking habits of the people, changing from whisked teas to steeped teas. The arrival of the new method for preparing tea also required the creation or use of new vessels.

  • The tea pot was needed such that the tea leaves can be steeped separately from the drinking vessel for an infusion of proper concentration. The tea also needs to be kept warm and the tea leaves must be separated from the resulting infusion when required.
  • Tea caddies and containers also became necessary in order to keep the tea and conserve its flavour. This due to the fact that tea leaves do not preseve as well as tea bricks. Furthermore, the natural aroma of tea became the focus of the tea drinking due to the new preparation method.
  • A change in Chinese tea drinking vessels was also evident at this point. Smaller bowls with plain or simple designs on the interior surfaces were favoured over the larger patterned bowls used for enjoying the patterns created by powdered teas. Tea drinking in small bowls and cups was likely adopted since it gathers and directs the fragrant steam from the tea to the nose and allows for better appreciation of the tea's flavour.

This is the current and preferred method of preparing tea in Chinese culture.

See also Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong listed below.


Tea is cultivated extensively in the north of the country, making Vietnam one of the world's largest exporters. The tea is normally drunk green, and strongly brewed. The word in the Vietnamese language is tra (pronounced cha/ja) or che.


Black tea with milk

The British are one of the largest per capita tea consumers in the world - second only to Ireland, with each person consuming on average 2.5 kg per year. The popularity of tea dates back to the 19th Century when India was part of the British Empire, and British interests controlled tea production in the subcontinent. Tea initially was such a luxury that the teapoy, a dedicated piece of furniture, was developed for storing it. For most people in Britain tea drinking is not the delicate, refined cultural expression that much of the world imagines -- a cup (or more often a mug) of tea is something drunk several times a day quite unceremoniously. "Tea" is not only the name of the beverage, but of a late afternoon light meal, irrespective of the beverage drunk (especially in The North, where the evening meal usually referred to as "dinner" is called "tea", and "lunch" is "dinner"). Frequently (outside the UK) this is referred to as "high tea", however in the UK high tea is an evening meal. The term evidently comes from the meal being eaten at the "high" (main) table, rather than the smaller table common in living rooms. Tea is usually served with milk (not cream) and sugar. Tea served with milk and two teaspoons of sugar usually in a mug is commonly referred to as "builder's tea". There was a tradition of tea rooms in the UK which usually provide the traditional fare of cream and jam on scones, but these have declined in popularity since World War II. In Devon and Cornwall particularly, cream teas are a speciality. Lyons Corner Houses were a successful chain of such establishments.

Industrial Revolution[edit]

Some scholars suggest the tea played a role in British industrial revolution. Afternoon tea possibly became a way to increase the number of hours labourers could work in factories; the stimulants in the tea, accompanied by sugary snacks would give workers energy to finish out the days work. Further, tea helped alleviate some of the consequences of the urbanisation that accompanied the industrial revolution: drinking tea required boiling one's water, thereby killing water-borne diseases like dysentery, cholera, and typhoid [4].

Tea cards[edit]

In the United Kingdom a number of varieties of loose tea sold in packets from the 1940s to the 1980s contained tea cards. These were illustrated cards roughly the same size as cigarette cards and intended to be collected by children. Perhaps the best known were Typhoo tea and Brooke Bond PG Tips the latter of whom also provided albums for collectors to keep their cards in. Some renowned artists were used to illustrate the cards including Charles Tunnicliffe. Many of these card collections are now valuable collectors' items.


In an otherwise coffee drinking country, the German region of East Friesland is noted for its consumption of tea and its tea culture. Strong black tea is served whenever there are visitors to an East Frisian home or other gathering, as well as with breakfast, mid-afternoon, and mid-evening. Tea is sweetened with kluntjes, a rock candy sugar that melts slowly, allowing multiple cups to be sweetened. Heavy cream is also used to flavour the tea. The tea is generally served with small cookies during the week and cakes during special occasions or on weekends as a special treat. The tea is rumored to cure headaches, stomach problems, and stress, among many other ailments. In Germany and other European countries, they tend to drink tea from a glass, not a cup or mug.

Hong Kong[edit]

The English-style tea has evolved into a new local style of drink, the Hong Kong-style milk tea, more often simply "milk tea", in Hong Kong by using evaporated milk instead of ordinary milk. It is popular at cha chaan tengs and fast food shops such as Café de Coral and Maxims Express. Traditional Chinese tea, including green tea, flower tea, jasmine tea and Pu-erh tea, are also common, and are served at dim sum restaurant during yum cha.


Dutch settlers established tea plantations on the island of Java in the early 18th century and later on Sumatra and Sulawesi. Although tea is picked year round, usually by hand, the best comes during the dry season of August and September. Nearly 60% of Indonesian tea is green tea; black tea is mostly exported for blending. The word for tea in Indonesian is teh.

The drinking custom in Indonesia is different. The Sundanese people, from the region of west java, served tea without any sugar. In every restaurant in that region, it is common to serve plain tea as a free beverage, instead of a glass of water. This is because the main tea plantation is in West Java, so tea is cheap and plentiful. On the other hand, the tropical Indonesian water is unsafe to drink without boiling it first. So, serving a cup of plain hot tea is a gesture to the guest that "the water is clean and boiled".

The Javanese people, from Central and East Java, served tea with sugar. That's because the sugar refinery and plantation located in East and Central Java. So, the sugar is cheap, and the javanese people serve sugar to improve the taste of their tea. The plain tea is known as "Teh Pahit" or "Bitter Tea" in English.


Tea found its way to Persia (Iran) from India and soon became the national drink. The whole part of northern Iran along the shores of the Caspian Sea is suitable for the cultivation of tea. Especially in the Gilan province on the slopes of Alborz large areas are under tea cultivation and millions of people work in the tea industry for their livelihood. That region covers a large part of Iran's need for tea. Iranians have one of the highest per capita rate of tea consumption in the world and from old times every street has had a Châikhâne (Tea House). Châikhâne's are still an important social place. Iranians traditionally drink tea by pouring it into the saucer and putting a lump of sugar in the mouth before drinking the tea.


Ireland has, for a long time, been one of the biggest per-capita consumers of tea in the world. The national average is four cups per person per day, with many people drinking six cups or more.

As with Britain tea in Ireland is usually taken with milk and/or sugar. The two main brands of tea sold in Ireland are Lyons and Barry's. There is a considerable amount of light-hearted debate over which brand is superior. The Irish love of tea is perhaps best illustrated by the stereotypical housekeeper, Mrs Doyle in the popular sit-com Father Ted.


Tea plucking in Kerala.

The world's largest producer of Tea, India is a country where tea is popular all over as a breakfast and evening drink. It is often served as masala chai with milk and sugar, and sometimes scented. Almost all the tea consumed is black Indian tea. Usually tea leaves are boiled in water while making tea, and milk is added.

Offering tea and not alcoholic drinks, to visitors is the cultural norm in India. Tea has also entered the common idiom so much so that the term "Chai-Pani" ( Tea/Tea and water ) usually refers to wages, tips or even bribery.

Darjeeling tea is known for its delicate aroma and light colour and is aptly termed as "the champagne of teas", Assam tea is known for its robust taste and dark colour, and Nilgiri tea is dark, intensely aromatic and flavoured. Assam produces the largest quantity of Tea in India, mostly of the CTC variety, and is one of the biggest suppliers of popular brands such as Lipton and Tetley. The Tetley Brand, formerly British and one of the largest, is now owned by the TATA group.


As in India, tea is popular all over Pakistan. During British Rule tea became so popular in the subcontinent that it is now a common breakfast and all-day drink. Most of the tea consumed in Pakistan is imported from Kenya.

Sri Lanka[edit]

In Sri Lanka, tea is served in the English style, with milk and sugar, but the milk is always warmed. Tea is a hugely popular beverage among the Sri-Lankan people, and part of its land is surrounded by the many hills of tea plantations that spread for miles and miles round. Drinking tea has become part of the culture of Sri Lanka.


Turkish tea, served in a typical glass

Turkish tea or Çay is produced on the eastern Black Sea coast, which has a mild climate with high precipitation and fertile soil. Turkish tea is typically prepared using two stacked kettles especially designed for tea preparation. Water is brought to a boil in the larger lower kettle and then some of the water is used to fill the smaller kettle on top and steep several spoons of loose tea leaves, producing a very strong tea. When served, the remaining water is used to dilute the tea on an individual basis, giving each consumer the choice between strong ("koyu"/dark) or weak ("açık"/light). Tea is drunk from small glasses to enjoy it hot in addition to show its colour, with lumps of beetroot sugar. To a lesser extent than in other Muslim countries, tea replaces alcohol as the social beverage. Within Turkey the tea is usually known as Rize tea.


Tea harvest on the eastern shores of the Black Sea, before 1915

In Russia, it is customary to drink tea brewed separately in a teapot and diluted with freshly boiled water ('pair-of-teapots tea', 'чай парой чайников'). The traditional implement for boiling water for tea used to be the samovar (and sometimes it still is, though usually electric). The podstakannik ('подстаканник'), or tea glass holder (literally "thing under the glass"), is also a part of Russian tea tradition, used nowadays primarily on trains and in inexpensive hotels, because broken glasses are cheaper to replace. Tea is a family event, and is usually served after each meal with sugar (one to three teaspoonfuls per cup) and lemon (but without milk), and an assortment of jams, pastries and confections.

Czech Republic[edit]

Specific tea culture developed in the Czech Republic in recent years, including many styles of tearooms. Despite having the same name, they are mostly different from the British style tea rooms. Pure teas are usually prepared with respect to their country of origin and good tea palaces may offer 80 teas from almost all tea-producing countries. Different tea rooms have also created various blends and methods of preparation and serving.


Less visible than in the Czech Republic, tea culture also exists in Slovakia. Although considered an underground environment by many, tea rooms continue to pop up almost in every middle-sized town. These tea rooms are appreciated for offering quiet environments with pleasant music. More importantly, they are usually non-smoking, unlike most pubs and cafés.

Commonwealth countries[edit]

Afternoon tea and the variant cream tea (called Devonshire Tea in Australia) is the staple "tea ceremony" of the English speaking Commonwealth countries, available in homes and tea rooms throughout the United Kingdom, Australia, India, Africa and New Zealand, although in most of these places it is an antiquated, and no longer daily routine. Note that "tea" may also refer to a meal, or dinner, in Commonwealth nations, regardless of the beverage served with the meal. This could lead to confusion over the meaning of an invitation to "tea". The slang term "cuppa" (as in a "cup of tea"), is used in Australia and New Zealand possibly to counteract this confusion, but is more likely just an abbreviation. Due to the diverse mix of races and cultures in Australia since the 1950's, most cultural variations of tea are available these days. Bubble Tea has also become common in Australia.

United States[edit]

Main articles: US tea culture, Tea production in United States

US Tea Preferences and Influence[edit]

During the colonial period, tea and tea taxes were a bone of contention between the American Colonies and England. This led to the Boston Tea Party, a precipitating event of the American Revolution, where angry Colonists destroyed the tea cargo of three British ships by dumping them into Boston Harbor. Boycotts of tea by the colonists during this period led to an increase in consumption of other beverages, such as coffee or herbal tea. To this day, coffee remains more popular than tea in the United States however the average US citizen consumes roughly 7.8 gallons of tea a year as of 2000 [5].

In the United States, tea typically is served at all meals as an alternative to coffee, when served hot, or soda, when served iced. Tea is also consumed throughout the day as a beverage. Afternoon tea, the meal, is rarely served in the United States except in ritualised special occasions such as the tea party or an afternoon out at a high-end hotel or restaurant, which may also have cream teas on the menu.

Prior to World War II, the US preference for tea was equally split between green tea and black tea, 40% and 40%, with the remaining 20% preferring oolong tea. The war cut off the United States from its primary sources of green tea, China and Japan, leaving it with tea almost exclusively from British-controlled India, which produces black tea. After the war, nearly 99 percent of tea consumed was black tea. Green, oolong, and white teas have recently become more popular again.

Decaffeinated tea is widely available in the United States, for those who wish to reduce the physiological effects of caffeine.

Tea consumption is taboo in the US-based The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Iced tea.

In the United States, about 80% of the tea consumed is served cold, or iced.

Tea Bags[edit]

Thomas Sullivan is credited with inventing tea bags in 1908. Sullivan, a New York tea importer, inadvertently invented tea bags when he sent tea to clients in small silk bags to cut costs, and they mistakenly steeped the bags whole.

The customers were interested in the silk bags instead of the tea. Sullivan did not realise this until they all started to complain that the orders they received were not in the bags the samples had been in. Silk was too expensive for bagging, therefore, he invented tea bags made of gauze.

Most tea sold in the United States is sold in bags.

Iced Tea[edit]

Prior to the mid 1800's tea, when served cold, was referred to as tea punch and was typically spiked with alcohol. These punches had names such as Regent's Punch, Charleston's Saint Cecilia Punch, and Chatham Artillery Punch.

Sweet Tea, sometimes known as Southern Table Wine, is tea brewed very strong with a large amount of sugar, typically 1.5 - 2.5 cups, added while the tea is still hot. The mixture of sugar and tea is then diluted with water and served over ice and garnished with lemon. Sometimes the diluted mixture is allowed to cool to room temperature other times the sugar and tea mixture is not diluted at all but rather poured hot over a full tumbler of ice to cool and dilute it. The oldest printed recipe of sweet tea dates back to a community cookbook "Housekeeping in Old Virginia", by Marion Cabell Tyree, published in 1879 [6].

Iced tea was popularised at the 1904 World's Fair. Iced tea's popularity in the United States has led to an addition to standard flatware sets; the iced tea spoon is a standard flatware teaspoon, but with a long handle, suitable for stirring sugar into the taller glasses commonly used for iced tea.

In the US, Sweet Tea is typically available in the South where as in the north and west, tea is typically served unsweetened, although sweetener is available to stir into the already cold tea, with poor results as the cold tea will not dissolve sugar properly.

Iced tea can be purchased like soda, in canned or bottled form at vending machines and convenience stores; usually, this pre-made tea is sweetened, and sometimes some other flavourings, such as lemon or raspberry, are added. Prior to 1996 many restaurants dispensed iced tea brewed through the day in large urns, however an FDA survey revealed high levels of coliform bacteria (from fecal matter) in the tubing that goes from the reservoir to the spigot [7] in many of these urns. This caused many establishments to sell tea through the same method as fountain drinks, pumped from a Bag-In-Box.

Instant Tea[edit]

In 1946, Nestle USA introduced the first instant tea, Nestea. Instant teas are produced from black tea by extracting the liquor from processed portion of tea typically from tea wastes or undried fermented leaves. The extract is concentrated under low pressure, and drying the concentrate to a powder by freeze-drying, spray-drying, or vacuum-drying. Low temperatures tend to be used to minimise loss of flavour.

Instant teas are typically purchased because of their costs and convenience.

Revival of Fine Teas[edit]

In the 1980's a revival of fine hot teas occurred in the United States. Prior to this time most tea available in the US was blended specifically for iced tea with the quality of not discolouring when iced and cost as the primary desired qualities, even over taste. Most ice tea blends are derived from Argentina tea plantations, which has a discernible different taste than black teas blended from Indian and Chinese stocks. This blend is often referred to as American blend by tea companies to differentiate it from other blends sometimes referred to as fine teas.

Recently, many coffee houses have begun to serve a milky, sweet, spiced tea called "chai", based on Indian "masala chai". Bubble tea from Taiwan has also become popular in the United States in recent years.


A Japanese man performs a tea ceremony.

Green tea's traditional role in Japanese society is as a drink for special guests and special occasions. Green tea is served in many companies during afternoon breaks. The Japanese have a custom of buying confectioneries for their colleagues when on vacations or business trips. These snacks are usually opened and enjoyed with green tea. If you visit a Japanese company on business, you are likely to be offered a cup of tea to sip during your meeting. At a restaurant, a cup of green tea is often served with meals at no extra charge, with as many refills as desired. The best traditional Japanese restaurants take as much care in choosing the tea they serve as in preparing the food itself. When guests arrive, Japanese brew a pot of green tea. A thermos full of green tea is also a staple on family or school outings as an accompaniment to bento (box lunches). Families oftentimes bring along proper Japanese teacups, to enhance the enjoyment of the traditional drink. The strong cultural association the Japanese have with green tea has made it the most popular beverage to drink with traditional Japanese cuisine, such as sushi, sashimi and tempura. Many Japanese are still taught the proper art of the centuries-old Tea Ceremony as well. Still, the Japanese now enjoy green tea processed using state of the art technology that accentuates both its health benefits and its taste. Today, hand pressing -- a method demonstrated to tourists -- is taught only as a technique preserved as a part of the Japanese cultural tradition.

Black tea, often with milk or lemon, is served in Western style restaurants. Most of the ubiquitous vending machines also carry a wide selection of both hot and cold bottled teas. Oolong tea enjoys considerable popularity.

A traditional Japanese cast-iron teapot from the Tohoku Region.

Major tea-producing areas in Japan include Shizuoka Prefecture and the city of Uji in Kyoto Prefecture.

Other infusions bearing the name cha are barley tea (mugi-cha) which is popular as a cold drink in the summer, buckwheat tea (soba-cha), and hydrangea tea (ama-cha).


Taiwan is the producer of some of the world's high-end green and oolong teas. It is also famous as country of origin for Bubble tea and the Wu-Wo tea ceremony.

Bubble tea[edit]

Main article, Bubble tea

Bubble tea, pearl milk tea (Chinese: 珍珠奶茶; pinyin: zhēnzhū nǎichá), or boba milk tea (波霸奶茶; bōbà nǎichá) is a tea beverage mixture with milk which includes balls of tapioca. Originating in Taiwan, it is especially popular in Asia (Taiwan, People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, South Korea, the Philippines, and Singapore) as well as Europe, Canada, and the United States. It is also known as black pearl tea or tapioca tea.

Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony[edit]

The Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony began as a Taiwanese tradition, which emphasises that individuals make and serve tea to one another in a polite manner without regards to their social positions, wealth, and other hierarchical divisions. Grand Master Tsai, Rong Tsang the director of Lu-Yu Tea Culture Institute and the founder of the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony has been an active part in the growth of this once small group from Taiwan (almost twenty years ago) to what is now an international organisation.


Thai tea (also known as Thai iced tea) or "cha-yen" (Thai: ชาเย็น) when ordered in Thailand, is a drink made from strongly-brewed red tea that usually contains added anise, red and yellow food colouring, and sometimes other spices as well. This tea is sweetened with sugar and condensed milk and served chilled. Evaporated or whole milk is generally poured over the tea and ice before serving--it is never mixed prior to serving--to add taste and creamy appearance. Locally, it is served in a traditional tall glass and when ordered take-out, it is poured over the crushed ice in a clear (or translucent) plastic bag. It can also be made into a frappé at more westernised vendors.

It is popular in Southeast Asia and in many American restaurants that serve Thai or Vietnamese food, especially on the West Coast. Although Thai tea is not the same as bubble tea, a Southeast and East Asian beverage that contains large black pearls of tapioca starch, Thai tea with pearls is a popular flavour of bubble tea.

Perennial Tea Ceremony[edit]

See Perennial Tea Ceremony.


Butter, milk, salt, and sugar are added to brewed tea and churned to form a hot drink called Po cha in Tibet. The concoction is also somtimes called cha-su-mar, mainly in Kham, or Eastern Tibet. Traditionally, the drink is made with a domestic brick tea and yak's milk, then mixed in a churn for several minutes. Using a generic black tea, milk and butter, and shaking or blending work well too, although the unique taste of yak milk is difficult to replicate. (see recipe)

Tea preparation[edit]

This section describes the most widespread method of making tea. Completely different methods are used in North Africa, Tibet and perhaps in other places.

The best way to prepare tea is usually thought to be with loose tea placed either directly in a teapot or contained in a tea infuser, rather than a teabag. However, perfectly acceptable tea can be made with teabags. Some circumvent the teapot stage altogether and brew the tea directly in a cup or mug.

Historically in China, tea is divided into a number of infusions. The first infusion is immediately poured out to wash the tea, and then the second and further infusions are had. The third through fifth are nearly always considered the best infusions of tea, although different teas open up differently and may require more infusions of boiling water to bring them to life.

Typically, the best temperature for brewing tea can be determined by its type. Teas that have little or no oxidation period, such as a green or white tea, are best brewed at lower temperatures around 80 °C, while teas with longer oxidation peroids should be brewed at higher temperatures around 100 °C.

Black tea infusion.
Black Tea: The water for black teas should be added at the boiling point (100 °C or 212 °F), except for more delicate teas, where lower temperatures are recommended. This will have as large an effect on the final flavour as the type of tea used. The most common fault when making black tea is to use water at too low a temperature. Since boiling point drops with altitude, this makes it difficult to brew black tea properly in mountainous areas. It is also recommended that the teapot be warmed before preparing tea, easily done by adding a small amount of boiling water to the pot, swirling briefly, before discarding. Black tea should not be allowed to steep for less than 30 seconds or more than about five minutes (a process known as brewing or [dialectally] mashing in the UK)
after that, tannin is released, which counteracts the stimulating effect of the theophylline and caffeine and makes the tea bitter (at this point it is referred to as being stewed in the UK). When the tea has brewed long enough to suit the tastes of the drinker, it should be strained while serving.
Green Tea: Water for green tea, according to most accounts, should be around 80 °C to 85 °C (176 °F to 185 °F); the higher the quality of the leaves, the lower the temperature. Preferably, the container in which the tea is steeped, the mug, or teapot should also be warmed beforehand so that the tea does not immediately cool down.
Oolong Tea: Oolong teas should be brewed around 90 °C to 100 °C (194 °F to 212 °F), and again the brewing vessel should be warmed before pouring in the water. Yixing clay teapots are the ideal brewing vessel for oolong tea. For best results use spring water, as the minerals in spring water tend to bring out more flavour in the tea.
Premium or Delicate Tea: Some teas, especially green teas and delicate Oolong or Darjeeling teas, are steeped for shorter periods, sometimes less than 30 seconds. Using a tea strainer separates the leaves from the water at the end of the brewing time if a tea bag is not being used.
Serving: In order to preserve the pre-tannin tea without requiring it all to be poured into cups, a second teapot is employed. The steeping pot is best unglazed earthenware; Yixing pots are the best known of these, famed for the high quality clay from which they are made. The serving pot is generally porcelain, which retains the heat better. Larger teapots are a post-19th-century invention, as tea before this time was very rare and very expensive.
Experienced tea-drinkers often insist that the tea should not be stirred around while it is steeping (sometimes called winding in the UK). This, they say, will do little to strengthen the tea, but is likely to bring the tannic acids out in the same way that brewing too long will do. For the same reason one should not squeeze the last drops out of a teabag; if you want stronger tea, use more leaves or bags.
Additives: Popular additives to tea include sugar or honey, lemon, milk, and fruit jams. Most connoisseurs eschew cream because it overpowers the flavour of tea. The exception to this rule is with very hearty teas such as the East Friesian blend. Milk, however, is thought to neutralise remaining tannins and reduce acidity.
Sugar cubes ready to be added to a cup of tea
When taking milk with tea, some add the tea to the milk rather than the other way around. Using chilled milk, avoids scalding the milk, leading to a better emulsion and nicer taste. The socially 'correct' method is to add the tea after the milk, but this convention was established before the invention of the refrigerator. Adding the milk first also makes a milkier cup of tea with sugar harder to prepare as there will be no hot liquid in the cup to dissolve the sugar effectively. In addition, the amount of milk used is normally determined by the colour of the tea, therefore milk is added until the correct colour is obtained. If the milk is added first, more guesswork is involved. Of course, if the tea is being brewed in a mug, the milk must be added after the tea bag is removed.
In the United Kingdom, adding the milk first is historically considered a lower-class method of preparing tea; the upper classes always add the milk last. The origin of this distinction is said to be that the rougher earthenware mugs of the working class would break if boiling-hot tea was added directly to them, whereas the fine glazed china cups of the upper class would not. It is now considered by most to be a personal preference.

Tea packaging[edit]

Tea Bags
Tea bags
Tea leaves are packed into a small (usually paper) tea bag. It is easy and convenient, making tea bags popular for many people nowadays. However, because fannings and dust from modern tea processing are also included in most tea bags, it is commonly held among tea afficianados that this method provides an inferior taste and experience. The paper used for the bag can also be tasted by many which can detract from the tea's flavour.
Additional reasons why bag tea is considered less well-flavoured include:
  • Dried tea loses its flavour quickly on exposure to air. Most bag teas (although not all) contain leaves broken into small pieces; the great surface-area-to-volume ratio of the leaves in tea bags exposes them to more air, and therefore causes them to go stale faster. Loose tea leaves are likely to be in larger pieces, or to be entirely intact.
  • Breaking up the leaves for bags extracts flavoured oils.
  • Good loose-leaf teas tend to be vacuum packed.
Loose tea 
The tea leaves are packaged loosely in a canister or other container. The portions must be individually measured by the consumer for use in a cup, mug or teapot. This allows greater flexibility, letting the consumer brew weaker or stronger tea as desired, but convenience is sacrificed. Strainers, "tea presses", filtered teapots and infusion bags are available commercially to avoid having to drink the floating loose leaves. A more traditional, yet perhaps more effective way around this problem is to use a three-piece lidded teacup, called a gaiwan. The lid of the gaiwan can be tilted to hold back the leaves while sipping the tea.
Compressed tea 
A lot of tea is still compressed for storage and aging convenience. Commonly Pu-Erh tea is compressed and then drunk by loosening leaves off using a small knife. Compressed tea can be stored longer than loose leaf tea, almost indefinitely.
Tea Sticks 
One of the more modern forms of tea consumption, an alternative to the tea bag, are Tea Sticks.
The first known tea sticks originated in Holland in the mid 1990's, where a company by the name of Venezia Trading produced a tea stick named Ticolino. Ticolino are dubbed as single serving tea sticks which use an infusing technology to brew the tea leaves inside, releasing the flavour and aroma.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Arcimovicova p. 43. See also a photo of an exceptionally old and big tea tree called "King tea plant" (taken by SMČ tea expedition, 1997).
  2. ^ Arcimovicova p. 46
  3. ^ Yamamoto p. 2
  4. ^ Yamamoto p. 4
  5. ^ Chow p. 19-20 (Czech edition); also Arcimovicova p. 9, Evans p. 2 and others
  6. ^ Lu Ju p. 29-30 (Czech edition)
  7. ^ Chow p. 20-21
  8. ^ Evans p. 3
  9. ^ Okakura

  • Jana Arcimovičová, Pavel Valíček (1998): Vůně čaje, Start Benešov. ISBN 8-090-20059-1 (in Czech)
  • T. Yamamoto, M Kim, L R Juneja (editors): Chemistry and Applications of Green Tea, CRC Press, ISBN 0-849-34006-3
  • Lu Yu (陆羽): Cha Jing (茶经) (The classical book on tea). References are to Czech translation of modern-day editon (1987) by Olga Lomová (translator): Kniha o čaji. Spolek milců čaje, Praha, 2002. (in Czech)
  • John C. Evans (1992): Tea in China: The History of China's National Drink,Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-28049-5
  • Kit Chow, Ione Kramer (1990): All the Tea in China, China Books & Periodicals Inc. ISBN 0835121941 References are to Czech translation by Michal Synek (1998): Všechny čaje Číny, DharmaGaia Praha. ISBN 80-85905-48-5
  • Stephan Reimertz (1998): Vom Genuß des Tees : Eine eine heitere Reise durch alte Landschaften, ehrwürdige Traditionen und moderne Verhältnisse, inklusive einer kleinen Teeschule (In German)
  • Jane Pettigrew (2002), A Social History of Tea
  • Roy Moxham (2003), Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire

External links[edit]


Online books[edit]

Tea history, culture and local specifics[edit]