|The History of Tea
|From China and India to Japan, there are many amazing tales surrounding the history of tea. What is certain, however, is that the Chinese were the first to discover tea and its properties more than 5,000 years ago. Japan was the first nation outside of China to adopt tea-drinking as a result of close contact between Chinese and Japanese Buddhist monks.|
Tea only arrived in Europe at the start of the seventeenth century when trade began to flourish between Portugal, Holland and England and the Far East. England, in particular, was at the forefront of the new tea-drinking craze and imported all of its tea directly from China. But with the disruption of trade following the Opium wars of the 1840s, England was forced to find other ways to meet the demand for tea. A chance discovery in India, where the Camellia Sinensis plant was also found, saw the English colony become the world’s largest producer of tea.
Then, as tea became the drink of choice in England, Sri Lanka and then Africa began to produce and export large quantities of tea. Today there are more than 40 countries that produce an incredible variety of white, green, black and oolong teas in order to meet the still-growing global demand.The Tea Plant
All the world’s teas originate from one single species, the Camellia Sinensis, an evergreen shrub which produces small white flowers and berries similar to the nutmeg.
There are two main varieties of Camellia Sinensis: the Chinese variety which grows to 2-3 metres in height, and the Assam variety from India which grows up to 20 metres. The Assam variety gives a strong, dark tea while the Sinensis variety gives a lighter, more delicate tea.
To facilitate harvesting the plants are pruned to ensure that they don’t grow above 1,5 metres. The tea plants likes a hot, humid climate and can grow in high mountains up to 3000 meters, like in Darjeeling.
Not all the leaves are used to produce tea. Only the first 4 are plucked when young and tender. In hot countries such as Africa the tea plants produce leaves all the time giving a stable tea, which doesn’t change much from one season to next. In other countries such as Darjeeling in India or Sri Lanka, the tea depends very much also on the season.
Tea and Health
Regarding caffeine, latest research shows that white and green teas contain more caffeine than black teas and generally that the Assamic variety contains less caffeine than the Sinensis variety.
"Tea tempers the spirits and stimulates wise thoughts. Refreshes the body and calms the mind”. So wrote Shen Nung, the supposed discoverer of tea more than 5000 years ago.
Tea has proven medicinal qualities which are recognised in Chinese and now modern medicine. The small leaves of the Camellia Sinensis contain polyphenols (antioxidants) and many vitamins and minerals which help to keep the human body balanced. Tea also contains theanine, which helps regulate absorption of caffeine and stimulates intellectual activity, whilst diminishing fatigue.
Most importantly, tea contains no calories or salt, helps to disperse fat and aids digestion. Tea strengthens the circulatory system by gently stimulating the heart and circulation, keeping capillaries and veins healthy.
Last but not least, tea contains fluoride which builds tooth enamel and reduces plaque.
Varieties and blends
|Blending, scenting or flavouring teas is quite an art, though many people do mix two of their favourite varieties of tea to make a personalised tea which is just right for them. All our teas are chosen carefully according to the origin of the leaves, the aroma and the appearance before, during and after infusion. |
If you are curious about experimenting you can really start by choosing any two teas, from our large selection.
Otherwise, feel free to select from our specialty teas which include both scented and flavoured teas, or from our exclusive Babington range of blended teas.