I’ve been drinking tea for years and whether it is served hot or in boba milk tea, it is great either way. Tea gives off a toasty and clean aroma when it is brewed and can be calming, which is why I drink it when I’m stressed. In my family, we have two whole cabinets dedicated to all types of teas and you might wonder why. Well, it is a staple in our house and my parents enjoy drinking hot tea in the morning with their breakfast. Hot tea is a good palate cleanser which is why it pairs well when you eat greasy foods. But let’s talk about the history behind tea, the culture, the benefits of drinking tea, and the types of tea.
History of Tea
China has been drinking and producing tea for thousands of years. During the Han Dynasty, tea leaves were first used for medical practices and eaten as a vegetable. Tea then transformed into the hot beverage that we know today, but the preparation process was a bit different. First, tea leaves were steamed and pressed into cakes. Then to serve tea you would ground the tea leaves into a powder and mix it with hot water. Using tea powder to brew tea is very similar to how matcha is prepared, and there is a reason why these two cultures share similarities.
Traditionally the Chinese would whisk ground tea powder with hot water and drink it. During the Tang dynasty, tea-drinking became popular and spread across Asia to countries like Japan, Korean, and Vietnam. It was then the Japanese adapted these traditions and continued it until today. Later the Chinese developed new methods to process tea leaves and completely replaced its traditional steamed tea cakes and powders with loose leaf teas. So while the Japanese kept the tradition of drinking powdered tea, the Chinese completely replaced theirs. But I’m glad that this tradition survived, otherwise we wouldn’t have matcha lattes or green tea ice cream.
If you think about it, tea is all over the world and has impacted history in some way. Here is a timeline on some major events around the world revolving around tea.
If you had to guess which country consumes the most tea on average, you would probably say China or Britain and that is a good guess but it is wrong. Turkey takes the number spot, drinking an average of 1300 cups of tea per year, which is a lot of tea! And if I did my math correctly that is about 3 cups a day, meaning they drink tea for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Although China might not be the biggest tea drinkers today, they are still the largest producers and exporters of tea, followed by India.
As tea started to spread across the world, many countries started to adopt the beverage to their culture. Let’s look at how tea is consumed around the world.
Drinking tea can offer many health benefits, the most common being that it contains antioxidants. Black tea is fermented longer than green and oolong tea, containing health benefits that can lower cholesterol [source]. Green tea contains health benefits that may reduce cancer and chronic diseases [source]. Oolong tea is used in weight loss since it contains properties that can help with weight loss [source].
Tea comes in many forms, most popular being the traditional dried leaf teas and then there are herbal and floral teas. Traditional black, green, oolong, pu’erh, white, and yellow tea all come from the same tea plant, Camellia Sinensis. The only difference is in how the tea leaves are treated when it is being processed. If we take a look at how green and oolong tea is processed, the only difference is oolong tea is fermented. The use of fermentation not only adds complexity to the taste but depending on how or when it is fermented, it can alter other properties of the tea. For example, yellow tea is made by wrapping moist tea leaves in a cloth and left to ferment. By wrapping the tea leaves, it gives yellow tea its unique yellow color when it is brewed. Teas that are fermented for a longer period will oxidize more, making the tea darker in color and richer in taste. Black and pu-erh teas are fermented for a longer period which is why the teas are much darker than the other teas. On the other hand, white tea doesn’t go through any fermentation and is directly dried after the withering process.
Dried Leaf Teas
Black, Green, Oolong, White, Yellow, Pu’erh, Chai, Matcha, Thai and etc.
Ginger, Ginseng, Jujube, Licorice Root, Goji Berry and etc.
Chamomile, Chrysanthemum, Hibiscus, Jasmine, Rose and etc.