Tea is an aromatic beverage commonly prepared by pouring hot or
boiling water over cured leaves of the
Camellia sinensis, an evergreen
shrub (bush) native to Asia. After water, it is the most widely
consumed drink in the world. There are many different types of tea;
Darjeeling and Chinese greens, have a cooling, slightly
bitter, and astringent flavour, while others have vastly different
profiles that include sweet, nutty, floral or grassy notes.
Tea originated in Southwest China, where it was used as a medicinal
drink. It was popularized as a recreational drink during the
Chinese Tang dynasty, and tea drinking spread to other East Asian
countries. Portuguese priests and merchants introduced it to Europe
during the 16th century. During the 17th century, drinking tea
became fashionable among Britons, who started large-scale production
and commercialization of the plant in
India to bypass the Chinese
India supplied 62% of the world's tea in
The term herbal tea refers to drinks not made from
infusions of fruit, leaves, or other parts of the plant, such as
steeps of rosehip, chamomile, or rooibos. These are sometimes
called tisanes or herbal infusions to prevent confusion with tea made
from the tea plant.
2 Origin and history
3 Cultivation and harvesting
4 Chemical composition
5 Processing and classification
5.1 Additional processing and additives
6.1 Black tea
6.2 Green tea
6.5 Cold brew and sun tea
6.7 Pouring from height
9.1 Labor and consumer safety problems
10.2 Loose tea
10.3 Compressed tea
10.4 Instant tea
10.5 Bottled and canned tea
13 See also
15 External links
Main article: Etymology of tea
Chinese character for tea is 茶, originally written with an extra
stroke as 荼 (pronounced tú, used as a word for a bitter herb), and
acquired its current form during the Tang Dynasty. The word
is pronounced differently in the different varieties of Chinese, such
as chá in Mandarin, zo and dzo in Wu Chinese, and ta and te in Min
Chinese. One suggestion is that the different pronunciations may
have arisen from the different words for tea in ancient China, for
example tú (荼) may have given rise to tê; historical
phonologists however argued that the cha, te and dzo all arose from
the same root with a reconstructed pronunciation dra, which changed
due to sound shift through the centuries. There were other ancient
words for tea, though ming (茗) is the only other one still in common
use. It has been proposed that the Chinese words for tea, tu,
cha and ming, may have been borrowed from the Austro-Asiatic languages
of people who inhabited southwest China; cha for example may have been
derived from an archaic Austro-Asiatic root *la, meaning "leaf".
Most Chinese languages, such as Mandarin and Cantonese, pronounce it
along the lines of cha, but Hokkien and Teochew Chinese varieties
along the Southern coast of
China pronounce it like teh. These two
pronunciations have made their separate ways into other languages
around the world.
Starting in the early 17th century, the Dutch played a dominant role
in the early European tea trade via the Dutch East
The Dutch borrowed the word for "tea" (thee) from Min Chinese, either
through trade directly from Hokkien speakers in Formosa where they had
established a port, or from Malay traders in Bantam, Java. The
Dutch then introduced to other European languages this Min
pronunciation for tea, including English tea, French thé, Spanish
té, and German Tee. This pronunciation is also the most common
form worldwide. The Cha pronunciation came from the Cantonese
Guangzhou (Canton) and the ports of
Hong Kong and Macau,
which were also major points of contact, especially with the
Portuguese traders who settled
Macau in the 16th century. The
Portuguese adopted the
Cantonese pronunciation "chá", and spread it
to India. However, the Korean and Japanese pronunciations of cha
were not from Cantonese, but were borrowed into Korean and Japanese
during earlier periods of Chinese history.
A third form, the increasingly widespread chai, came from Persian
چای [t͡ʃɒːi] chay. Both the châ and chây forms are found in
Persian dictionaries. They are derived from the Northern Chinese
pronunciation of chá, which passed overland to Central Asia and
Persia, where it picked up the Persian grammatical suffix -yi before
passing on to Russian as чай ([tɕæj], chay), Arabic as شاي
(pronounced shay [ʃæiː] due to the lack of a /t͡ʃ/ sound in
Arabic), Urdu as چائے chay, Hindi as चाय chāy, Turkish as
çay, etc. The few exceptions of words for tea that do not fall
into the three broad groups of te, cha and chai are mostly from the
minor languages from the botanical homeland of the tea plant from
which the Chinese words for tea might have been borrowed
originally. English has all three forms: cha or char (both
pronounced /tʃɑː/), attested from the 16th century; tea, from the
17th; and chai, from the 20th. However, the form chai refers
specifically to a black tea mixed with honey, spices and milk in
Origin and history
Further information: History of tea
A 19th-century Japanese painting depicting Shennong: Chinese legends
Shennong with the invention of tea.
Tea plants are native to East Asia, and probably originated in the
borderlands of north
Burma and southwestern China.
There appears to have been at least three separate domestication
events of tea and possibly four.
Chinese (small leaf) tea
Assam (large leaf) tea
Chinese (small leaf) type tea (C. sinensis var. sinensis) may have
originated in southern
China possibly with hybridization of unknown
wild tea relatives. However, since there are no known wild populations
of this tea, the precise location of its origin is speculative. Given
their genetic differences forming distinct clades, Chinese
tea (C. sinensis var. assamica) may have two different parentages –
one being found in southern
Yunnan (Xishuangbanna, Pu'er City) and the
other in western
Yunnan (Lincang, Baoshan). The western
shares many genetic similarities with Indian
Assam type tea (also C.
sinensis var. assamica). Thus, western
Assam tea and Indian
Assam tea both may have originated from the same parent plant in the
area where southwestern China, Indo-Burma, and Tibet meet. However, as
Assam tea shares no haplotypes with western
Assam tea is likely to have originated from an independent
domestication. Some Indian
Assam tea appears to have hybridized with
Camellia pubicosta. Many types of southern
tea have been hybridized with the closely related species Camellia
taliensis. Assuming a generation of 12 years, Chinese small leaf tea
is estimated to have diverged from
Assam tea around 22,000 years ago
Assam tea and Indian
Assam tea diverged 2,800 years ago.
The divergence of Chinese small leaf tea and
Assam tea would
correspond to the last glacial maximum.
Tea drinking may have begun in the
Yunnan region during the Shang
Dynasty in China, when it was used for medicinal purposes. It is also
believed that in Sichuan, "people began to boil tea leaves for
consumption into a concentrated liquid without the addition of other
leaves or herbs, thereby using tea as a bitter yet stimulating drink,
rather than as a medicinal concoction."
Chinese legends attribute the invention of tea to
Shennong in 2737
BC, although evidence suggests that tea drinking may have been
introduced from the southwest of
Yunnan area). The
earliest written records of tea come from China. The word tú 荼
appears in the
Shijing and other ancient texts to signify a kind of
"bitter vegetable" (苦菜), and it is possible that it referred to a
number of different plants such as sowthistle, chicory, or
smartweed, as well as tea. In the Chronicles of Huayang, it
was recorded that the Ba people in
Sichuan presented tu to the Zhou
king. The state of Ba and its neighbour Shu were later conquered by
the Qin, and according to the 17th century scholar
Gu Yanwu who wrote
in Ri Zhi Lu (日知錄): "It was after the Qin had taken Shu that
they learned how to drink tea." Another possible early reference to
tea is found in a letter written by the Qin Dynasty general Liu Kun
who requested that some "real tea" to be sent to him.
The earliest known physical evidence of tea was discovered in 2016
in the mausoleum of
Emperor Jing of Han
Emperor Jing of Han in Xi'an, indicating that tea
from the genus
Camellia was drunk by
Han Dynasty emperors as early as
the 2nd century BC. The Han dynasty work "The Contract for a
Youth", written by
Wang Bao in 59 BC, contains the first known
reference to boiling tea. Among the tasks listed to be undertaken by
the youth, the contract states that "he shall boil tea and fill the
utensils" and "he shall buy tea at Wuyang". The first record of tea
cultivation is also dated to this period (the reign of Emperor Xuan of
Han), during which tea was cultivated on Meng Mountain (蒙山) near
Chengdu. Another early credible record of tea drinking dates to
the third century AD, in a medical text by Hua Tuo, who stated, "to
drink bitter t'u constantly makes one think better." However,
before the mid-8th century Tang dynasty, tea-drinking was primarily a
southern Chinese practice. It became widely popular during the
Tang Dynasty, when it was spread to Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. In
India, tea has been drunk for medicinal purposes for a long but
uncertain period, but apart from the Himalayan region it seems not to
have been used as a beverage until the British introduced tea-drinking
there much later.
Through the centuries, a variety of techniques for processing tea, and
a number of different forms of tea, were developed. During the Tang
dynasty, tea was steamed, then pounded and shaped into cake form,
while in the Song dynasty, loose-leaf tea was developed and became
popular. During the Yuan and Ming dynasties, unoxidized tea leaves
were first pan-fried, then rolled and dried, a process that stops the
oxidation process that turns the leaves dark, thereby allowing tea to
remain green. In the 15th century, oolong tea, in which the leaves
were allowed to partially oxidize before pan-frying, was
developed. Western tastes, however, favoured the fully oxidized
black tea, and the leaves were allowed to oxidize further. Yellow tea
was an accidental discovery in the production of green tea during the
Ming dynasty, when apparently sloppy practices allowed the leaves to
turn yellow, but yielded a different flavour as a result.
Tea-weighing station north of Batumi,
Russian Empire before 1915
Tea was first introduced to Portuguese priests and merchants in China
during the 16th century, at which time it was termed chá. The
earliest European reference to tea, written as Chiai, came from Delle
navigationi e viaggi written by a Venetian, Giambattista Ramusio, in
1545. The first recorded shipment of tea by a European nation was
in 1607 when the
Dutch East India Company
Dutch East India Company moved a cargo of tea from
Macao to Java, then two years later, the Dutch bought the first
assignment of tea which was from Hirado in Japan to be shipped to
Tea became a fashionable drink in
The Hague in the
Netherlands, and the Dutch introduced the drink to Germany, France and
across the Atlantic to
New Amsterdam (New York).
The first record of tea in English came from a letter written by
Richard Wickham, who ran an
East India Company
East India Company office in Japan,
writing to a merchant in
Macao requesting "the best sort of chaw" in
1615. Peter Mundy, a traveller and merchant who came across tea in
Fujian in 1637, wrote, "chaa — only water with a kind of herb boyled
in it ".
Tea was sold in a coffee house in London in 1657,
Samuel Pepys tasted tea in 1660, and
Catherine of Braganza
Catherine of Braganza took the
tea-drinking habit to the British court when she married Charles II in
1662. Tea, however, was not widely consumed in Britain until the 18th
century, and remained expensive until the latter part of that period.
British drinkers preferred to add sugar and milk to black tea, and
black tea overtook green tea in popularity in the 1720s. Tea
smuggling during the 18th century led to the general public being able
to afford and consume tea. The British government removed the tax on
tea, thereby eliminating the smuggling trade by 1785. In Britain
and Ireland, tea was initially consumed as a luxury item on special
occasions, such as religious festivals, wakes, and domestic work
gatherings. The price of tea in Europe fell steadily during the 19th
century, especially after Indian tea began to arrive in large
quantities; by the late 19th century tea had become an everyday
beverage for all levels of society. The popularity of tea also
informed a number of historical events – the
Tea Act of 1773
Boston Tea Party
Boston Tea Party that escalated into the American
Revolution, and the need to address the issue of British trade deficit
caused by the demand for
Chinese tea led to a trade in opium that
resulted in the Opium Wars.
Chinese small leaf type tea was introduced into
India in 1836 by the
British in an attempt to break the Chinese monopoly on tea. In
1841, Archibald Campbell brought seeds of
Chinese tea from the Kumaun
region and experimented with planting tea in Darjeeling. The Alubari
tea garden was opened in 1856 and
Darjeeling tea began to be
produced. In 1848,
Robert Fortune was sent by the East India
Company on a mission to
China to bring the tea plant back to Great
Britain. He began his journey in high secrecy as his mission occurred
in the lull between the Anglo-Chinese
First Opium War
First Opium War (1839–1842)
Second Opium War
Second Opium War (1856–1860). The
Chinese tea plants he
brought back were introduced to the Himalayas, though most did not
survive. The British had discovered that a different variety of tea
was endemic to
Assam and the northeast region of
India and that it was
used by the local Singpho people, and these were then grown instead of
Chinese tea plant and then were subsequently hybridized with
Chinese small leaf type tea as well as likely closely related wild tea
species. Using the Chinese planting and cultivation techniques, the
British launched a tea industry by offering land in
Assam to any
European who agreed to cultivate it for export.
Tea was originally
consumed only by anglicized Indians; however, it became widely popular
India in the 1950s because of a successful advertising campaign by
Cultivation and harvesting
Tea plantation workers in Sri Lanka, 2009
Tea Garden at
Munnar Kerala, India
Camellia sinensis is an evergreen plant that grows mainly in tropical
and subtropical climates. Some varieties can also tolerate marine
climates and are cultivated as far north as
Cornwall in England,
Perthshire in Scotland, Washington state in the United States,
Vancouver Island in Canada. In the Southern Hemisphere, tea is
grown as far south as
Hobart on the Australian island of
Waikato in New Zealand.
Tea plants are propagated from seed and cuttings; about 4 to 12 years
are needed for a plant to bear seed and about three years before a new
plant is ready for harvesting. In addition to a zone 8 climate or
warmer, tea plants require at least 127 cm (50 in) of
rainfall a year and prefer acidic soils. Many high-quality tea
plants are cultivated at elevations of up to 1,500 m
(4,900 ft) above sea level. Though at these heights the plants
grow more slowly, they acquire a better flavour.
Two principal varieties are used:
Camellia sinensis var. sinensis,
which is used for most Chinese, Formosan and Japanese teas, and C.
sinensis var. assamica, used in
Pu-erh and most Indian teas (but not
Darjeeling). Within these botanical varieties, many strains and modern
clonal varieties are known. Leaf size is the chief criterion for the
classification of tea plants, with three primary classifications
Assam type, characterised by the largest leaves; China
type, characterised by the smallest leaves; and Cambodian type,
characterised by leaves of intermediate size. The Cambod type tea (C.
assamica subsp. lasiocaly) was originally considered a type of assam
tea. However, later genetic work showed that it is a hybrid between
Chinese small leaf tea and assam type tea.
Darjeeling tea also
appears to be hybrids between Chinese small leaf tea and assam type
A tea plant will grow into a tree of up to 16 m (52 ft) if
left undisturbed, but cultivated plants are generally pruned to
waist height for ease of plucking. Also, the short plants bear more
new shoots which provide new and tender leaves and increase the
quality of the tea.
Only the top 1–2 inches of the mature plant are picked. These
buds and leaves are called 'flushes'. A plant will grow a new
flush every seven to 15 days during the growing season.
are slow in development tend to produce better-flavoured teas.
Pests of tea include mosquito bugs of the genus
Helopeltis (which are
true bugs that must not be confused with the dipteran) that can tatter
leaves, so they may be sprayed with insecticides. In addition, there
may be Lepidopteran leaf feeders and various tea diseases.
Phenolic content in tea
Phenolic content in tea and Health effects of tea
Caffeine constitutes about 3% of tea's dry weight, translating to
between 30 mg and 90 mg per 8-oz (250-ml) cup depending on
type, brand, and brewing method. A study found that the
caffeine content of 1 g of black tea ranged from 22 to
28 mg, while the caffeine content of 1 g of green tea ranged
from 11 to 20 mg, reflecting a significant difference.
Fresh tea leaves in various stages of growth;
The astringency in tea can be attributed to the presence of
polyphenols. These are the most abundant compounds in tea leaves,
making up 30-40% of their composition.
Tea also contains small amounts of theobromine and theophylline, which
are stimulants, and xanthines similar to caffeine.
Because of modern environmental pollution, fluoride and aluminium also
sometimes occur in tea. Certain types of brick tea made from old
leaves and stems have the highest levels.
Black and green teas contain no essential nutrients in significant
content, with the exception of the dietary mineral, manganese at
0.5 mg per cup or 26% of the Daily Value.
Tea leaves contain
diverse polyphenols, including flavonoids, epigallocatechin gallate
(commonly noted as EGCG) and other catechins.
It has been suggested that green and black tea may protect against
cancer or other diseases such as obesity or Alzheimer's
disease, but the compounds found in green tea have not been
conclusively demonstrated to have any effect on human
diseases. One human study demonstrated that regular
consumption of black tea over four weeks had no beneficial effect in
lowering blood cholesterol levels.
Physically speaking, tea has properties of both a solution and a
suspension. It is a solution of all the water-soluble compounds that
have been extracted from the tea leaves, such as the polyphenols and
amino acids, but is a suspension when all of the insoluble components
are considered, such as the cellulose in the tea leaves.
Processing and classification
Teas of different levels of oxidation (L to R): green, yellow, oolong,
Tea is generally divided into categories based on how it is
processed. At least six different types are produced:
White: wilted and unoxidized;
Yellow: unwilted and unoxidized but allowed to yellow;
Green: unwilted and unoxidized;
Oolong: wilted, bruised, and partially oxidized;
Black: wilted, sometimes crushed, and fully oxidized; called (called
紅茶 [hóngchá], "red tea" in
Chinese tea culture);
Post-fermented: green tea that has been allowed to ferment/compost
(called 黑茶 [hēichá] "black tea" in
Chinese tea culture).
After picking, the leaves of C. sinensis soon begin to wilt and
oxidize unless immediately dried. An enzymatic oxidation process
triggered by the plant's intracellular enzymes causes the leaves to
turn progressively darker as their chlorophyll breaks down and tannins
are released. This darkening is stopped at a predetermined stage by
heating, which deactivates the enzymes responsible. In the production
of black teas, halting by heating is carried out simultaneously with
drying. Without careful moisture and temperature control during
manufacture and packaging, growth of undesired molds and bacteria may
make tea unfit for consumption.
Additional processing and additives
Tea blending and additives
Common processing methods of tea leaves
After basic processing, teas may be altered through additional
processing steps before being sold, and is often consumed with
additions to the basic tea leaf and water added during preparation or
drinking. Examples of additional processing steps that occur before
tea is sold are blending, flavouring, scenting, and decaffeination of
teas. Examples of additions added at the point of consumption include
milk, sugar and lemon.
Tea blending is the combination of different teas together to achieve
the final product. Almost all tea in bags and most loose tea sold in
the West is blended. Such teas may combine others from the same
cultivation area or several different ones. The aim is to obtain
consistency, better taste, higher price, or some combination of the
Flavoured and scented teas add new aromas and flavours to the base
tea. Either through directly adding flavouring agents, such as
bergamot (found in Earl Grey), vanilla, and spearmint. Or, because tea
easily retains odours by placing it in close proximity to an aromatic
ingredient to absorbs its aroma (as in traditional Jasmine tea)
Black tea is often taken with milk
The addition of milk to tea in Europe was first mentioned in 1680 by
the epistolist Madame de Sévigné. Many teas are traditionally
drunk with milk in cultures where dairy products are consumed. These
include Indian masala chai and British tea blends. These teas tend to
be very hearty varieties of black tea which can be tasted through the
milk, such as Assams, or the East Friesian blend. Milk is thought to
neutralise remaining tannins and reduce acidity. The Han
Chinese do not usually drink milk with tea but the Manchus do, and the
elite of the
Qing Dynasty of the Chinese Empire continued to do so.
Hong Kong-style milk tea
Hong Kong-style milk tea is based on British colonial habits. Tibetans
and other Himalayan peoples traditionally drink tea with milk or yak
butter and salt. In Eastern European countries (Russia, Poland and
Hungary) and in Italy, tea is commonly served with lemon juice. In
Poland, tea with milk is called a bawarka ("Bavarian style"), and is
often drunk by pregnant and nursing women. In Australia, tea with milk
is white tea.
The order of steps in preparing a cup of tea is a much-debated topic,
and can vary widely between cultures or even individuals. Some say it
is preferable to add the milk before the tea, as the high temperature
of freshly brewed tea can denature the proteins found in fresh milk,
similar to the change in taste of UHT milk, resulting in an
inferior-tasting beverage. Others insist it is better to add the
milk after brewing the tea, as black tea is often brewed as close to
boiling as possible. The addition of milk chills the beverage during
the crucial brewing phase, if brewing in a cup rather than using a
pot, meaning the delicate flavour of a good tea cannot be fully
appreciated. By adding the milk afterwards, it is easier to dissolve
sugar in the tea and also to ensure the desired amount of milk is
added, as the colour of the tea can be observed.
Historically, the order of steps was taken as an indication of class:
only those wealthy enough to afford good-quality porcelain would be
confident of its being able to cope with being exposed to boiling
water unadulterated with milk. Higher temperature difference means
faster heat transfer so the earlier milk is added the slower the drink
cools. A 2007 study published in the European Heart Journal found
certain beneficial effects of tea may be lost through the addition of
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Popular varieties of black tea include Assam, Nepal, Darjeeling,
Nilgiri, Rize, Keemun, and Ceylon teas.
Many of the active substances in black tea do not develop at
temperatures lower than 90 °C (194 °F). As a result,
black tea in the West is usually steeped in water near its boiling
point, at around 99 °C (210 °F).. Since boiling point
drops with increasing altitude, it is difficult to brew black tea
properly in mountainous areas.
Western black teas are usually brewed for about four minutes. In many
regions of the world, however, actively boiling water is used and the
tea is often stewed. In India, black tea is often boiled for fifteen
minutes or longer to make Masala chai, as a strong brew is preferred.
Tea is often strained while serving.
A food safety management group of the International Organization for
Standardization (ISO) has published a standard for preparing a cup of
tea (ISO 3103:
Tea — Preparation of liquor for use in sensory
tests), primarily intended for standardizing preparation for
comparison and rating purposes.
In regions of the world that prefer mild beverages, such as the Far
East, green tea is steeped in water around 80 to 85 °C (176 to
185 °F). Regions such as North Africa or Central Asia prefer a
bitter tea, and hotter water is used. In Morocco, green tea is steeped
in boiling water for 15 minutes.
The container in which green tea is steeped is often warmed beforehand
to prevent premature cooling. High-quality green and white teas can
have new water added as many as five or more times, depending on
variety, at increasingly higher temperatures.
Oolong tea is brewed around 82 to 96 °C (185 to 205 °F),
with the brewing vessel warmed before pouring the water. Yixing purple
clay teapots are the traditional brewing-vessel for oolong tea which
can be brewed multiple times from the same leaves, unlike green tea,
seeming to improve with reuse. In the Chinese and Taiwanese Gongfu tea
ceremony, the first brew is discarded, as it is considered a rinse of
leaves rather than a proper brew.
Pu-erh teas require boiling water for infusion. Some prefer to quickly
rinse pu-erh for several seconds with boiling water to remove tea dust
which accumulates from the ageing process, then infuse it at the
boiling point (100 °C or 212 °F), and allow it to steep
from 30 seconds to five minutes.
Cold brew and sun tea
Cold brew tea
Cold brew tea and Iced tea
While most tea is prepared using hot water, it is also possible to
brew a beverage from tea using room temperature or cooled water. This
requires longer steeping time to extract the key components, and
produces a different flavor profile. Cold brews use about 1.5 times
the tea leaves that would be used for hot steeping, and are
refrigerated for 4–10 hours. The process of making cold brew tea is
much simpler than that for cold brew coffee.
Cold brewing has some disadvantages compared to hot steeping. Firstly,
if the leaves or source water contain unwanted bacteria, they may
flourish, whereas using hot water has the benefit of killing most
bacteria. This is less of a concern in modern times and developed
regions. Secondly, cold brewing may allow for less caffeine to be
Sun tea is made by steeping the tea leaves in a jar of unheated tap
water left in the sun. It does not get hot enough to kill bacteria
present on the tea leaves or in the water, such as Alcaligenes
To preserve the pretannin tea without requiring it all to be poured
into cups, a second teapot may be used. 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.
Pouring from height
The flavour of the tea can also be altered by pouring it from
different heights, resulting in varying degrees of
aeration. The art of elevated pouring is used principally by people in
Northern Africa (e.g. Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania,
Libya and Western
Sahara), but also in West Africa (e.g. Guinea, Mali, Senegal) and can
positively alter the flavour of the tea, but it is more likely a
technique to cool the beverage destined to be
consumed immediately. In certain cultures, the tea is given different
names depending on the height from which it is poured.[citation
In Southeast Asia, particularly in Singapore and Malaysia, the
practice of pouring tea from a height has been refined further using
black tea to which condensed milk is added, poured from a height from
one cup to another several times in alternating fashion and in quick
succession, to create a tea with entrapped air bubbles creating a
frothy "head" in the cup. This beverage, teh tarik, literally, "pulled
tea" (which has its origin as a hot Indian tea beverage), has a
creamier taste than flat milk tea and is extremely popular in the
Tea pouring in Malaysia has been further developed into an art
form. Pouring from height in
China is mainly done to entertain guests
at the tea room or restaurant.
Masala chai from
India with garnishes
Turkish tea served in typical small glass and corresponding plate
Iced tea with a slice of lemon
Tea may be consumed early in the day to heighten calm alertness; it
contains L-theanine, theophylline, and bound caffeine (sometimes
Decaffeinated brands are also sold. While herbal teas
are also referred to as tea, most of them do not contain leaves from
the tea plant. While tea is the second most consumed beverage on Earth
after water, in many cultures it is also consumed at elevated social
events, such as the tea party.
Tea ceremonies have arisen in different cultures, such as the Chinese
and Japanese traditions, each of which employs certain techniques and
ritualised protocol of brewing and serving tea for enjoyment in a
refined setting. One form of
Chinese tea ceremony
Chinese tea ceremony is the Gongfu tea
ceremony, which typically uses small
Yixing clay teapots and oolong
In the United Kingdom, tea is consumed daily and often by a majority
of people, and indeed is perceived as one of Britain's cultural
beverages. It is customary for a host to offer tea to guests soon
after their arrival.
Tea is consumed both at home and outside the
home, often in cafés or tea rooms. Afternoon tea with cakes on fine
porcelain is a cultural stereotype. In southwest England, many cafés
serve a cream tea, consisting of scones, clotted cream, and jam
alongside a pot of tea. In some parts of Britain, 'tea' may also refer
to the evening meal.
Ireland has long 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.
Tea in Ireland is usually
taken with milk or sugar and is slightly spicier and stronger than the
traditional English blend. The two main brands of tea sold in Ireland
are Lyons and Barry's.
Irish breakfast tea
Irish breakfast tea is blended for sale in the
Tea is prevalent in most cultures in the Middle East. In Arab culture,
tea is a focal point for social gatherings.
Turkish tea is an important part of that country's cuisine, and is the
most commonly consumed hot drink, despite the country's long history
of coffee consumption. In 2004
Turkey produced 205,500 tonnes of tea
(6.4% of the world's total tea production), which made it one of the
largest tea markets in the world, with 120,000 tons being consumed
in Turkey, and the rest being exported. In 2010
Turkey had the
highest per capita consumption in the world at 2.7 kg. As of
2013, the per-capita consumption of
Turkish tea exceeds 10 cups per
day and 13.8 kg per year.
Tea is grown mostly in Rize
Province on the Black Sea coast.
In Iranian culture, tea is so widely consumed, it is generally the
first thing offered to a household guest.
Russia has a long, rich tea history dating to 1638 when tea was
introduced to Tsar Michael. Social gatherings were considered
incomplete without tea, which was traditionally brewed in a samovar,
and today 82% of Russians consume tea daily.
In Pakistan, both black and green teas are popular and are known
locally as sabz chai and kahwah, respectively. The popular green tea
called kahwah is often served after every meal in the Pashtun belt of
Balochistan and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which is where the Khyber Pass
Silk Road is found. In central and southern Punjab and the
metropolitan Sindh region of Pakistan, tea with milk and sugar
(sometimes with pistachios, cardamom, etc.), commonly referred to as
chai, is widely consumed. It is the most common beverage of households
in the region. In the northern Pakistani regions of
Gilgit-Baltistan, a salty, buttered Tibetan-style tea is consumed.
In the transnational
Kashmir region, which straddles the border
India and Pakistan, Kashmiri chai or noon chai, a pink, creamy
tea with pistachios, almonds, cardamom, and sometimes cinnamon, is
consumed primarily at special occasions, weddings, and during the
winter months when it is sold in many kiosks.
Indian tea culture
Indian tea culture is strong – the drink is the most popular hot
beverage in the country. It is consumed daily in almost all houses,
offered to guests, consumed in high amounts in domestic and official
surroundings, and is made with the addition of milk with or without
spices, and usually sweetened. At homes it is sometimes served with
biscuits to be dipped in the tea and eaten before consuming the tea.
More often than not, it is drunk in "doses" of small cups (referred to
as "Cutting" chai if sold at street tea vendors) rather than one large
cup. On 21 April 2012, the Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission
(India), Montek Singh Ahluwalia, said tea would be declared as
national drink by April 2013. The move is expected to boost
the tea industry in the country. Speaking on the occasion,
Tarun Gogoi said a special package for the tea industry would
be announced in the future to ensure its development. The history
of tea in
India is especially rich.
Burma (Myanmar), tea is consumed not only as hot drinks, but also
as sweet tea and green tea known locally as laphet-yay and
laphet-yay-gyan, respectively. Pickled tea leaves, known locally as
laphet, are also a national delicacy. Pickled tea is usually eaten
with roasted sesame seeds, crispy fried beans, roasted peanuts and
fried garlic chips.
In Mali, gunpowder tea is served in series of three, starting with the
highest oxidisation or strongest, unsweetened tea, locally referred to
as "strong like death", followed by a second serving, where the same
tea leaves are boiled again with some sugar added ("pleasant as
life"), and a third one, where the same tea leaves are boiled for the
third time with yet more sugar added ("sweet as love").
Green tea is
the central ingredient of a distinctly Malian custom, the "Grin", an
informal social gathering that cuts across social and economic lines,
starting in front of family compound gates in the afternoons and
extending late into the night, and is widely popular in
other large urban areas.
In the United States, 80% of tea is consumed as iced tea. Sweet
tea is native to the southeastern US, and is iconic in its cuisine.
Tea production – 2016
Production (millions of tonnes)
FAOSTAT of the United Nations
In 2016, global production of tea was about 6 million tonnes, led by
China with 40% and
India with 22% of the world total (table). Kenya,
Sri Lanka, and
Turkey were other major producers.
The tea fields in the foothills of Gorreana, Azores Islands, Portugal:
the only European region other than Georgia to support green tea
Tea factory in Taiwan
See also: List of countries by tea consumption per capita
Tea is the most popular manufactured drink consumed in the world,
equaling all others – including coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, and
alcohol – combined. Most tea consumed outside East Asia is
produced on large plantations in the hilly regions of
India and Sri
Lanka, and is destined to be sold to large businesses. Opposite this
large-scale industrial production are many small "gardens," sometimes
minuscule plantations, that produce highly sought-after teas prized by
gourmets. These teas are both rare and expensive, and can be compared
to some of the most expensive wines in this respect.
India is the world's largest tea-drinking nation, although the
per capita consumption of tea remains a modest 750 grams per
person every year. Turkey, with 2.5 kg of tea consumed per person
per year, is the world's greatest per capita consumer.
Labor and consumer safety problems
Multiple recent reports have found that most Chinese and Indian teas
contain residues of banned toxic pesticides.
Tea production in Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and
Uganda has been
reported to make use of child labor according to the U.S. Department
of Labor's List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor
(a report on the worst forms of child labor).
Workers who pick and pack tea on plantations in developing countries
can face harsh working conditions and may earn below the living
A number of bodies independently certify the production of tea. Tea
from certified estates can be sold with a certification label on the
pack. The most important certification schemes are Rainforest
Alliance, Fairtrade, UTZ Certified, and Organic,
which also certify other crops such as coffee, cocoa and fruit.
Rainforest Alliance certified tea is sold by Unilever brands Lipton
PG Tips in Western Europe, Australia and the US. Fairtrade
certified tea is sold by a large number of suppliers around the world.
UTZ Certified announced a partnership in 2008 with Sara Lee brand
Production of organic tea has risen since its introduction in 1990 at
Tea Estate, Assam. 6,000 tons of organic tea
were sold in 1999. About 75% of organic tea production is sold in
France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United
China – the world's largest producer of tea – exported
325,806 tonnes, or 14% of their total crop.
254,841 tonnes or 20% of their total production.
In 2013, the largest importer of tea was the
Russian Federation with
173,070 tonnes, followed by the United Kingdom, the United States, and
In 1907, American tea merchant Thomas Sullivan began distributing
samples of his tea in small bags of
Chinese silk with a drawstring.
Consumers noticed they could simply leave the tea in the bag and reuse
it with fresh tea. However, the potential of this distribution and
packaging method would not be fully realised until later on. During
World War II, tea was rationed in the United Kingdom. In 1953 (after
rationing in the UK ended),
Tetley launched the tea bag to the UK and
it was an immediate success.
The "pyramid tea bag" (or sachet) introduced by Lipton and PG
Tips/Scottish Blend in 1996, attempts to address one of the
connoisseurs' arguments against paper tea bags by way of its
three-dimensional tetrahedron shape, which allows more room for tea
leaves to expand while steeping. However, some types
of pyramid tea bags have been criticised as being environmentally
unfriendly, since their synthetic material is not as biodegradable as
loose tea leaves and paper tea bags.
A blend of loose-leaf black teas
The tea leaves are packaged loosely in a canister, paper bag, or other
container such as a tea chest. Some whole teas, such as rolled
gunpowder tea leaves, which resist crumbling, are sometimes vacuum
packed for freshness in aluminised packaging for storage and retail.
The loose tea must be individually measured for use, allowing for
flexibility and flavor control at the expense of convenience.
Strainers, tea balls, tea presses, filtered teapots, and infusion bags
prevent loose leaves from floating in the tea and over-brewing. A
traditional method uses a three-piece lidded teacup called a gaiwan,
the lid of which is tilted to decant the tea into a different cup for
Compressed tea (such as Pu-erh) is produced for convenience in
transport, storage, and ageing. It can usually be stored longer
without spoilage than loose leaf tea.
Compressed tea is prepared by loosening leaves from the cake using a
small knife, and steeping the extracted pieces in water. During the
Tang dynasty, as described by Lu Yu, compressed tea was ground into a
powder, combined with hot water, and ladled into bowls, resulting in a
"frothy" mixture. In the Song dynasty, the tea powder would
instead be whisked with hot water in the bowl. Although no longer
China today, the whisking method of preparing powdered
tea was transmitted to Japan by
Zen Buddhist monks, and is still used
to prepare matcha in the Japanese tea ceremony.
Compressed tea was the most popular form of tea in
China during the
Tang dynasty. By the beginning of the Ming dynasty, it had been
displaced by loose leaf tea. It remains popular, however, in the
Himalayan countries and Mongolian steppes. In Mongolia, tea bricks
were ubiquitous enough to be used as a form of currency. Among
Himalayan peoples, compressed tea is consumed by combining it with yak
butter and salt to produce butter tea.
"Instant tea", similar to freeze-dried instant coffee and an
alternative to brewed tea, can be consumed either hot or cold. Instant
tea was developed in the 1930s, with
Nestlé introducing the first
commercial product in 1946, while Redi-
Tea debuted instant iced tea in
Delicacy of flavour is sacrificed for convenience. Additives such as
chai, vanilla, honey or fruit, are popular, as is powdered milk.
During the Second World War British and Canadian soldiers were issued
an instant tea known as 'Compo' in their Composite Ration Packs. These
blocks of instant tea, powdered milk, and sugar were not always well
received. As Royal Canadian Artillery Gunner, George C Blackburn
But, unquestionably, the feature of Compo rations destined to be
remembered beyond all others is Compo tea...Directions say to
"sprinkle powder on heated water and bring to the boil, stirring well,
three heaped teaspoons to one pint of water."
Every possible variation in the preparation of this tea was tried,
but...it always ended up the same way. While still too hot to drink,
it is a good-looking cup of strong tea. Even when it becomes just cool
enough to be sipped gingerly, it is still a good-tasting cup of tea,
if you like your tea strong and sweet. But let it cool enough to be
quaffed and enjoyed, and your lips will be coated with a sticky scum
that forms across the surface, which if left undisturbed will become a
leathery membrane that can be wound around your finger and flipped
Bottled and canned tea
Main article: Canned tea
Canned tea is sold prepared and ready to drink. It was introduced in
1981 in Japan.
The first bottled tea introduced by Indonesian tea company PT. Sinar
Sosro in 1969 with brand name Teh Botol Sosro (or Sosro bottled
In 1983, Swiss-based Bischofszell Food Ltd., was the first company to
bottle ice tea on an industrial scale.
Storage conditions and type determine the shelf life of tea. Black
tea's is greater than green's. Some, such as flower teas, may last
only a month or so. Others, such as pu-erh, improve with age.
To remain fresh and prevent mold, tea needs to be stored away from
heat, light, air, and moisture.
Tea must be kept at room temperature
in an air-tight container.
Black tea in a bag within a sealed opaque
canister may keep for two years.
Green tea deteriorates more rapidly,
usually in less than a year. Tightly rolled gunpowder tea leaves keep
longer than the more open-leafed
Chun Mee tea.
Storage life for all teas can be extended by using desiccant or
oxygen-absorbing packets, vacuum sealing, or refrigeration in
air-tight containers (except green tea, where discrete use of
refrigeration or freezing is recommended and temperature variation
kept to a minimum).
Da Hong Pao
Da Hong Pao tea, an oolong tea
Fuding Bai Hao Yinzhen tea, a white tea
Sheng pu-erh tuo cha, a type of compressed raw pu-erh
Huoshan Huangya tea, a yellow tea
Loose dried tea leaves
Taiwanese High Mountain oolong
Thai salad made with young, fresh tea leaves
Tea leaf grading
Chifir', Russian extra-strong tea brew
Frederick John Horniman
Kombucha, drink produced from bacteria and yeast grown on tea
List of Chinese teas
List of hot beverages
List of tea companies
Phenolic content in tea
Tea classics, influential historical monographs of East Asian tea
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the regions mentioned above. These facts may prove that the place of
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