Tea is Important By Jason White
What is Tea? • Tea, or Thea Sinesis, is an evergreen plant of the Camellia family • There are three main varieties: China, Assam, and Cambodia • The Chinese variant is a bush reaching 9-15 feet tall and can survive for 100+ years • The Assam variant is a tree that grows to 45-60 feet tall and can survive for 40 years • The Cambodian variant is a modified Assam plant that is used for hybrids and blending
What is Tea? • The plant produces dark green, shiny, leathery leaves with lengths varying from 2-14 inches long, along with blossoms that are ~1 inch in diameter
What is Tea? • Tea Grows in very particular environments that have the correct soil, elevation of 1000 to 8000 ft, humidity, temperature ranging from 50-85 degrees Fahrenheit, and 80-90 inches of rainfall • The highest quality teas come from 4000+ ft. above sea level
Chemistry of Tea • The leaves include amino-acids, mineral ions, carbohydrates, electrolytes, caffeine, and polyphenals • All of these chemicals are important to the taste of tea, but especially caffeine • The polyphenals in tea are thought to slow the release of the caffeine into the cardiovascular system, allowing the caffeine to stay in your body longer, but generally at a lesser level than coffee or soda
The History of Tea • Legend states that tea as a drink was discovered by the emperor and herbalist Shen Nung in 2737 B.C. • The first recorded evidence for tea comes from letters from the third century B.C.
History of Tea • Tea’s popularity continued to grow not only as a medicinal drink (as it had been used before), but as a social drink • Tea ware (tea pots, cups, etc.) became a social distinction around 400 A.D. • The Golden Age of tea was between 618-906 A.D. • The Japanese Tea ceremony started around this time, and the first book about tea was written during these golden years
By the early 1600’s tea hit Europe through either the Dutch or the Spanish • Became popular in some areas immediately, while other areas were slower to catch on • 1662 King Charles 2nd married a Spanish princess who was a tea drinker, and thus started Britain’s love affair with tea. • The Duchess of Bedford, after experiencing a lull in her energy in the afternoon, started “afternoon tea”
Tea came to the Americas with the English • New York was the original tea drinker’s haven • The colonies’ tea drinking habits ended in 1776 with the Boston Tea party • 340 crates of tea were poured into the Chesapeake Bay • This started the War of Independence
Tea Processing • There are 4 main types of tea: white, green, oolong, and black • They all come from essentially the same plant • The difference in taste and appearance comes from the processing techniques
White and Green Tea • White tea: leaves are picked while a hair underdeveloped, withered to allow moisture to get out, then dried and packaged • Green Tea (non-fermented): Leaves are picked at the proper time, allowed to dry, and then heat treated to prevent any further oxidation. Chinese “cook” their green teas by moving them quickly on a hot pan, while Japanese steam their teas.
Oolong Tea (semi-fermented) • Leaves must not be picked too soon and must be processed directly after picking • Wilted, then shaken in baskets to bruise the edges and put out to dry until the leaves turn a slightly yellow color, and the edges take on a reddish tone as they react with the oxygen • Oxidation is stopped after 1.5-2 hours by firing
Black Tea (Fermented) • Methods are widely varied • All methods follow same basic principle: wither, roll, ferment, and fire (or dry) • The difference between Oolong and Black tea is the rolling process in black teas, which release the chemical compounds that are required for the final product
Problems with Tea Agriculture • Production and picking of tea is shifting to a more mechanized process • This is causing more farmers to have to use more fossil fuels in their production • Fertilizers and Pesticides/Herbicides are also on the rise, as the soil is becoming less and less fertile
In some parts of India, the soil has almost no nutrients left in it, it is far too dense, and it lacks top soil • To correct for this more artificial fertilizer is used.
On certain plantations in Assam the working and living conditions were so poor that the workers rose up and killed their manager • The plantation management has to fulfill their contractual labor benefits that include free housing, medical facilities, fuel for cooking, primary education for their children, adequate arrangement for sanitation and water supply • The plantations have yet to fulfill almost any of these obligations, and because of that plantation workers die every year from preventable diseases • In 2003 hundreds died of a diarrheal illness that could have been prevented by having access to clean water
There is a growing demand for tea, and the plantations cannot keep up their supply due to reasons stated earlier. • This causes more radical methods to be used, and a lack of opportunity to invest in long term sustainability methods
Agricultural Alternatives • In Java, there is a growing possibility for the use of hydro power on the plantations • Originally developed there in the late 19th century, and refined slowly into the early 20th • Occupation of Java by the Japanese caused the hydropower plants to be abandoned, as the Japanese used the tea plantations to grow food crops • The equipment now is largely original from the 1920’s which is in serious need of updating and modernization • Upon testing, the hydro power generators were shown to be effective as they produced the required amount of voltage and wattage to run the plantations.
Tea and Fair Trade • There is a growing fair trade movement within the tea community • There are now plantations participating in fair trade in Tanzania, Assam, Darjeeling, Southern India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Zimbabwe