Tea and time
When you think of tea, what image comes to mind? A steaming cup of welcoming brew? A green shrub with white flowers? Most people would probably picture the first, since tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world. People all over the world drink it and many in their own unique ways. Even herbal teas are sometimes referred to as tea in the United States, although tea was historically made with the leaves of the Camellia sinensis shrub.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary's simple definition of tea is:
: a drink that is made by soaking the dried leaves of an Asian plant in hot water
: a similar drink that is made by using the dried leaves of another kind of plant
: the dried leaves that are used in making tea
As you can see, the more traditional and historical meaning for tea has become a little less prevalent. In the past, tea has been known by a few different names (green tea, black tea etc.) but interestingly enough, they all come from the same plant. What makes them unique is the way they are processed. For example:
Black tea is Camellia sinensis leaves that go through five steps of processing. First they are plucked, then withered, shaped, oxidized and finally fired. Black tea is generally the strongest in flavor compared to its other tea siblings.
White tea is the perfect example of contrast in processing. While minimal oxidation happens naturally, white tea is basically unprocessed. It is plucked and then dried by withering. It has a light and pleasing aroma and taste.
Where did tea come from?
It originated in Asia and its use was primarily medicinal. The history of tea is quite complex, and with the first credible record of its use being around the 3rd century AD, it's no wonder. It was popular in Britain by the 17th century and continued to spread to India; the rest is history!
A sip from the past
Because of its long history with mankind, it is understandable that tea's exact origin is a little difficult to pinpoint, but most are certain it came from China. The question of how it came to be is even more elusive and is explained by way of myth and legend. One such legend describes that Shennong (Emperor of China, inventor of agriculture and Chinese medicine), had been drinking some boiled water when some leaves were blown from a nearby tree and landed in his water, changing the color.
Tea in the modern world
People still use tea today for its numerous health benefits. It can affect people differently, but most people can find something beneficial, whether it be drinking it for its healthy antioxidants or even using it topically to help improve the skin. Due to its caffeine content, it can also be used to help you stay alert, although you may find it is not as strongly effective as coffee.
If for some reason you find yourself in need of an alternative, herbal tea, or tisane, is a great option. There are a wide variety of herbs and dried fruits to choose from — an almost literal rainbow of options!
Tea and herbal teas have been helping mankind for a long time, helping us to deal with our ailments and also adding relaxation when needed. Tea is an important piece to our past and can still continue to add to our health and happiness in the present.