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Tea

Tea

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Published by Paul Muljadi

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Published by: Paul Muljadi on May 20, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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Tea1
Tea
Tea
Green tea being infused in a gaiwan
Type
Hot or cold beverage
Country of origin
China
Introduced
Approx. 10th century BC[1]Tea plant (
Camellia sinensis
) from
 Köhler's Medicinal Plants
Tea
is an aromatic beverage prepared by pouring boiling hot water over curedleaves of the
Camellia sinensis
plant. The term also refers to the plant itself.After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world.
[2]
It has acooling, slightly bitter, astringent flavour which many people enjoy.
[3]
Consumption of tea (especially green) is beneficial to health and longevity givenits significant antioxidant, flavanols, flavonoids, and polyphenols content.
[4][5]
Consumption of green tea is associated with a lower risk of diseases that causefunctional disability, such as
stroke, cognitive impairment, and osteoporosis
inthe elderly.
[6][7]
Tea contains L-theanine, and its consumption is strongly associated with a calmbut alert and focused, relatively productive (alpha wave dominant), mental statein humans. This mental state is also common to meditative practice.
[8]
The phrase
herbal tea
usually refers to infusions of fruit or herbs made without the tea plant, such as
rosehip tea
or
chamomile tea
. Alternative phrases for this are
tisane
or
herbal infusion
, both bearing an implied contrast with "tea"as it is construed here.
 
Tea2
Cultivation and harvesting
A tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands inMalaysia
Camellia sinensis
is an evergreen plant that grows mainly in tropicaland sub-tropical climates.
[9]
Some varieties can also tolerate marineclimates and are cultivated as far north as Pembrokeshire in the Britishmainland
[10]
and Washington in the United States.
[11]Leaves of 
Camellia sinensis
, the tea plant.
Tea plants are propagated from seed or by cutting; it takesapproximately 4 to 12 years for a tea plant to bear seed, and about 3years before a new plant is ready for harvesting.
[9]
In addition to a zone8 climate or warmer, tea plants require at least 127 cm. (50 inches) of rainfall a year and prefer acidic soils.
[12]
Traditional Chinese TeaCultivation and Studies believes that high-quality tea plants arecultivated at elevations of up to 1500 metres (
unknown operator:u'strong'
ft): at these heights, the plants grow more slowly and acquirea better flavour.
[13]
Only the top 1-2 inches of the mature plant are picked. These buds andleaves are called
 flushes
.
[14]
A plant will grow a new flush every sevento fifteen days during the growing season, and leaves that are slow in development always produce better flavoredteas.
[9]
A tea plant will grow into a tree of up to 16 metres (
unknown operator: u'strong'
ft) if left undisturbed,
[9]
butcultivated plants are pruned to waist height for ease of plucking.
[15]
Two principal varieties are used: the China plant (
C. sinensis sinensis
), used for most Chinese, Formosan andJapanese teas (but not Pu-erh); and the clonal Assam tea plant (
C. sinensis assamica
), used in most Indian and otherteas (but not Darjeeling). Within these botanical varieties, there are many strains and modern Indian clonal varieties.Leaf size is the chief criterion for the classification of tea plants,
[16]
with three primary classifications being: Assamtype, characterized by the largest leaves; China type, characterized by the smallest leaves; and Cambod,characterized by leaves of intermediate size.
[16][17]
Processing and classification
 
Tea3
Tea leaf processing methodsFresh tea leaves of different sizes. The smaller theleaf, the more expensive the tea.
Teas can generally be divided into categories based on how they areprocessed. There are at least six different types of tea: white, yellow,green, oolong, black, and post-fermented teas
[18]
of which the mostcommonly found on the market are white, green, oolong, and black.Some varieties, such as traditional oolong tea
[19]
and Pu-erh tea, apost-fermented tea, can be used medicinally.
[20]
After picking, the leaves of 
Camellia sinensis
soon begin to wilt andoxidize, unless they are immediately dried. The leaves turnprogressively darker as their chlorophyll breaks down and tannins arereleased. This
enzymatic oxidation
process, known as
 fermentation
inthe tea industry, is caused by the plant's intracellular enzymes andcauses the tea to darken. In tea processing, the darkening is stopped ata predetermined stage by heating, which deactivates the enzymesresponsible. In the production of black teas, the halting of oxidizationby heating is carried out simultaneously with drying.
Tea harvest on the eastern shores of the BlackSea, ca. 1905
 –
15.
Without careful moisture and temperature control during manufactureand packaging, the tea may become unfit for consumption, due to thegrowth of undesired molds and bacteria. At minimum it may alter thetaste and make it undesirable.Tea is traditionally classified based on the techniques with which it isproduced and processed.
[21]
White tea: Wilted and unoxidizedYellow tea: Unwilted and unoxidized, but allowed to yellowGreen tea: Unwilted and unoxidizedOolong: Wilted, bruised, and partially oxidizedBlack tea: Wilted, sometimes crushed, and fully oxidizedPost-fermented tea: Green tea that has been allowed toferment/compost
Blending and additives
Although single estate teas are available, almost all teas in bags and most other teas sold in the West are blends.Blending may occur in the tea-planting area (as in the case of Assam), or teas from many areas may be blended. Theaim of blending is to obtain better taste, higher price, or both, as a more expensive, better-tasting tea may cover theinferior taste of cheaper varieties.Some teas are not pure varieties, but have been enhanced through additives or special processing. Tea is highlyreceptive to inclusion of various aromas; this may cause problems in processing, transportation, and storage, but alsoallows for the design of an almost endless range of scented and flavored variants, such as bergamot (Earl Grey),vanilla, caramel, and many others.

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