„The path to heaven passes through a teapot“.
From the bush to the cup
Today tea is on almost everyone’s lips!
As an infusion drink made from the leaves of the tea plant, with or without flavour additives, in the form of herbal tea or the classic black tea with finely nuanced flavours, it continues to inspire people with the variety of taste experiences it offers and its stimulating, relaxing, refreshing and, often, health-supporting effects.
From the Middle Kingdom to the Modern Age
Tea’s route to the modern age probably began over 5,000 years ago, when the health-giving effects of tea leaves were first described in China. Since then there have been as many legends surrounding tea as documented traditions. It was probably chance that caused tea leaves to find their way to boiling water and so provide Emperor Shen Nung with his first experience of tea. Thus began the triumphal procession of the flavoursome infusion drink from the Middle Kingdom via India and Japan to Europe and America. Today tea is drunk in almost every civilisation. Its association with different traditions and ceremonies is as well known as the almost unfathomable quantity of different teas and blends.
From the bush to the cup
Tea is the term used to describe mostly dried, fermented and finely chopped leaves from the tea plant. From this raw material in pure form or in blends with other plants or flavours, the tea is then boiled to produce a drink. Green tea is a special form of tea. Here the fermentation process is dispensed with, leaving the tea not only green, but also richer in vitamins and other substances. In contrast, herbal teas are dried or unprocessed plant teas, which, however, have nothing in common with traditional tea.
Once the tea has been manufactured as a raw material, packaged, shipped and ultimately sold, the process of proper preparation is vital. Here it depends on the form in which the tea reaches you. Available loose, in a teabag or even in a practical pod, tea can be prepared in very different ways today and using modern machines. In principle a good tea needs water that is as neutral as possible in flavour, a particular brewing time and preferably briskly boiling water. The latter is especially important for black tea, which is only able to unfold its full aroma in this way. Depending on the desired effect, you can leave the tea to steep after brewing. Two to three minutes are good for a stimulating effect, four to five minutes are recommended for a relaxing tea. In addition, rock sugar, or sweetener, milk or lemon can be added according to preference and taste before drinking. With green tea, incidentally, the first infusion is poured away and only the second infusion is drunk.
The preparation times apply not only to loose tea, but also to the popular and convenient teabags. Anyone who uses tea pods must be prepared to take pot luck with the brewing characteristics of the machine.
From brewing to enjoyment
Once the tea is ready, it’s finally time to get down to actually enjoying it. In many countries there are almost fixed traditions. You only have to think of the famous “tea time” in England, where drinking tea is more a ceremony than a pleasure. And let’s not forget the widely popular “tea dances” of the first half of the 20th century in particular. Today we can enjoy tea at home, in a café or in a restaurant, and sometimes in special tea houses. Tea can be drunk alone or in company at any time of the day as the fancy takes us.