The Journey of the Tea Leaf - From Plant to Pot
This entry was posted on 19th November 2015.
Sit back, relax and enjoy a nice cup of tea as we take you on the journey of the tea leaf from plant to pot.
If the answer is yes, then why not sit back and enjoy a nice cup of tea as we take you on the journey of the tea leaf from plant to pot.
What is tea?
Tea is a popular hot drink prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over tea leaves. There are many different types of tea, the most common are Darjeeling - made from the small leaves - which have a cooling and slightly bitter taste, and Assam - made from the larger leaves - which have vastly different profiles depending on region and can taste sweet, buttery, nutty and floral.
Tea derives from the leaves of the Camelia Sinensis plant. This evergreen shrub, native to Asia, thrives mostly in tropical and subtropical climates that have a decent amount of rainfall. They can be found in countries such as India, China, Japan, Australia, America, New Zealand and even Cornwall in the UK.
The plants are harvested using the seed and cuttings of the Camelia Sinensis tree, it can take up to 4 - 12 years for the seeds of a tree to mature ready for harvest.
Cultivated plants are left for two to three years before any plucking begins. During this time they are regularly pruned and cut down to waist height for easier picking.
The pruning helps grow new shoots which bear the buds and leaves. These buds and leaves are called flushes and a new flush will grow every seven to fifteen days.
The tea leaves are hand picked by skilled workers.
Picking and Processing
When the plant is ready for plucking they will be hand picked by skilled workers. Machinery is sometimes used to trim shoots but this produces a lower grade tea as the stems are also collected.
Once the leaves have been gathered they are taken to a the factory to be processed. They are spread onto trays and left in warm air to wither, before being broken up by rollers to release the juices. The broken leaves are left in a cool, humid atmosphere to oxidise and ferment.
The leaves are left to dry and will change to from green, to golden brown and finally to black before they are ready for packaging.
The process can differ for other types of tea:
Green Tea - The leaves are steamed and rolled before drying; skipping the oxidisation process.
Oolong Tea - The leaves are left for a shorter oxidisation period for fresher tasting black tea leaves.
Packaging and Consumption
Taste testers will test the tea to ensure quality before the leaves are sent for packaging. The tea will then be packaged in tea bags or kept loose.
Tea Bags - Tea is packaged into paper bags or sachets and boxed to be sold in bulk.
Loose Tea - Tea leaves are packaged into canisters, paper bags or other containers such as tea chests. Then strainers, tea presses, or filtered teapots are used to prepare and brew the tea.
Tea is now one of the most popular beverages in the world. Its origins trace back hundreds of years and was first used as a Chinese herbal remedy. It has become a British staple, you won’t find many households without it.
You can buy tea from most supermarkets, corner shops as well as online beverage stores, there are also specialty tea ranges including fruit flavours and detox variations.
We Love Tea!
Tea leaves have come along way from plant to pot, traveling many miles and undergoing a long process before they are ready for consumption. The next time you take a sip remember the journey of the tea leaf and how it is lovingly made to tingle your taste buds.