Tea is a popular beverage made from the leaves, internodes and leaf buds of the plant – Camellia sinensis. All tea recipes are aromatic beverages which are generally prepared by curing the leaves in boiling or hot water. Tea happens to be the most widely consumed beverage after drinking water. Teas are of several types including white tea, oolong tea, green tea, black tea and pu-erh tea, of which, the most commonly used ones are the black, white, green and oolong teas. Tea has a slightly bitter taste with an astringent flavor and a cooling or stimulating effect. While most teas are used as a stimulating beverage, there are some which are exclusively meant for medicinal purposes. Often there are teas which may not contain the leaves of Camellia sinensis at all and in this regard, the herbal tea is a popular example which is an infusion of leaves and extracts of fruits, herbs, flowers and other plant materials. Traditionally, tea is classified based upon the methods with which it is cultivated and processed.
History of Tea Recipes
The origin of tea drinking is thought to be in ancient China, as far as recorded history goes. The usage of tea recipes as beverages has been recorded in ancient Chinese classics of Shennong Si Jing and Shennong Ben Cao Jing. Around 200 BC or during the Qin Dynasty, tea drinking had already become a common practice and during the Tang Dynasty, this beverage had become extremely popular so as to spread to Japan and Korea. By the 19th century, tea trade between China and Western nations spread the practice of drinking this beverage to several parts of the world. Tea plants are native to South Asia and East Asia and the cultivation of these plants is believed to have gain importance after the confluence of Southwest China, Tibet, North Burma and Northeast India.
Ingredients Used and Popular Methods of Preparation of Tea Recipes
The traditional method of brewing a cup of tea is to place the loose Camellia sinensis leaves directly in boiling water to steep the leaves. In many cases, tea infuser is also used to brew the leaves, where hot water is poured over the leaves kept in a tea pot or tea cup. After a couple of minutes, the steeped water or the infused water is strained and served immediately. While most green teas are steeped for a couple of minutes, there are some varieties which need to be steeped for as long as 10 minutes or as less as 30 seconds. Different tea recipes have different requirements and the strength of the tea plays a significant role in determining the difference, which is brought about by changing the steeping duration. While the amount of tea to be used in a particular amount of water differs according to the different tea recipes, one basic recipe is to use a heaped teaspoon of leaves (about 5 ml) and brew it in a cup (or 200 ml) of water. Stronger teas like those sourced from Assam are generally brewed in a combination of water and milk and often use more leaves. The famous Darjeeling tea on the other hand is prepared with lesser leaves to preserve the mild and delicate flavor that’s unique to the high altitude teas. The temperature for brewing tea recipes depends on the type of tea leaves used. Teas like green or white tea, which have mild or no oxidation period are best brewed at low temperatures between 149 and 185 °F and teas which have longer oxidation periods are brewed at higher temperatures of 212 °F. Some sorts of teas are brewed several times using the same tea leaves over and over again. In traditional Chinese culture, tea is brewed into several infusions, where the first one is immediately poured out for washing the leaves and then, the subsequent infusions are drunk. The third to fifth infusions of the brew are considered the purest and the best.
Serving and Drinking Teas
In several cultures, the tea beverage is often served at social gatherings and events or simply had at home as afternoon tea. In many western cultures, tea parties are quite common. Tea parties are also popular in Arab as well and in Indian and Persian culture, guests are offered tea as welcome drink. Also, while most teas are drunk hot, in popular American tea drinking culture iced teas have gained a firm ground, where the tea is served chilled. In Malaysia and Morocco, the popular tradition is to pour the tea in the cups from a distance, so to make a froth appear in the beverage’s surface.
Popular Variations of Tea Recipes
In many cultures where dairy is consumed, milk is added as a popular additive in tea to reduce acidity and neutralize the beverage tannins. This practice is common in India, Hong Kong and some more parts of China and Europe. Tibetans and inhabitants of the Himalayan regions have traditional of making tea recipes with yak butter, milk and salt. Often, tea is brewed with several different spices like the famous Indian Masala Chai or Indian spiced tea. Lemon tea is another well known example, where lemon juice and sugar is added to the brewed tea. Other popular additives used in various tea recipes include honey, mint, rock salt, whisky, brandy and fruit jams.
Health and Nutrition Facts of Teas
Tea has been found extremely beneficial in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. The leaves of tea plant are abundant in over 700 different chemicals, most of which are beneficial to human health and include amino acids, vitamins C, E and K, antioxidants, caffeine, polysaccharides and flavanoides. Generally, tea is known to provide immunity against intestinal disorders, prevent dental caries and speeds up digestion. Some tea recipes also have medicinal and weight loss properties.
The “red tea” of East Asian culture is the same as the “black tea” of Western culture, which often creates confusion in the English speaking regions where “red tea” is a term specially reserved for a South African drink made from the extracts of rooibos plant and doesn’t contain Camellia sinensis.