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Tea – A Health Drink
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All about Tea

Tea (Botanical Name: Camellia sinensis) is the most consumed beverage in the world, second only to water. From hot tea to iced tea, herbal tea to spicy masala tea, this is the favourite all around the world as a refreshing and healthy drink.

Tea is said to have originated in China thousands of years ago. The story behind the origin of tea is fascinating. According to legend, when the Emperor Shen Nung (2732 BC) was drinking a hot cup of water, a few tea leaves fell into it. It soon infused giving the water a light brown colour and a refreshing aroma. The king became curious, drank it and found it to be amazingly energizing. Thus tea was born. And its popularity spread throughout the world and has continued to this day.

Now the Chinese cannot imagine a day without tea. The Japanese have lengthy tea ceremonies. Indians welcome their guests with a hot cup of tea. Tea is the national drink of the British. Their afternoon tea and high tea is a meal in itself with sandwiches, cakes, pastries, biscuits etc. as accompaniments.

The major tea producers include India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Indonesia, China and Vietnam.

There are mainly four types of tea: White tea, Green tea, Oolong tea and Black tea. It is the method used in processing the leaves and the extent of oxidation that it undergoes which determine the characteristics of each tea.

Black tea is the fully-oxidised form of tea. It accounts for around 98 percent of all exports to the West. Assam, Darjeeling and Ceylon tea are examples of black tea. Green Tea, rich in antioxidants, is non-oxidised form of tea and a very popular health drink. White tea is another non-oxidised form which is prepared using tea buds and does not require much processing. It is not a common type and has several health benefits. Oolong tea, a semi-oxidised tea is highly advantageous to the digestive system.

The processing of tea begins as soon as it is harvested in highly mechanized facilities. The various stages of tea processing are:

Withering- The freshly plucked leaves are spread out on trays. Heated air is passed over them for up to 24 hours. The leaves will lose about 40 percent of their weight.

Rolling- The leaves are rolled in rolling machines to release the essential oils.

Sieving- The fine leaves are separated from the coarse and then rolled and sieved again.

Fermenting- This is a process of oxidization in a humid atmosphere. It normally takes around four hours. On fermenting, the color of the tea changes to a rusty brown. Green tea is not fermented and oolong tea is fermented for only a short period of time.

Fining- Fermentation ends when very hot air passes over the leaf. The tea is now ready for storage and transportation.

Blending- Tea is blended to suit the taste and quality of a particular brand.