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Tea: Steeped in History

Tea emerges from legend over 5000 years ago when it was
"discovered" by the emperor Shen Nong. While boiling his
drinking water, dried leaves from a nearby bush fell into the
water, and the result - Tea! Ever since, tea has permeated
every aspect of the Chinese society and culture. As trade
routes were opened, tea quickly gained popularity in the West.
Throughout history, tea has influenced world politics and shaped international events. From the British colonization of India to the
Boston Tea Party, tea has played an integral role in global trade
relations. Native to China, Camellia Sinensis, the tea plant, is now cultivated throughout the world. Tea plantations in India, Japan,
Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Africa, and Indonesia produce most of the
world's tea. Today, it is ranked second only to water as the
world's most consumed beverage.


Agony of the leaves: The unfurling of tea leaves during steeping. Certain teas provide a spectacular show if steeped in a glass container.
Anhui: A major tea producing province in China.
Antioxidant: A compound which retards oxidation.
Aroma: Also known as the nose, the odor of the brewed leaf and the resulting liquor.
Assam: A major tea growing region in India. These black teas are known for their strong malty flavor.
Astringency: The drying sensation, (or bite) in the mouth caused by certain teas.
Autumnal: Tea produced late in the growing season – often used in reference to Darjeeling 4th flush teas.
Bergamot: A citrus oil derived from the bergamot orange used to flavor black tea to make Earl Grey tea.
Black Tea: Fully oxidized leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Black teas are the most popular tea in the world and are also known as Red tea in China referring to the color of the infusion in the cup.
Body: Tea taster's term to denote strength and viscosity of a brewed tea.
Catechins: The class of polyphenol found in tea which function as antioxidants.
Ceylon tea: Tea from Sri Lanka.
Cha: Romanized spelling of Chinese and Japanese character which defines the word tea.
Chai: The word for tea on the Indian subcontinent. In the west it generally means a spiced black tea made with milk (masala chai).
Chunmee: A grade of Chinese tea with a curled form.
Congou: Chinese Black, or Red, Tea.
Darjeeling Tea: Tea grown in the Darjeeling Hills of India. These teas are renowned for their muscatel flavor.
Display Tea: A tea that has a special appearance once steeped.
Earl Grey: Any Black Tea blend flavored with Bergamot Oil.
Fermentation: More properly termed oxidation. Describes the process of enzymic oxidation, where elements in the leaf react with air to create a darker brown-red color and characteristic aroma to the resulting tea.
Firing: The process whereby the tea leaves are dried to arrest further enzymic changes. This makes the tea fit for packing and storing.
Flush: Flush refers to the four separate plucking seasons throughout the year, each known for it’s distinctive flavor.
Formosa Teas: Tea produced in Taiwan, typically oolong teas.
Gaiwan: [GUY-wan] A traditional Chinese lidded tea drinking vessel with accompanying saucer.
Genmaicha: [GEN-my-cha] Green tea blended with roasted rice.
Golden: Refers to the orange colored tips present in high quality black tea
Gong Fu: Meaning skill and patience (it's the same "kung fu" as the martial art). The style of brewing tea with a high proportion of leaf to water and repeated short infusions.
Green Tea: Un-oxidized, dried tea, mostly found in China and Japan. Gunpowder: A Green Tea rolled into tight pellets.
Gyokuro: [G'YOH-koo'roh] Translates to ‘Pearl Dew’, a Japanese Green Tea made from shaded plants.
Hyson: A general term for Chinese Green Teas.
Jasmine: Green or Oolong Tea scented with jasmine flowers.
Keemun: Chinese Black Tea from Anhui Province and often used in English Breakfast blends.
Lapsang Souchong: Chinese black Tea with a strong smoky characteristic imparted in the firing process.
Muscatel: A muscat grape like taste associated with many Darjeeling Teas.
Nose: The aroma of brewed tea.
Oolong: Derived from ‘wu long’ the Chinese term for black dragon. A type of tea that is semi-oxidized resulting in a brew that is between a Green and a Black Tea. These teas are renowned for their complex tastes and aromas.
Orange Pekoe: The larger leaves of the tea plant. Does not refer to flavor characteristics of any tea.
Pan fired: Method of heating leaf and arresting enzymic oxidation of tea.
Pekoe: [PECK-oh] A term used to describe the largest leaves used to produce whole leaf teas. Also refers to an un-distinctive blend of tea.
Plucking: The process of harvesting and collecting tea leaves.
Polyphenols: Antioxidant compounds present in tea.
Pu-erh Tea: [POO-urr] A type of tea originally from the Yunnan province of China. Tea that is further processed using an age old Chinese method. These teas are known for aging quite well. Some prized Pu-erhs are 40 years old.
Rolling: The process by which withered leaves are rolled to initiate enzymic oxidation.
Tea: The processed leaves, or the infused beverage brewed from the processed leaves, of the Camellia sinensis plant.
Ti Kuan Yin: [TAY-gwan-yen] "Iron Goddess of Mercy"- a type of Oolong Tea with a fragrant aroma. Also known as Tieguanyin.
Tippy: Term denoting tea that contains white or golden tips, indicative of high quality
Tisane: An infused beverage made with plants other than Camellia sinensis.
Tuocha: [too'oh-cha]Chinese for bowl tea. A common shape for pu-erh teas.
White: Similar to Green Tea. Identifiable by the presence of the white hairs on the leaf tips, and a light infusion. China known as the birthplace of tea. This region also produces Pu-Erh tea.
Winey: Mellow quality, characteristic of some Keemun teas which have been given six months to a year to age. Used in the gung fu style of brewing tea.
Withering: The operation which removes moisture from the recently plucked leaves making them less brittle and preparing them for further processing. Generally done by spreading leaves allowing the air to pass over.
Yixing: [YEE-shing] Pronounced ‘yee shing’, a region of China noted for its purple clay, used to produce distinctive unglazed teapots often
Yunnan: A province in southwestern China

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