Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It's come a long way, baby!

With the advent of pyramid tea sachets, it’s become quick and convenient to enjoy high quality, whole leaf tea. Just pour hot water over your sachet, and you’re on your way.

Tea has become so easy to make that it’s equally easy to forget the very, very long journey your tea has taken to travel to your teacup. In fact, many consider tea to be one of the most labor-intensive agricultural products in the entire world.

High quality tea from reputable tea estates is carefully -- even lovingly – cultivated, plucked and sorted by hand. Thereafter, the tea leaves undergo a “withering” process that rids them of moisture.

The “rolling” process then bruises the leaf cells, thereby exposing the sap of the leaves to oxygen. Oxidation (sometimes called fermentation) times vary, depending on the type of tea being produced. Oolong teas are oxidized for 3-5 hours, whereas black teas can be oxidized for a full day.

After oxidation, the tea leaves are “fired,” i.e., heated to arrest the oxidation process. Note that green teas are fired immediately after plucking, thereby bypassing the oxidation process completely. For this reason, green teas preserve a certain vegetal quality. Finally, the tea leaves are sorted again, packed and shipped.

The most flavorful and aromatic teas come from producers who follow each of the traditional steps meticulously.

So, the next time you watch your lovely tea leaves unfurling in water, you’ll fully appreciate the journey they’ve made for your pleasure and enjoyment! Remember – it’s come a long way, baby!

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