The History of Black Tea and the Culture surrounding Black Tea
Where did your black tea start?
Although until the mid 17th century people drank lighter teas such as white, green, and oolong tea, black tea began to be drank by more and more people. The discovery of black tea came from China when a passing army was held up in a tea factory for a significant amount of time, and they let the tea sit in the son for a long time. This made the tea oxidize more and become black(hence the name). Dark teas can now be found all across the world, but it took a long time to become a worldwide beverage. Its unique journey played a major role in shaping cultures and economies big and small. Before one learns about the history of tea, they must first learn of how tea is made. Tea is a plant, and before it can be boiled, it must be picked and dried. White tea, the lightest of teas, is picked the soonest and it has the lightest flavor. Green tea is tea that has been picked while ripe and heated and rolled before it is made, and this tea has a slightly darker color, little more bitter flavor, and a higher caffeine content than white tea. Oolong tea is tea that has been left longer after picking to oxidize longer than green tea. This oxidation creates a more bitter tea. Finally black(or red) tea is the most oxidized of all the teas, and this creates an even more bitter tea than oolong tea, and the flavors are more robust. All teas become liquid by extracting the flavors through boiling the teas in water. Allowing loose leaf tea to be boiled directly creates the most flavor due to the maximum surface area of the tea in the water. Loose leaf tea is the best way to extract the flavor and creates for the strongest of teas.
The manufacturing process of tea is almost as much an art form as it is a process. After the harvest, the leaves are first withered by blowing air on them. After this, the tea is processed in one of two ways: CTC or orthodox. The CTC(cut, tear, and curl) method is the most common mass produced method of making tea. The final product becomes small particle like pieces of tea leaves that get put into bags. Orthodox tea creates more longer and bigger pieces of tea, and this method of tea making caters itself to loose leaf tea making. The tea is then placed in a controlled temperature and humidity environment to allow the teas to oxidize to its desired level of oxidation before the tea is dried and packaged. Before packaged, the tea is sorted and graded based on a number of categories, and then it is packaged and shipped. As stated before, tea originated in China. Tea containers can be found as early as the 200's BC; however tea was not firmly placed in China as its national drink until the Tang Dynasty (600's BC). Tea was incredibly popular in China. A writer named Lu Yu even wrote an entire book about it. Tea moved from being a royal drink to a drink enjoyed by the common people, and it had a massive impact on the Chinese culture and economy due to trading.
Tea moved to Japan around the 9th century. At first it was a beverage only enjoyed by the higher classes, but it eventually was a beverage in the homes of many families. Tea became incredibly important to the Japanese culture. Books were written on tea because they thought it had medicinal qualities such as easing the effects of alcohol and prolonging life. Because they thought this, tea was introduced to the warrior class. They thought that the benefits of tea helped the warriors be better and stronger in battle.
Tea began to expand westward into Europe, and it became a massively traded good. In fact, the British began to commercially produce tea by creating the East India Company in order to try to stop China's monopoly on tree. Due to this. India became the top producer for nearly a century. Before the British expanded into India, India used tea for medicine much like the Japanese.
England is now known as one of the biggest tea drinking nations in the world, but they weren't always known for that. Tea wasn't even sold in England for consumption until the 1650's, and it became an item in coffee shops. Tea fell away for a while until the East India Company was created. Tea slowly started to make its way back into England first by being used as medicine. Then it became a very expensive drink. Between the years of 1690-1750, tea consumption exploded in England and even continues today.
Tea didn't just stop in England. It expanded even more westward into the United States. Coffee, of course, is way more popular in the United States, but tea once was a major import into the United States.
As one can see, tea has influenced the world. From medicine and health to enjoyment and economies, tea, a very simple plant, has made a huge mark on history. The history, however, does not stop here. Simple Loose Leaf is continuing that history by providing high quality teas for all to enjoy at a fair price. A simple, family run business, anyone can take taste the love poured into their teas. More information can be found at our website www.SimpleLooseLeaf.com.