’Tis the season when we give thanks for the good things in our lives. Tea is one of the best things to us tea lovers out there, so a special thanks to tea growers is certainly warranted.
Most of us have some awareness of how produce items get from the soil they grow in to our tables. We have at least a basic idea of where dairy products come from. Same goes for most things we eat and drink on a daily basis. Tea is no exception. We know that it is steeped from plant leaves. We know that plant is Camellia Sinensis. We know that the leaves are harvested by hand and by machine. We know that they are then processed by hand or by machine. We don’t always think about what it takes, the level of knowledge and experience needed, to do these things in a manner that produces consistently processed teas in a wide variety of styles, some dating back hundreds and possibly thousands of years.
The basic steps of processing (withering, bruising, rolling, oxidation, firing, cooling, drying, grading, and packaging) can vary in which and how those steps are carried out. Are the leaves fired by hand in a large pan over an open flame or by passing them through a machine? One way will result in a tea that tastes different from the tea processed the other way. Knowing when to stop oxidation makes the difference between a lovely oolong and a black tea. And so on.
Where the tea is grown can make a sizable difference, too, with elevation, temperature, moisture, and the soil quality itself adding their contribution to the tea leaf quality. Don’t forget the people dedicated to those plants, who tend them, make sure the insects don’t feast on them too much, prune away the unneeded parts, and work tirelessly to assure their continuation. To these folks tea is their livelihood and profession, important not just as a beverage to enjoy but as a way they earn their living.
To them and to those who harvest and process those carefully grown leaves, a hearty thanks as hubby and I pour ourselves another cuppa.
Congratulations, too, to the hard-working tea growers in the Darjeeling area of India for getting a new protected geographical indication for their tea in the European Union. They already had a special logo for their teas, but this new designation gives them further protection. Their teas are so distinctive in flavor and aroma that to have anyone else presenting teas grow elsewhere as if they were from the Darjeeling area would hurt their reputation. That flavor and aroma come from the old tea plants, the mountain soils, the mists, the climate, etc., and cannot be duplicated.
See also: Tea Fakery
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