Tea is not just a beverage but an object of study for hundreds of people world-wide who specialize in its cultivation, processing, and enjoyment. Earlier I presented 5 Surprising Things About Tea that were rather light-hearted. Here are five more surprising things but in a more serious vein.
1 Moisture in, moisture out!
While tea plants need moisture (from rain, dew, and irrigation) to grow, as any plant does, most of this water is removed out of the leaves during a processing stage called “withering” and even more during “drying” (pan-fired, roasted, etc.). I have seen some claims that as much as 92% of the moisture is removed. Then, you put moisture back in the tea leaves during steeping. Sort of a moisture revolving door.
2 Practically calorie-free
Contrary to what an article headline stated not too long ago, tea drinking is not making people fat. Tea is mostly water and is, therefore, practically zero calories. Of course, the article itself made the point that people add things to their tea such as milk, sugar, honey, and various fruits — all of which do add calories. They also tend to eat sweet treats as part of their tea time. Even so, these things along do not make you fat. Overindulging can, though. If you want to drink tea all day, consider teas that are served just as they are without the additives, or use a low-cal additive such as a little lemon.
3 Tea’s bleach: lemon
Speaking of lemons (probably the fruit used most often to enhance tea flavor), they can tend to make colors appear lighter since they have bleaching capabilities. You can find an array of articles online showing how lemon juice can be used to light your skin and hair color. So, it’s no surprise that an ordinarily dark reddish brown tea such as Assam will lighten to more of an orangey hue when lemon is added. Something to show your kids. Maybe they can use it as a science project!
4 Closest to fresh-picked
One of the long-standing stories about tea is that of the tea leaves falling off of a Camellia Sinensis bush in a pot of boiling water of a Chinese scholar named Shennong. Since then tea leaves have been processed in an increasing number of ways, some coming about through happenstance and others by design. Even so, there are some teas that are as close to fresh-picked as you can get without harvesting them yourself. White teas fall into this category. They are handled delicately to preserve the tiny silvery “hairs” on the tender shoots. What you taste is what nature put there for the most part.
5 One plant, many teas
There are hundreds of tea types out there, in about five or six categories (white, yellow, green, oolong, black, pu-erh, and others according to the different tea vendors), and they all come from the same basic plant: Camellia Sinensis. This plant is related to what we know as camellias, rhododendrons, and azaleas. It bears a similar blossom. There are two main varietals: Camellia Sinensis sinensis and Camellia Sinensis assamica. There are hundreds of sub-varietals, clonals, and even what some consider to be a third main varietal (Camellia Sinensis cambodiensis, aka “the Java bush”). Phew!
Did any of these surprise you? It’s true that #3 is more about a flavor enhancer than the tea itself, but it still surprises people.
Keep drinking that tea. You never know what other surprises are in store!
See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.
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