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Making Tea

An Ancient Tradition Becomes a Modern Day Ritual

Ways and Occasions to Enjoy Tea are as Varied as Types of Tea

The traditions and rituals of tea date back to at least 2737 B.C. in ancient China. A popular myth claims that tea was born when a Chinese emperor and herbalist was boiling water and leaves from a nearby tree fell into the water. He discovered that when the leaves were infused in hot water, the beverage created was delicious. The Chinese then went on to explore what they referred to as "tea mind" -- a calm, yet alert state they achieved when drinking this concoction.

This exploration continues today -- amazingly, tea is the second most widely-consumed beverage in the world, only behind water. Tasting tea has become an art form, as well as, in some cases, a science. There are so many kinds of tea available today that some newcomers might be overwhelmed by what to try first.

Yunnan TeaOne consistent fact is that all tea comes from the same species of plant, Camellia sinensis. (Other plants are infused like tea leaves but are technically tisanes, not true teas.) The variances arise because different varieties are grown in different places and in different ways, different plant parts are used (leaves, leaf buds, and internodes) and there are different processing methods. But in all cases, the aromatic beverage that results when the cured leaves are combined with hot or boiling water is what tea drinkers celebrate.

The state of mind many tea drinkers cultivate is to relax, slow down and "appreciate the moment." Finding the right tea for that moment starts with a basic understanding of the main types of tea. By trying different kinds of tea you will be able to decide what you like best for different occasions. You might want to buy small quantities of a tea to sample it before buying a large amount. Buying bulk tea offers you this opportunity — as well as the highest quality tea, since tea bags usually contain siftings from leaves.

Read about the different types of tea.

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Brewing the perfect cup of tea:

  • tea cupMake sure your tea has been properly stored. The best way to store tea is in an airtight container, at a constant temperature, away from light, moisture, and other odors. Once exposed to air, tea leaves quickly lose flavor. Keep bulk teas in a large container, and use a smaller one for daily tea use, so you don’t have to keep opening the large container. 
  • Use fresh, cool, oxygenated water. Never use tepid, long-standing, pre-heated or hot tap water.
  • Heat the water and pour it directly over the leaves. (Use about one teaspoon of tea per cup.) For green teas, heat it to the point where bubbles just begin to form. For oolong teas, heat the water until the bubbles start to release and it is beginning to boil. For black tea, allow the water to come to a gentle boil.
  • Steep the tea in an infuser -- about three to four minutes for green tea and four to five minutes for oolong and black tea. Don't overpack the infuser so the leaves have enough room to unfurl completely. Or simply steep the loose leaves and then pour the brewed tea through a strainer into a serving cup.
  • Perfect tea is brewed one cup at a time. Personal tastes, vary, of course -- you'll want to adjust the measurements and brewing times according to your own preferences.
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