Did you start the day with a cup of tea? Well, if you did you are not alone – over 165 million cups of tea are drunk in the UK in a year…that’s a lot of tea! We were joined by museum botanist Vilma Bharatan to find out more about the world of tea – and there is a lot to find out about.
Tea Plantatation in India The Tea Plant, Camellia sinensis
There are lots of teas available in the market today; black, green, white, yellow, pu-erh, but it turns out that all these different types of tea come from just two varieties or subspecies of the one plant, Camellia sinensis – ALL of them! It all comes down to which bits of the plant were picked, which variety, and how they are processed afterwards. Where they are grown and what time of year the tea is picked can also affect the taste of the tea – a bit like vintages in wine. And then we come on to scented teas, like jasmine tea where the leaves are scented with Jasmine flowers, and flowering teas which open to reveal a ‘flower’ in the tea pot when you add hot water; truly a performance tea.
The chemistry of tea also means that, although by weight it has more caffeine than coffee, it releases it much slower, so its refreshing rather than giving you that coffee 'buzz'. And why does it have the caffeine? Well, its a natural insecticide and so protects the plant from pests, particularly the new green shoots at the top of the plant, which are the bits most used for tea.
There are lots of different things to try! The great news is that its much easier than it used to be to find all these different types of tea. We got ours from the Tea Box, a tea shop in Richmond, London, and there are lots of other places that stock them.
So the next time you decide to have a cuppa, why not try some of the other amazing types of tea out there, and get a little experimental.