For nearly 5,000 years the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant (most of us know it as tea), has been after water, the most popular drink on the planet.
According to legend, the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong accidentally brewed the very first cup of tea. The world has been in love with the leaves of a single plant ever since. Black Tea, Green Tea, White, Yellow, Oolong or Pu Erh gets its start from the camellia leaf. Over centuries tea growers all over the world have developed hundreds of hybrids and sub types, they have bent the plant to their whims, adapting it to their local environments. After plucking, the leaves are set out on trays or in troughs to loose moisture content in a process called withering which renders the leaf supple and physically prepares it for further processing.
Leaves destined to be green tea are withered briefly, it is critical to halt the oxidation process by a brief firing, roasting or steaming of the leaves. Although green tea leaves are fired or steamed they will often undergo subsequent bruising, kneading, twisting or shaping and additional heat will be necessary to halt any browning. Eventually the leaves will be finished at high temperature and sorted by grade.
Black teas are defined by appearance, aroma and taste. Tea makers will intentionally bruise (or roll) the leaves rupturing their cell walls to distribute their flavours. As these bruised leaves are set out in special rooms, they interact with the air and gradually change from a vivid green to a coppery red. Once ready these leaves are finished in a high heat dryer. Finally the finished tea leaves are sorted by leaf size, the larger and unbroken leaves are superior grades.
Monks working diligently in medieval monasteries knew that many leaves, flowers, fruits, peels, bark and herbs when infused with water were able to soothe any number of ailments, today we know them as tisanes. Fruit Tisanes have a lot to offer in the way of diversity and let us not forget the traditional Rooibos of South Africa – for those who delight in the discovery of everything under the sun.
Here is a kindly piece of advice: be brave try new things and little by little you will be handsomely rewarded as you go along.