History of the tea trade
According to legend tea has been known in China since about 2700 BC. For millennia it was a medicinal beverage obtained by boiling fresh leaves in water, but around the 3rd century AD it became a daily drink, and tea cultivation and processing began. The first published account of methods of planting, processing, and drinking came in AD 350. Around 800 the first seeds were brought to Japan, where cultivation became established by the 13th century.
Chinese from Amoy brought tea cultivation to the island of Formosa (Taiwan) in 1810. Tea cultivation in Java began under the Dutch, who brought seeds from Japan in 1826 and seeds, workers, and implements from China in 1833. In 1824 tea plants were discovered in the hills along the frontier between Burma and the Indian state of Assam. The British introduced tea culture into India in 1836 and into Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1867. At first they used seeds from China, but later seeds from the Assam plant were used.
The Dutch East India Company carried the first consignment of China tea to Europe in 1610. In 1669 the English East India Company brought China tea from ports in Java to the London market. Later, teas grown on British estates in India and Ceylon reached Mincing Lane, the centre of the tea trade in London. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tea growing had spread to Russian Georgia, Sumatra, and Iran and extended to non-Asian countries such as Natal, Malaŵi, Uganda, Kenya, Congo, Tanzania, and Mozambique in Africa, to Argentina, Brazil, and Peru in South America, and to Queensland in Australia.
History of Tea, Quatr.us answers questions, http://quatr.us/food/tea.htm
Classification of teas
By country of origin
Teas are classified according to region of origin
Regarded as the “Champagne of Teas,” Darjeeling is grown on 100 estates on the foothills of the Himalayas, on over 18,000 hectares at about 7000 ft. Light and delicate in flavour and aroma, and with undertones of muscatel, Darjeeling is an ideal complement to dinner or afternoon tea. The first “flushes” (pluckings) are thought to produce the best Darjeeling vintage but all crops are of very high quality. Darjeeling Green is rare tea similar to Japanese Sencha with an exquisite aroma and delicate taste.
o First Flush (Castleton, Bloomfield)
The Darjeeling bushes’ first new shoots – the first flush – are picked in April. These first teas of the season are the finest and are much in demand, fetching incredibly high prices at auction. Has a perfect green-brown leaf with a subtle astringent flavour.
o Second Flush (Puttabong, Namring)
Second flush Darjeelings are picked between May and June and produce excellent quality teas that are considered by some to be better than the first flush as they have a fruitier, less astringent flavour than the earlier teas. The leaves are darker brown and contain plenty of silvery tip.
Assam is a major growing area covering the Brahmaputra valley, stretching from the Himalayas down to the Bay of Bengal. Assam tea has distinctive flecked brown and gold leaves known as “orange” when dried. In flavour it is robust, bright with a smooth, malt pungency and is perfect as the first cup of tea of the day. Such teas are used in everyday popular blends because of the full-bodied richness. There is also an Assam Green tea with an unusual light, almost sweet liquor.
o First Flush (Bamonpookri)
Assam tea bushes start growing in March and the first flush is picked for 8 to 10 weeks, first flush Assams e.g. Bamonpookri, an excellent quality tea with a strong fresh flavour; are rarely marketed in the Europe
o Second Flush (Napuk)
The plucking of the second flush begins in June with most of the production taking place from July to September. The second flush Assam is the best of the season and when brewed give a rich aroma, a clear dark read liquor and a strong malty taste.
• Nilgris (Nunsch)
The Nilgiri region, situated in southern India, forms a high hilly plateau at the conjunction of the Eastern and Western Ghat mountains. Most Nilgiri teas are used for blending, but there is a rapidly growing demand for the speciality tea of the area. Nilgiri has a bright amber colour and a refreshing, bright and delicate taste.
• Kandy Tea of the Kandy region is described as ‘mid-grown’, the altitude of cultivation ranging between 650m and 1,300m (2,000-4,000ft).
Nilambe, Hantane, Pussellawa, Gampola and, Hewaheta
The region produces a broad range of strengths and styles: estates at lower elevations produce a larger leaf with gives a stronger-flavoured beverage, while those higher up grow a smaller leaf that yields a more subtle and delicate flavour.
Region’s best tea is produced during the first quarter of the year, when cool, dry weather sets in across the district.
Kandy teas tend to produce a relatively bright infusion with a coppery tone. Though lighter in the cup, they present a good deal of strength and body (flavoursome).
Estates at lower elevations produce a larger leaf with gives a stronger-flavoured beverage, while those higher up grow a smaller leaf that yields a more subtle and delicate flavour.
• Nuwara Eliya
Tea of the Nuwara Eliya region is described as ‘high-grown’, the altitude of cultivation is over 4,000ft. Nuwara Eliya tea enjoys two ‘quality seasons’, the eastern as well as the western. The balance between the two climatic systems varies from estate to estate.
High altitude and year-round low temperatures produce a very slow-growing bush with unusually small leaves that take on an orange hue – just a hint against the blackness – after withering. The infused leaf acquires a greenish-yellow tone, and the infusion in the cup is the palest among all the regional varieties of Ceylon Tea, with a subtle golden hue and a delicate yet fragrant bouquet.
• Uda Pussellawa
• Black Teas – Lapsang Souchong
• Black Teas – Keemun from Chi-men (Anhwei Province)
• Black Teas – Yunnan
• Green Teas – Gunpowder
• Green Teas – Chun Mee
• Green Teas – Oolong
• Green Teas – Tie Kuan Yin
• Green Teas – Pouchong
• White Teas – Pai Mu Tan Imperial
• White Teas – Yin Zhen • Puerh Tea
• Compressed Teas – Tuancha
• Compressed Teas – Tuocha
• Flavoured and Scented Teas – Jasmine
• Flavoured and Scented Teas – Rose Congou
• Flavoured and Scented Teas – Earl Grey
• Flavoured and Scented Teas – Osmanthus
• Flavoured and Scented Teas – Magnolia
• Flavoured and Scented Teas – Orchid
• Flavoured and Scented Teas – Chloranthus
• Flavoured and Scented Teas – Lichee
By the size of the processed leaf
Teas are also classified by the size of the processed leaf: Traditional operations result in larger leafy grades and smaller broken grades.
The leafy grades:
Leafy grades come mainly from the tougher and mature leaves.
• Flowery Pekoe (FP)
• Orange Pekoe (OP)
• Pekoe (P)
• Pekoe Souchong (PS)
• Souchong (S)
Whole leaf grades:
The grades for whole leaf orthodox black tea are: Ceylon orange pekoe (OP) grades’
• OP1—slightly delicate, long, wiry leaf with the light liquor
• OPA—bold, long leaf tea which ranges from tightly wound to almost open
• OP—main grade, in the middle between OP1 and OPA, can consist of long wiry leaf without tips
• OP Superior—primarily from Indonesia, similar to OP
• Flowery OP—high-quality tea with a long leaf and few tips, considered the second grade in Assam, Dooars, and Bangladesh teas, but the first grade in China
• F OP1—as above, but with only the highest quality leaves in the FOP classification
• Golden Flowery OP1—higher proportion of tip than FOP top grade in Milima and Marinyn regions, uncommon in Assam and Darjeeling
• Tippy Golden F OP—the highest proportion of tip, main grade in Darjeeling and Assam
• TGF OP1—as above, but with only the highest quality leaves in the TGFOP classification
• Finest TGF OP—highest quality grade (Note: “Special” is occasionally substituted for “Finest”, with a number 1 at the end to indicate the very finest), often hand processed and produced at only the best plantations, roughly one quarter tips
• SFTGFOP(1)—sometimes used to indicate the very finest
A joke among tea aficionados is that “FTGFOP” stands for “Far Too Good for Ordinary People”.
The broken grades are:
Broken grades usually have substantial contributions from the more tender shoots. In modern commercial grading, 95 to 100 percent of production belongs to broken grades, whereas earlier a substantial quantity of leafy grades was produced. This shift has been caused by an increased demand for teas of smaller particle size, which produce a quick, strong brew.
• Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP)
• Broken Pekoe (BP)
• BOP Fanning
Broken leaf grades
• BT—Broken Tea: Usually a black, open, fleshy leaf that is very bulky. Classification used in Sumatra, Sri Lanka, and some parts of Southern India.
• BP—Broken Pekoe: Most common broken pekoe grade. From Indonesia, Ceylon, Assam and Southern India.
• BPS—Broken Pekoe Souchong: Term for broken pekoe in Assam and Darjeeling.
• FP—Flowery Pekoe: High-quality pekoe. Usually coarser with a fleshier, broken leaf. Produced in Ceylon and Southern India, as well as in some parts of Kenya.
• BOP—Broken Orange Pekoe: Main broken grade. Prevalent in Assam, Ceylon, Southern India, Java, and China.
• F BOP—Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe: Coarser and broken with some tips. From Assam, Ceylon, Indonesia, China, and Bangladesh. In South America coarser, black broken.
• F BOP F—Finest Broken Orange Pekoe Flowery: The finest broken orange pekoe. Higher proportion of tips. Mainly from Ceylon’s “low districts”.
• G BOP—Golden Broken Orange Pekoe: Second grade tea with uneven leaves and few tips.
• GF BOP1—Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe 1: As above, but with only the highest quality leaves in the GFBOP classification.
• TGF BOP1—Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe 1: High-quality leaves with a high proportion of tips. Finest broken First Grade Leaves in Darjeeling and some parts of Assam.
• PF—Pekoe Fannings
• OF—Orange Fannings: From Northern India and some parts of Africa and South America.
• FOF—Flowery Orange Fannings: Common in Assam, Dooars, and Bangladesh. Some leaf sizes come close to the smaller broken grades.
• GFOF—Golden Flowery Orange Fannings: Finest grade in Darjeeling for tea bag production.
• TGFOF—Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Fannings.
• BOPF—Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings: Main grade in Ceylon, Indonesia, Southern India, Kenya, Mozambique, Bangladesh, and China. Black-leaf tea with few added ingredients, uniform particle size, and no tips.
• D1—Dust 1: From Sri Lanka, Indonesia, China, Africa, South America, and Southern India.
• PD—Pekoe Dust
• PD1—Pekoe Dust 1: Mainly produced in India.
• Ch.—China varietal
• Qu.—Queen jat
• FBOPF Ex. Spl.—Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings (Extra Special)
• FP—(Flowery Pekoe)
• PS—Pekoe Souchong
• BOF—Broken Orange Fannings
• BPF—Broken Pekoe Fannings
• RD—Pekoe Dust/Red Dust
• FD—Fine Dust
• GD—Golden Dust
• SRD—Super Red Dust
• SFD—Super Fine Dust
• BMF—Broken Mixed Fannings
The most important classification is by the manufacturing process, resulting in the three categories:
• Fermented (black) Black tea, by far the most common type produced, is best made from Assam or hybrid plants. The infused leaf is bright red or copper coloured, and the liquor is bright red and slightly astringent but not bitter, bearing the characteristic aroma of tea.
• Unfermented (green) Green tea is usually produced from the China plant and is grown mostly in Japan, China, and to some extent Malaysia and Indonesia. The infused leaf is green, and the liquor is mild, pale green or lemon-yellow, and slightly bitter.
• Semi-fermented (oolong or pouchong) Oolong and pouchong teas are produced mostly in southern China and Taiwan from a special variety of the China plant. The liquor is pale or yellow in colour, as in green tea, and has a unique malty, or smoky, flavour.
Tea, Buzzle.com, http://www.buzzle.com/articles/tea/
Tea, Alltea.com, http://www.alltea.com/blog/2012/02/tea-facts
The Tea Man’s Tea Talk, Tea Talk, http://www.teatalk.com/
Tea, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea