Tea which is derived from the Chinese word t’e, pronounced tay, only refers to beverages made from the leaves and buds of the Camellia Sinensis or Camellia Assamica plant. Drinks made from herbs or fruit such as peppermint, camomile, mixed herbs, mixed fruit, rosehip and lemongrass are referred to as infusions or tisanes, never as tea.
Tea comes in many forms and from many and varied sources (more about that later as we continue our journey through the ‘tea lands’ of the world).
Our consumption of tea is increasing on a global scale. It is the most consumed drink next to water and over three billion (think of it, over three thousand million) cups of tea are drunk every day!
It is drunk in the drawing rooms of the wealthy, the boardrooms of the powerful and the thatched huts of the impoverished – from the peaks of the majestic Himalayas to the parched deserts of the Sahara, from the grand tea salons of Paris to the humble wayside shops of China.
It is a mystical and often venerated beverage and the source of wonderful historical tales and fables. Over the centuries, wars have been fought over it, people have been exploited by it, fortunes made from it – and yet today because of its variety and health benefits, its popularity continues to grow.