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The name tea comes from the Chinese word t'e which is pronounced tay, and in the Cantonese dialect as tcha. From India we get get the familiar word cha.
The quality of tea depends on climatic conditions. At higher altitudes the growth of the plants is slower and the crops are smaller, but the quality will generally be better. Only the bud and two top leaves from each stalk are picked for processing the better quality teas.
Like wine, each crop reflects the character of the region in which it is grown. Soil, climate, the amount of rain and the time of the year the tea is plucked influences its character. China is credited with originating tea cultivation, and tea plants now grow in about 30 countries. The best quality teas come from Sri Lanka (Ceylon Tea), India and China.
The freshly gathered shoots are collected and a method of withering, rolling, fermenting and drying, produces the tea which is known as black tea. Black tea makes up most of the international tea trade and is the familiar amber coloured tea, full flavoured with a delicate aroma and should be without bitterness.
Green tea does not go through the fermenting process and the leaves are heated (roasted in an iron pan or steamed) to prevent fermentation. It makes a pale greenish-yellow tea, mild and astringent. Green teas are becoming more popular with the emphasis on health factors. Green tea should never be taken with milk.
In the final sorting or grading, tea acquires the colourful names that are used in the tea trade. They do not refer to the quality but to the size and appearance of the tea. There are two main grades - leaf and broken leaf.
Leaf Grades: These have larger leaves and are classified as Orange Pekoe and Pekoe.
Broken Leaf Grades: Broken Orange Pekoe and Broken Pekoe.
With the broken leaf type there are further divisions which include:
Fannings: All small leaf teas. They make stronger tea than broken leaves.
Dust: The smallest leaf particle size and it is certainly not 'dust from the factory floor'.
It can take five years to train a tea tasters palate
capable of tasting one to three hundred teas a day. People imagine that a tea taster drinks the liquid until he is awash with it, but, as in the case of wine tasting, this is not so.
The taster will take a large spoonful of tea, suck the liquid onto the taste buds all over the tongue, savour it, and spit it out. The process of blending takes place after professional tasting. Usually a blend may be made up of different teas from various tea gardens. The blenders expertise ensures consistency - to ensure tea is picked and packed throughout the year in different seasonal conditions does not vary in quality, aroma and taste.
Because tea easily absorbs moisture and odors, it must be stored in a dry airtight container (not clear glass) in a cool dry place, away from direct light and separated from any strong scented items, such as coffee and vegetables. Because light breaks down the quality of tea, glass containers are not suitable for the storage of tea unless stored away from light.
The process of packaging tea is important as tea that is old or not properly packaged loses its flavour and aroma. Elmstock Premium Quality Tea is fresher than most brands because it is packed and exported in sealed aluminium foil pouches.