The Science Behind Tea

The term ‘Camiellia Sinensis’ is a scientific word that probably doesn’t mean a thing to you or I, but the fact of the matter is, it’s the Latin name for the plant whose leaves give us the world’s most consumed beverage after water itself – tea.

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Grown mostly in tropical and sub-tropical climates (and also some marine), camellia sinensis is an evergreen plant and takes an average of 4 to 10 years to mature and bear seeds. It requires at least 50 inches of rainfall a year and prefers acidic soils. Tea plants can be grown from seed or cutting, and their buds and leaves are called flushes. The astonishing thing about tea farming is that only the top 1-2 inches of a grown plant can be picked and the leaves that grow slowest, produce the better flavoured teas. A tea plant can grow up to 52 ft if untouched, but usually they are grown to waist height for ease in picking. The tea plant is snipped into a shrub like condition and trained to an approximate height of five feet, with approximately 20 pounds of dry tea produced by roughly seventy pounds of fresh leaves.

A tea plant is generally classified by three types and six categories. The tea types are assam, which has the largest leaves, Chinese, which has the smallest leaves and Cambod, which has medium leaves. Needless to say, because of its smaller leaves, Chinese tea is the most expensive tea in the world.

As for the categories, teas are divided by how they are processed and sit within the following divisions – green, white, yellow, oolong, black, and post-fermented teas. All divisions of tea come from the same plant (camiellia sinensis), the difference is simply the result of processing.

Green tea is non-fermented with the by-products being white and yellow teas – white is stacked and yellow is steamed. Oolong tea is semi fermented, using either light and heavy fermentation, and black (or red) tea is fully fermented. Post fermented teas can be used for medicinal reason. The process of blending is also incorporated in a few varieties to acquire better taste, and a higher price for suppliers.

Polyphenols are antioxidant substances present in tea especially flavonoids such as catechins which according to research help in reducing the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Tea also contains theanine, small amounts of theobromine, theophylline and fluoride which, according to research, are considered to be of importance in increasing an individual’s chance of reaching their genetically-determined lifespan. Regardless of any impact on health positive or negative, tea still retains its place as the most widely consumed beverage in the world.

Richard Woods is a writer for KLIX, a vending company owned by Mars Inc.

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