Coffee Confidential: Tea leaves timeless tales

Tea. Drunk in almost every country in the world, this alternative to coffee is what set the foundation for brewing beverages.

Tea has been around for centuries, and has many medical and leisure uses. It can be drank as a substitute for coffee to give you a jolt in the morning, or it could be enjoyed at the end of the day to unwind.

No one is sure who or how tea was originated, but the Chinese have a take on how it was contrived.

Back in the third century Emperor Shennong was a master in agriculture and medicine. Legend has it that while sipping on a bowl of hot water one day, some leaves from a nearby tree fell into his bowl. It drastically changed the flavor of his water. He started mixing all sorts of medical herbs and plants into the hot water, creating the first form of drinkable medicine.

Now, all tea is derived from a single plant called the Camellia Sinensis. The flavors absorbed by the plant come from the region it’s grown in, the time of year it’s picked and what other flavors are mixed with the tea. For example Earl Grey is a very popular tea in England, but most of the flavor comes from bergamot and lavender, which is mixed in with the Sinensis plant.

There are six main types of tea, all with their own unique flavors and smells. Black is the most common type in America, and it is also a great substitute for coffee because it contains a high caffeine content. Green tea, which originated in Asia, is a very earthy tea which also contains medium amounts of caffeine.

Herbal teas are very floral with strong notes of different plants and flowers. White tea is light with minimal process to keep the tea pure. Oolong has a full body and sweet aroma. The last type of tea, rooibos, is made from a specific plants known as African red bush, that is usually mixed in different types of tea to give it a spice flavor.

Each tea also brings its own unique medical purposes that are still used all over the world. Many herbal teas, such as chamomile, can be used to sooth sore throats or upset stomachs. Green tea is a natural remedy for digestion problems, and can help with stress. Even black teas can be used to get you through a hard morning, just as coffee does.

Brewing tea is a very different and more complex process than brewing coffee. The strong teas, such as black, green and herbal, must be brewed at or near 200 degrees for 4-5 minutes to ensure the tea is fully steeped. The lighter teas, such as Oolong and white, are to be brewed between 150 and 180 degrees to ensure the tea doesn’t burn and lose its flavors. As always, be sure to use triple filtered water for best results.

Be sure to join us next issue for our last installment of coffee confidential, where we will be reviewing everything green coffee has to offer. For more information on coffee and tea, be sure to visit www2.palomar.edu/telescope for our video visualizations.

Author: Daniel Gaglio

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