2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Drink

Tea plant (Camellia sinensis) from Köhler's Medicinal Plants.
Tea plant (Camellia sinensis) from Köhler's Medicinal Plants.
A tea bush.
A tea bush.

Tea is an infusion made by steeping processed leaves, buds, or twigs of the tea bush, Camellia sinensis, in hot water for several minutes, after which it is drunk.

The four basic types of true tea are black tea, oolong tea, green tea, and white tea.

The term " herbal tea" usually refers to infusions or tisane of fruit or herbs that contain no Camellia sinensis.

Tea is one of the most widely-consumed beverages in the world, second only to water. It has a cooling, slightly bitter, astringent flavor. It has almost no carbohydrates, fat, or protein. Tea is a natural source of the amino acid theanine, methylxanthines such as caffeine and theobromine, and polyphenolic antioxidant catechins (often referred to as tannins).

The word tea came into the English language from the Chinese word for tea ( 茶), which is pronounced in the Min Nan spoken variant. The British English slang word "char" for "tea" arose from its Mandarin Chinese pronunciation "cha" with its spelling affected by British English arhotic dialect pronunciation.

This article contains Chinese text.
Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Chinese characters.
Image:Example.of.complex.text.rendering.svg This article contains Indic text.
Without rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes or other symbols instead of Indic characters; or irregular vowel positioning and a lack of conjuncts.


Plantation workers picking tea in Tanzania.
Plantation workers picking tea in Tanzania.

Camellia sinensis is an evergreen plant that grows mainly in tropical and sub-tropical climates. However, it is cultivated as far north as Cornwall on the UK mainland and Seattle in the United States.

In addition to zone 8 or warmer, it requires at least 50 inches of rainfall a year, and prefers acidic soils. Many high quality tea plants grow at elevations up to 1500 meters (5,000 ft), as the plants grow more slowly and acquire a better flavor.

Only the top 1-2 inches of the mature plant are picked. These buds and leaves are called flushes, and a plant will grow a new flush every seven to ten days during the growing season.

Tea plants will grow into a tree if left undisturbed, but cultivated plants are pruned to waist height for ease of plucking.

Two principal varieties are used, the small-leaved China plant (C. sinensis sinensis) and the large-leaved Assam plant (C. sinensis assamica). Leaf size is the chief criterion for the classification of tea plants. Based upon this criterion, tea is classified into (1) Assam type characterized by the largest leaves, (2) China type characterized by the smallest leaves and (3) Cambod characterized by leaves of intermediate size.

Processing and classification

Types of tea are distinguished by the processing they undergo. Leaves of Camellia sinensis soon begin to wilt and oxidize if not dried quickly after picking. The leaves turn progressively darker because chlorophyll breaks down and tannins are released. This process, enzymatic oxidation, is called fermentation in the tea industry although it is not a true fermentation: it is not caused by micro-organisms, and is not an anaerobic process. The next step in processing is to stop the oxidation process at a predetermined stage by heating, which deactivates the enzymes responsible. With black tea this is done simultaneously with drying. Without careful moisture and temperature control during its manufacture and thereafter, fungi will grow on tea. This form of fungus causes real fermentation that will contaminate the tea with toxic and sometimes carcinogenic substances and off-flavours, rendering the tea unfit for consumption.

Tea leaf processing methods (Simplified)
Tea leaf processing methods (Simplified)

Tea is traditionally classified based on producing technique:

  • White tea: Un-Wilted and unoxidized
  • Yellow tea: Un-wilted and unoxidized but allowed to yellow
  • Green tea: Wilted and unoxidized
  • Oolong: Wilted, bruised, and partially oxidized
  • Black tea: Wilted, crushed, and fully oxidized
  • Post-fermented tea: Green Tea that has been allowed to ferment/compost

Blending and additives

Tea weighing station north of Batumi, before 1915
Tea weighing station north of Batumi, before 1915

Almost all teas in bags and most other teas sold in the West are blends. Blending may occur in the tea-planting area (as in the case of Assam), or teas from many areas may be blended. The aim is to obtain better taste, better price or both, as more expensive, better-tasting tea may cover the inferior taste of cheaper varieties. Blending may also achieve more consistent taste of the blend, regardless of the variation of taste among pure teas.

Various teas, as sold, are not pure varieties but have been enhanced through additives or special processing. Tea is indeed highly receptive to inclusion of various aromas; this may cause problems in processing, transportation and storage, but also allows for the design of an almost endless range of scented variants, such as vanilla-flavored, caramel-flavored and many others.


Tea leaves in a Chinese gaiwan.
Tea leaves in a Chinese gaiwan.

Tea contains catechins, a type of antioxidant. In a fresh tea leaf, catechins can be up to 30% of the dry weight. Catechins are highest in concentration in white and green teas, while black tea has substantially less due to its oxidative preparation. Tea contains theanine, and the stimulant caffeine at about 3% of its dry weight, translating to between 30 mg and 90 mg per 8 oz (250 ml) cup depending on type, brand and brewing method. Tea also contains small amounts of theobromine and theophylline. Tea also contains fluoride, with certain types of brick tea made from old leaves and stems having the highest levels.

Origin and history

According to Mondal (2007, p. 519): "Tea originated in southeast Asia, specifically around the intersection of latitude 29°N and longitude 98°E, the point of confluence of the lands of northeast India, north Burma, southwest China and Tibet. The plant was introduced to more than 52 countries, from this ‘centre of origin’."

Based on morphological differences between the Assamese and Chinese varieties, botanists have long asserted a dual botanical origin for tea; however, statistical cluster analysis, the same chromosome number (2n=30), easy hybridization, and various types of intermediate hybrids and spontaneous polyploids all appear to demonstrate a single place of origin for Camellia sinensis — the area including the northern part of Myanmar and Yunnan and Sichuan provinces of China.

Yunnan Province is identified as "the birthplace of tea...the first area where humans figured out that eating tea leaves or brewing a cup could be pleasant.

Creation myths

In one popular Chinese legend, Shennong, the legendary Emperor of China, inventor of agriculture and Chinese medicine, was drinking a bowl of boiling water, some time around 2737 BC. The wind blew and a few leaves from a nearby tree fell into his water and began to change its colour. The ever inquisitive and curious monarch took a sip of the brew and was pleasantly surprised by its flavour and its restorative properties. A variant of the legend tells that the emperor tested the medical properties of various herbs on himself, some of them poisonous, and found tea to work as an antidote. Shennong is also mentioned in Lu Yu's famous early work on the subject, Cha Jing.

A Tang Dynasty legend regarding tea spread along with Buddhism and Bodhidharma, founder of the Zen school of Buddhism based on meditation known as "Chan". After meditating in front of a wall for nine years, he accidentally fell asleep. He woke up in such disgust at his weakness, he cut off his eyelids and they fell to the ground and took root, growing into tea bushes. Sometimes, the second story is retold with Gautama Buddha in place of Bodhidharma In another variant of the first mentioned myth, Gautama Buddha discovered tea when some leaves had fallen into boiling water.

Whether or not these legends have any basis in fact, tea has played a significant role in Asian culture for centuries as a staple beverage, a curative, and a symbol of status. For these reasons, perhaps it is not surprising that its discovery is ascribed to religious or royal origins.


A Ming Dynasty painting by artist Wen Zhengming illustrating scholars greeting in a tea ceremony
A Ming Dynasty painting by artist Wen Zhengming illustrating scholars greeting in a tea ceremony

The Chinese have enjoyed tea for thousands of years. While historically the use of tea as a medicinal herb useful for staying awake is unclear, China is considered to have the earliest records of tea drinking, with recorded tea use since the 10th century BC. The Han Dynasty used tea as medicine.

Laozi (ca. 600-517 BC), the classical Chinese philosopher, described tea as "the froth of the liquid jade" and named it an indispensable ingredient to the elixir of life. Legend has it, master Lao was saddened by society's moral decay and sensing the end of the dynasty was near, he journeyed westward to the unsettled territories never to be seen again. While passing along the nation's border, he encountered and was offered tea by a customs inspector named Yin Hsi. Yin Hsi encouraged him to compile his teachings into a single book so that future generations may benefit from his wisdom. This now became known as the Dao De Jing, a collection of Laozi's sayings. To honour Yin's generosity and its effect on the book's creation, a national custom of offering tea to guests began in China.

In 59 BC, Wang Bao wrote the first known book providing instructions on buying and preparing tea, establishing that, at this time, tea was not only a medicine but an important part of diet.

In 220, a famed physician and surgeon named Hua Tuo wrote Shin Lun, in which he describes tea's ability to improve mental functions: "to drink k'u t'u [bitter tea] constantly makes one think better"

During the Sui Dynasty (589-618 AD) tea was introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks.

Lu Yu's statue in Xi'an
Lu Yu's statue in Xi'an

The Tang Dynasty writer Lu Yu's 陸羽 (729-804 AD) Cha Jing ( The Classic of Tea) 茶經 is an early work on the subject. (See also Tea Classics) According to Cha Jing writing, around 760 AD, tea drinking was widespread. The book describes how tea plants were grown, the leaves processed, and tea prepared as a beverage. It also describes how tea was evaluated. The book also discusses where the best tea leaves were produced. Teas produced in this period were mainly tea bricks which were often used as currency, especially further from the centre of the empire where coins lost their value.

During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), production and preparation of all tea changed. The tea of Song included many loose-leaf styles (to preserve the delicate character favoured by the court society), but a new powdered form of tea emerged. Steaming tea leaves was the primary process used for centuries in the preparation of tea. After the transition from compressed tea to the powdered form, the production of tea for trade and distribution changed once again. The Chinese learned to process tea in a different way in the mid-13th century. Tea leaves were roasted and then crumbled rather than steamed. This is the origin of today's loose teas and the practice of brewed tea.

Illustration of the legend of monkeys harvesting tea.
Illustration of the legend of monkeys harvesting tea.

Tea production in China, historically, was a laborious process, conducted in distant and often poorly accessible regions. This led to the rise of many apocryphal stories and legends surrounding the harvesting process. For example, one story that has been told for many years is that of a village where monkeys pick tea. According to this legend, the villagers stand below the monkeys and taunt them. The monkeys, in turn, become angry, and grab handfuls of tea leaves and throw them at the villagers. There are products sold today that claim to be harvested in this manner, but no reliable commentators have observed this firsthand, and most doubt that it happened at all. For many hundreds of years the commercially-used tea tree has been, in shape, more of a bush than a tree. "Monkey picked tea" is more likely a name of certain varieties than a description of how it was obtained.

In 1391, the Ming court issued a decree that only loose tea would be accepted as a "tribute." As a result, loose tea production increased and processing techniques advanced. Soon, most tea was distributed in full-leaf, loose form and steeped in earthenware vessels.


Japanese tea ceremony
Japanese tea ceremony

Tea use spread to Japan about the sixth century. Tea became a drink of the religious classes in Japan when Japanese priests and envoys, sent to China to learn about its culture, brought tea to Japan. Ancient recordings indicate the first batch of tea seeds were brought by a priest named Saichō (最澄 ? 767-822) in 805 and then by another named Kūkai (空海 ? 774-835) in 806. It became a drink of the royal classes when Emperor Saga (嵯峨天皇 ?), the Japanese emperor, encouraged the growth of tea plants. Seeds were imported from China, and cultivation in Japan began.

In 1191, the famous Zen priest Eisai (栄西 ? 1141-1215) brought back tea seeds to Kyoto. Some of the tea seeds were given to the priest Myoe Shonin, and became the basis for Uji tea. The oldest tea specialty book in Japan, Kissa Yōjōki (喫茶養生記 ? How to Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea), was written by Eisai. Eisai was also instrumental in introducing tea consumption to the warrior class, which rose to political prominence after the Heian Period.

Green tea became a staple among cultured people in Japan -- a brew for the gentry and the Buddhist priesthood alike. Production grew and tea became increasingly accessible, though still a privilege enjoyed mostly by the upper classes. The tea ceremony of Japan was introduced from China in the 15th century by Buddhists as a semireligious social custom. The modern tea ceremony developed over several centuries by Zen Buddhist monks under the original guidance of the monk Sen no Rikyū (千 利休 ? 1522-1591). In fact, both the beverage and the ceremony surrounding it played a prominent role in feudal diplomacy.

In 1738, Soen Nagatani developed Japanese sencha (煎茶 ?), literally roasted tea, which is an unfermented form of green tea. It is the most popular form of tea in Japan today. In 1835, Kahei Yamamoto developed gyokuro (玉露 ?), literally jewel dew, by shading tea trees during the weeks leading up to harvesting. At the end of the Meiji period (1868-1912), machine manufacturing of green tea was introduced and began replacing handmade tea.


Darye, Korean tea ceremony
Darye, Korean tea ceremony

The first historical record documenting the offering of tea to an ancestral god describes a rite in the year 661 in which a tea offering was made to the spirit of King Suro, the founder of the Geumgwan Gaya Kingdom (42-562). Records from the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) show that tea offerings were made in Buddhist temples to the spirits of revered monks.

The latitude of Korea is high and the climate is unsuitable for tea growing; production of tea is slight, the quality was bad and the taste was unpalatable. The Koreans therefore imported tea leaf, chiefly from Beijing.

During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the royal Yi family and the aristocracy used tea for simple rites. The "Day Tea Rite" was a common daytime ceremony, whereas the "Special Tea Rite" was reserved for specific occasions. These terms are not found in other countries. Toward the end of the Joseon Dynasty, commoners joined the trend and used tea for ancestral rites, following the Chinese example based on Zhu Xi's text formalities of Family.

Stoneware was common, ceramic more frequent, mostly made in provincial kilns, with porcelain rare, imperial porcelain with dragons the rarest. The earliest kinds of tea used in tea ceremonies were heavily pressed cakes of black tea, the equivalent of aged pu-erh tea still popular in China. However, importation of tea plants by Buddhist monks brought a more delicate series of teas into Korea, and the tea ceremony. Green tea, "chaksol" or "chugno," is most often served. However other teas such as "Byeoksoryung" Chunhachoon, Woojeon, Jakseol, Jookro, Okcheon, as well as native chrysanthemum tea, persimmon leaf tea, or mugwort tea may be served at different times of the year.

Tea Garden on way to Rock Garden, Darjeeling
Tea Garden on way to Rock Garden, Darjeeling


The next recorded reference to tea in India dates to 1598, when a Dutch traveler, Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, noted in a book that "the Indians ate the leaves as a vegetable with garlic and oil and boiled the leaves to make a brew."

Writing in The Cambridge World History of Food ( Kiple & Ornelas 2000:715-716), Weisburger & Comer sum up the history of tea in India from early times till 2000:

The tea cultivation begun there [India] in the nineteenth century by the British, however, has accelerated to the point that today India is listed as the world's leading producer, its 715, 000 tons well ahead of China's 540, 000 tons, and of course, the teas of Assam, Ceylon (from the island nation known as Sri Lanka), and Darjeeling are world famous. However, because Indians average half a cup daily on per capita basis, fully 70 percent of India's immense crop is consumed locally.

In general, even though India leads the world in tea technology, the methods employed to harvest the crop vary with the type of tea and terrain. Fine-leaf tea is hand plucked, and hand shears are used on mountain slopes and in other areas where tractor-mounted machines cannot go. A skilled worker using hand shears can harvest between 60 to 100 kg of tea per day, whereas machines cut between 1,000 and 2, 000 kg. The latter, however, are usually applied to low grade teas that often go into teabags. The tea "fluff" and waste from processing is used to produce caffeine for soft drinks and medicine.

Historically, Tea has been consumed in India since time immemorial. The accidental discovery of Tea in India by the British came about when Sir Robert Bruce was introduced to a "Singpho" chieftain by Sri Maniram Dewan. There they were served "Tea", which was later confirmed by the chief as a native plant,growing in the Assam and Arunachal hiils. The Britishers at this time were actively looking for alternate source to procure tea, as China, the then only source of supply was becoming increasingly unpredictable. Sri Maniram Dewan was also the first Indian Tea planter. The Britishers did not allow any Indian to cultivate Tea in those days. As such Sri Maniram Dewan was later executed for defying the British Rule in India, and thus became the first Martyr of the Indian Freedom struggle from the North Eastern India.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica (2008): "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."

India was the top producer of tea for nearly a century, but was displaced by China as the top tea producer in the 21st century. Indian tea companies have acquired a number of iconic foreign tea enterprises including British brands Tetley and Typhoo. India is also the world's largest tea-drinking nation. However, the per capita consumption of tea in India remains a modest 750 grams per person every year due to the large population base and high poverty levels.


Taiwan is famous for the making of Oolong tea and green tea, as well as many western-styled teas. Bubble Tea or "Zhen Zhu Nai Cha" is black tea mixed with condensed milk and tapioca. Since the island was known to Westerners for many centuries as Formosa — short for the Portuguese Ilha Formosa, or "beautiful island" — tea grown in Taiwan is often identified by that name.

United Kingdom

Tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.
Tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.

The importing of tea into Britain began in the 1660s with the marriage of King Charles II with the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza where she brought to the court the habit of drinking tea. In the same year Samuel Pepys records drinking "a china drink of which I had never drunk before". It is probable that early imports came via Amsterdam or through sailors on eastern boats.

Regular trade began in Guangzhou (Canton). Trade was controlled by two monopolies: the Chinese Hongs (trading companies) and the British East India Company. The Hongs acquired tea from 'the tea men' who had an elaborate supply chain into the mountains and provinces where the tea was grown.

The East India Company brought back many products, of which tea was just one, but it was to prove one of the most successful. It was initially promoted as a medicinal beverage or tonic. By the end of the seventeenth century tea was taken as a drink, albeit mainly by the aristocracy. In 1690 nobody would have predicted that by 1750 tea would be the national drink.

The escalation of tea importation and sales over the period 1690 to 1750 is mirrored closely by the increase in importation and sales of cane sugar: the British were not drinking just tea but sweet tea. Thus, two of Britain's trading triangles were to meet within the cup: the sugar sourced from Britain's trading triangle encompassing Britain, Africa and the West Indies and the tea from the triangle encompassing Britain, India and China.

Britain had to pay China for its tea, but China had little need of British goods, so much of it was paid for with silver bullion. Critics of tea at this time would point to the damage caused to Britain's wealth by this loss of bullion. As an alternative, Britain began producing Opium in India and forced China to trade tea for Opium as part of several treaties after the Opium wars. Tea became an important lubricant of Britain's global trade, contributing to Britain's global dominance by the end of the eighteenth century. To this day tea is seen as a symbol of 'Britishness', particularly Englishness; but also, to some, as a symbol of British Colonialism.

United States of America

While coffee is more popular, hot brewed black tea is enjoyed both with meals and as a refreshment by much of the population. Iced tea is consumed throughout similarly. In the Southern states sweet tea, sweetened with large amounts of sugar or an artificial sweetener and chilled is the fashion. Outside the South, "Sweet Tea" is rarely found in restaurants or in the home.

The American speciality tea market has quadrupled in the years from 1993-2008, now being worth $6.8billion a year.

Sri Lanka/Ceylon

Tea Garden in Sri Lanka
Tea Garden in Sri Lanka

The plantations started by the British were initially taken over by the government in the 1960s, but have been privatised and are now run by 'plantation companies' which own a few 'estates' or tea plantations each.

Sri Lanka is renowned for its high quality tea and as the 3rd biggest tea producing country globally , has a production share of 9% in the international sphere, and one of the world's leading exporters with a share of around 19% of the global demand. The total extent of land under tea cultivation has been assessed at approximately 187,309 hectares.

Ceylon tea is divided into 3 groups as Upcountry, Mid country and Low country tea based on the geography of the land on which it is grown. Today, Ceylon tea is known as one of the best in the world.

Middle eastern tea
Middle eastern tea

Tea spreads to the world

The earliest record of tea in a more occidental writing is said to be found in the statement of an Arabian traveler, that after the year 879 the main sources of revenue in Canton were the duties on salt and tea. Marco Polo records the deposition of a Chinese minister of finance in 1285 for his arbitrary augmentation of the tea taxes. The travelers Giovanni Batista Ramusio (1559), L. Almeida (1576), Maffei (1588), and Taxiera (1610) also mentioned tea. In 1557, Portugal established a trading port in Macau and word of the Chinese drink "ch'a" spread quickly, but there is no mention of them bringing any samples home. In the early 17th century, a ship of the Dutch East India Company brought the first green tea leaves to Amsterdam from China. Tea was known in France by 1636. It enjoyed a brief period of popularity in Paris around 1648. The history of tea in Russia can also be traced back to the seventeenth century. Tea was first offered by China as a gift to Czar Michael I in 1618. The Russian ambassador tried the drink; he did not care for it and rejected the offer, delaying tea's Russian introduction by fifty years. In 1689, tea was regularly imported from China to Russia via a caravan of hundreds of camels traveling the year-long journey, making it a precious commodity at the time. Tea was appearing in German apothecaries by 1657 but never gained much esteem except in coastal areas such as Ostfriesland. Tea first appeared publicly in England during the 1650s, where it was introduced through coffee houses. From there it was introduced to British Colonies in America and elsewhere.

Potential effects of tea on health

According to Mondal (2007, pp. 519–520):

Tea leaves contain more than 700 chemicals, among which the compounds closely related to human health are flavanoides, amino acids, vitamins (C, E and K), caffeine and polysaccharides. Moreover, tea drinking has recently proven to be associated with cell-mediated immune function of the human body. Tea plays an important role in improving beneficial intestinal microflora, as well as providing immunity against intestinal disorders and in protecting cell membranes from oxidative damage. Tea also prevents dental caries due to the presence of fluorine. The role of tea is well established in normalizing bloodpressure, lipid depressing activity, prevention of coronary heart diseases and diabetes by reducing the blood-glucose activity. Tea also possesses germicidal and germistatic activities against various gram-positive and gram negative human pathogenic bacteria. Both green and black tea infusions contain a number of antioxidants, mainly catechins that have anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic and anti-tumor properties.

Etymology and cognates in other languages

The Chinese character for tea is 茶, but it is pronounced differently in the various Chinese dialects. Two pronunciations have made their way into other languages around the world. One is , which comes from the Amoy Min Nan dialect, spoken around the port of Xiamen (Amoy). This pronunciation is believed to come from the old words for tea 梌 (tú) or 荼 (tú). The other is chá, used by the Cantonese dialect spoken around the ports of Guangzhou (Canton), Hong Kong, Macau, and in overseas Chinese communities, as well as in the Mandarin dialect of northern China. This term was used in ancient times to describe the first flush harvest of tea. Yet another different pronunciation is zu, used in the Wu dialect spoken around Shanghai. The word for tea in both Korea and Japan is 차 and 茶(ちゃ), both transliterated as cha.

The derivatives from

Language Name Language Name Language Name Language Name Language Name
Afrikaans tee Armenian, Catalan te Czech or thé (1) Danish te Dutch thee
English tea Esperanto teo Estonian tee Faroese te Finnish tee
French thé West Frisian tee Galician German Tee Hebrew תה, te
Hindi chai Kannada chaha Marathi chaha Hungarian tea Icelandic te
Indonesian teh Irish tae Italian or thè Javanese tèh scientific Latin thea
Latvian tēja Limburgish tiè Lithuanian arbata (2) Low Saxon Tee [t(ʰɛˑɪ] or Tei [t(ʰaˑɪ] Malay teh
Malayalam "theyila" means "tea leaf" (ila=leaf) Norwegian te Occitan Polish herbata (3) Sesotho tea
Scots Gaelic , teatha Singhalese thé Spanish Scots tea [tiː] ~ [teː] Sundanese entèh
Swedish te Tamil தேநீர் thenīr (nīr = water) "theyila" means "tea leaf" (ila=leaf) Telugu తేనీళ్ళు tēnīru Welsh te
  • Note: (1) or thé, but these words are used only when describing a tisane, as in "lipové thé" (limeflower tea) ; čaj is used for "tea" in modern Czech, as explained in the next table. see (4). In case of (2), (3), arbata and herbata are from Latin herba thea.

The derivatives from cha or chai

Language Name Language Name Language Name Language Name Language Name
Albanian çaj Amharic ሻይ shai Arabic شاي shai Assamese saah Aramaic pronounced chai
Azeri çay Bengali চা cha Bosnian čaj Bulgarian чай chai Capampangan cha
Cebuano tsa Croatian čaj Czech čaj (4) English char, slang Georgian ჩაი, chai
Greek τσάι tsái Gujarati ચા cha Hindi चाय chai Japanese , ちゃ, cha Kannada Chaha
Kazakh шай shai Khasi sha Konkani cha Korean 茶,차 cha Macedonian чај, čaj
Malayalam "chaaya" Marathi चहा chahaa Mongolian цай, tsai Nepali chiya चिया Oriya cha
Persian چای chaay Punjabi ਚਾਹ cha Portuguese chá Romanian ceai Russian чай, chai
Serbian чај, čaj Slovak čaj Slovene čaj Somali shaah Swahili chai
Sylheti saah Tagalog tsaa Thai ชา, cha Tibetan ཇ་ ja Tlingit cháayu
Turkish çay Telugu chai Ukrainian чай chai Urdu چاىchai Uzbek choy
Vietnamese *trà and chè (5)
  • (5) They are both direct derivatives of the Chinese 茶; the latter term is used mainly in the north and describes a tea made with freshly-picked leaves.

The Polish word for a tea-kettle is czajnik, which could be derived directly from cha or from the cognate Russian word. However, tea in Polish is herbata, which, as well as Lithuanian arbata, was derived from the Latin herba thea, meaning "tea herb".

It is tempting to correlate these names with the route that was used to deliver tea to these cultures, although the relation is far from simple at times. As an example, the first tea to reach Britain was traded by the Dutch from Fujian, which uses te, and although later most British trade went through Canton, which uses cha, the Fujianese pronunciation continued to be the more popular.

In Ireland, or at least in Dublin, the term cha is sometimes used for "tea", as is pre-vowel-shift pronunciation "tay" (from which the Irish Gaelic word "tae" is derived). Char was a common slang term for tea throughout British Empire and Commonwealth military forces in the 19th and 20th centuries, crossing over into civilian usage.

In North America, the word chai is used to refer almost exclusively to the Indian masala chai beverage.

The original pronunciation "cha" in the Cantonese and Mandarin languages has no [j] ending. Therefore it is merely an adaptation of the Mandarin and Cantonese word "cha" in mainly Eurasian languages that do not usually tolerate a syllable that openly ends in "[a]". The different articulations of the word for tea into the two main groups: "teh-derived" (Min Chinese dialects) and "cha-derived" (Mandarin, Cantonese and other non-Min Chinese dialects) is an interesting one, as it reveals the particular Chinese local cultures where non-Chinese nations acquired their tea and "tea cultures". Not surprisingly, India and the Arab world most likely got their tea cultures from the Cantonese or the Southwestern Mandarin speakers, whereas the Russians got theirs from the northern Mandarin speakers. The Portuguese,the first Europeans to import the herb in large amounts, took the Cantonese form "chá", as used in their trading posts in the south of China, especially Macau. On the contrary, other Western Europeans who copied the Min articulation "teh" probably traded with the Hokkienese while in Southeast Asia.

Quite recently, no more than 20 years ago, "chai" entered North American English with a particular meaning: Indian masala black tea. Of course this is not the case in other languages, where "chai" usually just means black tea (as people traditionally drink more black tea than green outside of East Asia). English is thus one of the few languages that allow for the dual articulations of "tea" into a "teh-derived" word and a "cha-derived" one, such as Moroccan colloquial Arabic ( Darija): in the case of Moroccan Arabic, "ash-shay" means "generic, or black Middle Eastern tea" whereas "atay" means a specialty tea: Zhejiang or Fujian green tea with fresh mint leaves. The Moroccans are said to have acquired a unique penchant in the Arab world for East Chinese green tea after the ruler Mulay Hassan exchanged some European hostages captured by the Barbary Pirates for a whole ship of Chinese tea. They have thus acquired a word for this special tea different from the generic "ash-shay". see Moroccan tea culture

Perhaps the only place in which a word unrelated to tea is used to describe the beverage is South America (particularly Andean countries), because a similar stimulant beverage, yerba mate, was consumed there long before tea arrived.

Tea culture

In many cultures, tea is often had at fancy social events, such as afternoon tea and the tea party. It may be consumed early in the day to heighten alertness; it contains theophylline and bound caffeine (sometimes called "theine"), although there are also decaffeinated teas. In many cultures such as Arab culture tea is a focal point for social gatherings.

There are tea ceremonies which have arisen in different cultures, Japan's complex, formal and serene one being one of the most well known. Other examples are the Chinese tea ceremony which uses some traditional ways of brewing tea. One form of Chinese tea ceremony is the Gongfu tea ceremony, which typically uses small Yixing clay teapots and oolong tea.


Korean tea kettle over hot coal
Korean tea kettle over hot coal

The traditional method of making a cup of tea is to place loose tea leaves, either directly, or in a tea infuser, into a tea pot or teacup and pour hot water over the leaves. After a couple of minutes the leaves are usually removed again, either by removing the infuser, or by straining the tea while serving.

Most green teas should be allowed to steep for about three minutes, although some types of tea require as much as ten. The strength of the tea should be varied by changing the amount of tea leaves used, not by changing the steeping time. The amount of tea to be used per amount of water differs from tea to tea but one basic recipe may be one slightly heaped teaspoon of tea (about 5 ml) for each teacup of water (200 ml) (8 oz) prepared as above. Stronger teas, like Assam, to be drunk with milk are often prepared with more leaves, and a more delicate high grown tea such as a Darjeeling are prepared with a little less (as the stronger mid-flavours can overwhelm the champagne notes).

The best temperature for brewing tea depends on its type. Teas that have little or no oxidation period, such as a green or white tea, are best brewed at lower temperatures between 60 °C and 85 °C (140-185 °F), while teas with longer oxidation periods should be brewed at higher temperatures around 100 °C (212 °F). The higher temperatures are required to extract the large, complex, flavorful phenolic molecules found in fermented tea, although boiling the water reduces the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water,

Some tea sorts are often brewed several times using the same tea leaves. Historically, in China, tea is divided into a number of infusions. The first infusion is immediately poured out to wash the tea, and then the second and further infusions are drunk. The third through fifth are nearly always considered the best infusions of tea, although different teas open up differently and may require more infusions of hot water to bring them to life.

One way to taste a tea, throughout its entire process, is to add hot water to a cup containing the leaves and after about 30 seconds to taste the tea. As the tea leaves unfold (known as "The Agony of the Leaves") they give up various parts of themselves to the water and thus the taste evolves. Continuing this from the very first flavours to the time beyond which the tea is quite stewed will allow an appreciation of the tea throughout its entire length.

Black tea infusion.
Black tea infusion.

Black tea

The water for black teas should be added at the boiling point (100 °C or 212 °F). Many of the active substances in black tea don't develop at temperatures lower than 90 °C. For some more delicate teas lower temperatures are recommended. The temperature will have as large an effect on the final flavour as the type of tea used. The most common fault when making black tea is to use water at too low a temperature. Since boiling point drops with increasing altitude, this makes it difficult to brew black tea properly in mountainous areas. It is also recommended that the teapot be warmed before preparing tea, easily done by adding a small amount of boiling water to the pot, swirling briefly, before discarding. Black teas are usually brewed for about 4 minutes and should not be allowed to steep for less than 30 seconds or more than about five minutes (a process known as brewing or [dialectally] mashing in the UK, specifically in Yorkshire ). Longer steeping times make the tea bitter (at this point it is referred to as being stewed in the UK). When the tea has brewed long enough to suit the tastes of the drinker, it should be strained while serving.

Green tea

Water for green tea, according to most accounts, should be around 80 °C to 85 °C (176 °F to 185 °F); the higher the quality of the leaves, the lower the temperature. Hotter water will burn green-tea leaves, producing a bitter taste. Preferably, the container in which the tea is steeped, the mug, or teapot should also be warmed beforehand so that the tea does not immediately cool down. Recently, green tea (as well as some black teas) have been shown to significantly increase interferon levels in tea consumers, which lends credence to the theory that some teas help boost the immune system.

Oolong tea (or Wulong)

Oolong teas should be brewed around 90 °C to 100 °C (194 °F to 212 °F), and again the brewing vessel should be warmed before pouring in the water. Yixing purple clay teapots are the traditional brewing vessel for oolong tea. For best results use spring water, as the minerals in spring water tend to bring out more flavour in the tea. High quality oolong can be brewed multiple times from the same leaves, and unlike green tea it improves with reuse. It is common to brew the same leaves three to five times, the third steeping usually being the best.

Tieguanyin (or 铁观音)

Tieguanyin, also known as red tea Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy-kind, is the name of tea, tea varieties is the name. - Yongzhengnianjian in Anxi Xiping Yang Yao found and began to promote. Tieguanyin oolong tea category belong, is one of China's top 10 tea oolong tea category representatives.

Premium or delicate tea

Some teas, especially green teas and delicate Oolong or Darjeeling teas, are steeped for shorter periods, sometimes less than 30 seconds. Using a tea strainer separates the leaves from the water at the end of the brewing time if a tea bag is not being used. Elevation and time of harvest offer varying taste profiles, proper storage and water quality also plays a large impact on taste.

Pu-erh tea (or Pu'er)

Pu-erh teas require boiling water for infusion. Some prefer to quickly rinse pu-erh for several seconds with boiling water to remove tea dust which accumulates from the aging process. Infuse pu-erh at the boiling point (100 °C or 212 °F), and allow to steep for 30 seconds or up to five minutes.


In order to preserve the pre-tannin tea without requiring it all to be poured into cups, a second teapot is employed. The steeping pot is best unglazed earthenware; Yixing pots are the best known of these, famed for the high quality clay from which they are made. The serving pot is generally porcelain, which retains the heat better. Larger teapots are a post-19th century invention, as tea before this time was very rare and very expensive. Experienced tea-drinkers often insist that the tea should not be stirred around while it is steeping (sometimes called winding in the UK). This, they say, will do little to strengthen the tea, but is likely to bring the tannins out in the same way that brewing too long will do. For the same reason one should not squeeze the last drops out of a teabag; if stronger tea is desired, more tea leaves should be used.

Adding milk to tea

Tea is sometimes taken with milk
Tea is sometimes taken with milk

The addition of milk to tea was first mentioned in 1680 by the epistolist Madame de Sévigné. Many teas are traditionally drunk with milk. These include Indian chai, and British tea blends. These teas tend to be very hearty varieties which can be tasted through the milk, such as Assams, or the East Friesian blend. Milk is thought to neutralise remaining tannins and reduce acidity.

The order in which to make a cup of tea is a much-debated area. Some say that it is preferable to add the milk before the tea, as the high temperature of freshly brewed tea can denature the proteins found in fresh milk, similar to the change in taste of UHT milk, resulting in an inferior tasting beverage. Others insist that it is better to add the milk after brewing the tea, as most teas need to be brewed as close to boiling as possible. The addition of milk chills the beverage during the crucial brewing phase, meaning that the delicate flavour of a good tea cannot be fully appreciated. By adding the milk afterwards, it is easier to dissolve sugar in the tea and also to ensure that the desired amount of milk is added, as the colour of the tea can be observed.

In Britain and some Commonwealth countries, the order in which the milk and the tea enter the cup is often considered an indicator of social class. Persons of working class background are supposedly more likely to add the milk first and pour the tea in afterwards, whereas persons of middle and upper class backgrounds are more likely to pour the tea in first and then add milk. This is said to be a continuing practice from a time when porcelain (the only ceramic which could withstand boiling water) was only within the purchasing range of the rich - the less wealthy had access only to poor quality earthenware, which would crack unless milk was added first in order to lower the temperature of the tea as it was poured in.

Moroccan tea being served. It is poured from a distance to produce a foam on the tea.
Moroccan tea being served. It is poured from a distance to produce a foam on the tea.

A recent medical study found that certain beneficial effects of tea are lost through the addition of milk.

Other additives

Other popular additives to tea include sugar or honey, lemon, fruit jams, mint. In colder regions such as Mongolia, Tibet and Nepal, butter is added to provide necessary calories. Tibetan butter tea contains rock salt and dre (yak) butter, which is then churned vigorously in a cylindrical vessel closely resembling a butter churn. The flavour of this beverage is more akin to a rich broth than to tea, and may be described as an acquired taste to those unused to drinking it. The same may be said for salt tea, which is consumed in some cultures in the Hindu-Kush region of northern Pakistan, and probably in other areas as well.

Image:Teh tarik brewer.jpg
Teh tarik, or "pulled tea" being prepared by a mamak stall vendor

The flavour of the tea can also be altered by pouring it from different heights, resulting in varying degrees of oxidisation. The art of high-altitude pouring is used principally by people in Northern Africa (e.g. Morocco), but also in West Africa (e.g. Guinea, Mali, Senegal) and can positively alter the flavour of the tea, but it is more likely a technique to cool the beverage destined to be consumed immediately, often cooked with mint leaves. In certain cultures the tea is given different names depending on the height it was poured form. In Mali, gunpowder tea is served in series of three, starting with the highest oxidisation or strongest, unsweetened tea (cooked from fresh leaves), locally referred to as "bitter as death". Follows a second serving, where the same tea leaves are boiled again with some sugar added ("pleasant as life"),and a third one, where the same tea leaves are boiled for the third time with yet more sugar added ("sweet as love"). Green tea is the central ingredient of a distinctly Malian custom, the "Grin", informal social gathering that cuts across social and economic lines, starting in front of family compound gates in the afternoons, extending late in the night, and widely popular in Bamako and other large urban areas.

In Southeast Asia, particularly in Malaysia and Singapore, the practice of pouring tea from a height has been refined further using black tea to which milk and usually sugar has been added, being poured from a height from one cup to another several times in alternating fashion and in quick succession, to create a tea with entrapped air bubbles creating a frothy "head" in the cup. Expert practitioners of this skill, usually in community hawker food stalls, are a pleasure to watch, a kind of street performance art that adds to the enjoyment of the drink. This beverage, teh tarik, literally, "pulled tea", has a creamier taste than flat milk tea and is extremely popular in the region. Tea pouring in Malaysia has been further developed into an art form in which a dance is done by people pouring tea from one container to another, which in any case takes skill and precision. The participants, each holding two containers, one full of tea, pour it from one to another. They stand in lines and squares and pour the tea into each others' pots. The dance must be choreographed to allow anyone who has both pots full to empty them and refill whoever has no tea at any one point. They are full of rhythmic patterns and a joy to watch.

Economics of tea

Percentage of total tea production in 2003
Percentage of total tea production in 2003

Tea's world consumption easily equals all other manufactured drinks in the world — including coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, and alcohol — put together. Most tea consumed outside East Asia is produced on large plantations in India or Sri Lanka, destined to be sold to large businesses. Opposite this large-scale industrial production there are many small "gardens", sometimes minuscule plantations, that produce highly sought-after teas prized by gourmets. These teas are both rare and expensive, and can be compared to some of the most expensive wines in this respect.

India is the world's largest tea-drinking nation although the per capita consumption of tea remains a modest 750 grams per person every year.


Tea-producing countries.
Tea-producing countries.
Percentage of total tea production in 2003      Tea not grown in significant quantities       Less than 5%.       From 5 to 10%.       More than 10%
Percentage of total tea production in 2003      Tea not grown in significant quantities       Less than 5%.       From 5 to 10%.       More than 10%
Tea from Argentina (which is a Biodiversity hotspot-free zone; unlike Sri Lanka and parts of China, ...). Tea coming from biodiversity-free hotspots should be preferred whenever possible, as growing tea here puts up less stress to the environment
Tea from Argentina (which is a Biodiversity hotspot-free zone; unlike Sri Lanka and parts of China, ...). Tea coming from biodiversity-free hotspots should be preferred whenever possible, as growing tea here puts up less stress to the environment


In 2003, world tea production was 3.15 million tonnes annually. The largest producer was India, followed by China (the order has since reversed), followed by Sri Lanka and Kenya. China is the only country today to produce in industrial quantities all different kinds of tea (white tea, yellow tea, green tea, blue-green tea, red tea and black tea).

Production in tonnes. Figures for 2004-2005
Data from de FAOSTAT ( FAO) FAO database, accessed November 14, 2006

China 855,192 25 % 830,700 24 %
India 850,500 25 % 940,500 27 %
Sri Lanka 308,090 9 % 308,090 9 %
Kenya 295,000 9 % 295,000 9 %
Turkey 201,663 6 % 202,000 6 %
Indonesia 164,817 5 % 171,410 5 %
Vietnam 108,422 3 % 110,000 3 %
Japan 101,000 3 % 100,000 3 %
Argentina 64,000 2 % 64,000 2 %
Bangladesh 58,000 2 % 58,000 2 %
Iran 52,000 2 % 52,000 2 %
Malawi 50,090 1 % 50,000 1 %
Uganda 36,000 1 % 36,000 1 %
Other countries 208,949 6 % 215,940 6 %
Total 3,353,723 100 % 3,433,640 100 %

Organic Tea production

Production of organic tea is rising; 3,500 tonnes of organic tea were grown in 2003. The majority of this tea (about 75%) is sold in France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.


Evolution of the average price of tea since 1989
Evolution of the average price of tea since 1989


The amount of tea produced is rising but exports are declining. In 2003, 1.4 million tonnes of tea were exported, a decline of 2.6% compared to 2002. This is primarily due to the strong drop in exports from India and Indonesia.


The principal importers are the CIS, the EU, Pakistan, the United States, Egypt and Japan. In 2003, 1.39 million tons were imported – an increase of 1% over 2002.


The large quantities produced in 2003 did not greatly affect the prices, which were relatively stable in that year.


Tea bags

Tea Bags
Tea Bags

In 1907, American tea merchant Thomas Sullivan began distributing samples of his tea in small silk bags with a drawstring. Consumers noticed that they could simply leave the tea in the bag, and better still re-use it with fresh tea. However, the potential of this distribution/packaging method would not be fully realized until later on. During World War II, tea was rationed. In 1953 (after rationing in the UK ended), Tetley launched the tea bag to the UK and it was an immediate success.

Tea leaves are packed into a small (usually paper) tea bag. It is easy and convenient, making tea bags popular for many people today. However, the tea used in tea bags has an industry name - it is called "fannings" or "dust" and is the waste product produced from the sorting of higher quality loose leaf tea. It is commonly held among tea aficionados that this method provides an inferior taste and experience. The paper used for the bag can also be tasted by many, which can detract from the tea's flavor. Because fannings and dust are a lower quality of the tea to begin with, the tea found in tea bags is less finicky when it comes to brewing time and temperature.

Additional reasons why bag tea is considered less well-flavored include:

  • Dried tea loses its flavour quickly on exposure to air. Most bag teas (although not all) contain leaves broken into small pieces; the great surface area to volume ratio of the leaves in tea bags exposes them to more air, and therefore causes them to go stale faster. Loose tea leaves are likely to be in larger pieces, or to be entirely intact.
  • Breaking up the leaves for bags extracts flavoured oils.
  • The small size of the bag does not allow leaves to diffuse and steep properly.

Pyramid tea bags

Pyramid tea bag
Pyramid tea bag

The "pyramid tea bag", introduced by Lipton & PG Tips in 1996, has an unusual design that addresses one of connoisseurs' arguments against paper tea bags, because its three-dimensional shape allows more room for tea leaves to expand while steeping. However, some types of pyramid tea bags have been criticized as being environmentally unfriendly, since their synthetic material does not break down in landfills as loose tea leaves and paper tea bags do.

Loose tea

Loose-leaf tea
Loose-leaf tea

The tea leaves are packaged loosely in a canister or other container. Rolled gunpowder tea leaves, which resist crumbling, are commonly vacuum packed for freshness in aluminized packaging for storage and retail. The portions must be individually measured by the consumer for use in a cup, mug, or teapot. This allows greater flexibility, letting the consumer brew weaker or stronger tea as desired, but convenience is sacrificed. Strainers, "tea presses", filtered teapots, and infusion bags are available commercially to avoid having to drink the floating loose leaves and to prevent over-brewing. A more traditional, yet perhaps more effective way around this problem is to use a three-piece lidded teacup, called a gaiwan. The lid of the gaiwan can be tilted to decant the leaves while pouring the tea into a different cup for consumption.

Compressed tea

Some teas (particularly Pu-erh tea) are still compressed for transport, storage, and aging convenience. The tea is prepared and steeped by first loosening leaves off the compressed cake using a small knife. Compressed teas can usually be stored for longer periods of time without "spoilage" when compared with loose leaf tea.

Instant tea

In recent times, "instant teas" are becoming popular, similar to freeze dried instant coffee. Instant tea was developed in the 1930s, but not commercialized until the late 1950s, and is only more recently becoming popular. These products often come with added flavours, such as vanilla, honey or fruit, and may also contain powdered milk. Similar products also exist for instant iced tea, due to the convenience of not requiring boiling water. Tea connoisseurs tend to criticise these products for sacrificing the delicacies of tea flavor in exchange for convenience.

Canned tea

Canned tea was first launched in 1981 in Japan. As such, it is a fairly recent innovation, and it has mostly benefits in marketing.


Tea has a shelf-life that varies with storage conditions and type of tea. Black tea has a longer shelf-life than green tea. Some teas such as flower teas may go bad in a month or so. An exception, Pu-erh tea improves with age. Tea stays freshest when stored in a dry, cool, dark place in an air-tight container. Black tea stored in a bag inside a sealed opaque canister may keep for two years. Green tea loses its freshness more quickly, usually in less than a year. Gunpowder tea, its leaves being tightly rolled, keeps longer than the more open-leafed Chun Mee tea. Storage life for all teas can be extended by using desiccant packets or oxygen absorbing packets, and by vacuum sealing.

When storing green tea, discreet use of refrigeration or freezing is recommended. In particular, drinkers need to take precautions against temperature variation.

Improperly stored tea may lose flavor, acquire disagreeable flavors or odours from other foods, or become moldy.

Tea companies

Retrieved from " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea"
This Wikipedia DVD Selection is sponsored by SOS Children , and is a hand-chosen selection of article versions from the English Wikipedia edited only by deletion (see www.wikipedia.org for details of authors and sources). The articles are available under the GNU Free Documentation License. See also our Disclaimer.