Being a proud Englishman, it is a tea that I drink. It’s not blood that I have to drink. I am very conscious of this and rarely make a cup of tea every day to keep me energized during a long workday.
Although I was disappointed that I wasn’t asked to judge the Kitchen Stadium battle, I was eager to see what Iron Chef Forgione or his challenger Chef Kittichai had to offer to inspire me on new ways to use one of my kitchen essentials.
These are 10 fascinating facts about tea that you may not have known:
- The Chinese are the name of the tea plant. The Mandarin word ch’a was char. This is where chai and char come from.
- The Camellia Sinensis plant is used to make tea (except for herbal teas, which aren’t tea). Oolong, green, and black teas are all made with leaves from the same tea bush, but they go through different processing to create specific types of tea. Oolong tea can ferment, while black tea can be allowed to ferment. Green tea can only be semi-fermented. Unfermented white tea comes from the same tea bush but is made from unopened buds.
- According to Chinese legend, Emperor Shen Nong discovered tea when the leaves of tea bushes fell into the water he was boiling to purify it. However, it was initially considered a tonic and used only for medicinal purposes.
- Jasper de Cruz, a Portuguese Jesuit priest, brings tea to Europe. When Portugal gained trading privileges with China in 1590, Jasper de Cruz visited China and was permitted to take some of the plants he had discovered back home.
- Most tea produced in China was exported to Great Britain until the 19th century. As trade with China became more difficult, the British started to look elsewhere for tea. They began looking in India (Assam, Darjeeling) and Africa (Kenya) and smuggled plants from China illegally. These “new” regions are still the largest tea producers today.
- China remains the largest tea producer globally, producing nearly 29 per cent of all global tea production. India is close behind. Surprised by the appearances of Iran, Turkey, Vietnam and even Argentina in the top 10, you might be.
- Despite growing the most tea, the Chinese are not the largest consumers. Not per capita. The United Arab Emirates is the country that consumes most of the stuff, with nearly 14 pounds per year. This puts them ahead of residents of Ireland and Morocco. The United States is ranked a lowly 69th among the top 100 while the Brits rank seventh. We all consume more than three billion cups of tea each year. This makes tea second only to water.
- Thomas Sullivan, an American who sent samples in small silk pouches in 1904 to customers, accidentally invented the teabag. They didn’t know how to empty the teabags into the pot, so they added the entire contents, including the silk container. Sullivan saw the opportunity to make ready-to-use tea bags from gauze. Teabags are still the most popular method of making tea. In the United Kingdom, over 96% of all tea is made from teabags.
- Although all types of tea are good for your health, green tea has the most popularity as a superfood. Numerous studies have shown that green tea can be beneficial in fighting heart disease, certain types of cancer, and diabetes. It is also a useful tool to reduce cholesterol. Although some of these findings may be controversial, most doctors agree that green tea is good for you.
- The mountains of Ya’An, Sichuan Province of China, are home to the most expensive tea. The tea bushes are fertilized with the waste of local pandas, whose bodies absorb very little nutrition from the food they eat. A small cup of tea costs around $200.