Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tea - tracing its flavorful journey - Part Five



All teas can be processed by hand or by machine and all teas are graded by size of the leaf. They can be scented or flavored, and only a small proportion of them are. 
Most often, oolong or black teas are so treated.
 Blossoms, petals, or pieces of fruit can be added to flavor teas as can the addition of commercial essences, oils, or fragrances. 
Flavors such as jasmine, rose, litchi, orange, and orchid are popular, in that order. 
It is common practice, that when essences or oils are used that a large piece of cotton be saturated with same and put in a big box of tea leaves and left there for hours or days, depending upon the depth of aroma desired.

Everyone should know that teabags and compressed teas are neither new nor an American invention. 

Tea used to be compressed in large blocks or rounded shapes. 
For shipping, they were packed in bamboo then further protected by a wooden chest or a leather bag for their long journeys.
 Sometimes these bags got wet. 
The caravan stewards saw infused tea leaking from them and more than one of them thought of making a batch of tea in that manner in a bag of one sort or another.

Orange Pekoe means long leaves; 'pekoe' alone means shorter leaves. 
Other tea leaf words for their sizes include: 'souchong' meaning coarse leaves, and 'fannings' and 'dust' as words for the left-overs of any of the above.
The above terms do not connotate flavor, rather they speak of tea leaf size, and therefore quality. 


Tea bags, flow-through or otherwise, can be and usually are mixtures of fannings and dust and perhaps some other known tea leaves ground small. 
They rarely, if ever, have small spring-picked leaves so beloved by the Chinese.
Flow-thorough tea bags do brew better tea than flat tea bags because there is more room for leaf expansion.

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