Fresh Tea Leaves
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|Forbidden Fruit Orchards|
Fresh Tea leaves are shiny and green with slightly serrated edges. Growing up to 10 centimeters in length, the elliptical leaves tend to have hairy undersides, and form in alternating pattern along the stem. Fresh Tea leaves have a bitter taste with herbal grassy notes, and may offer a tannic mouthfeel when steeped. Fresh Tea leaves grow on the tea plant, which is an evergreen perennial plant that can grow up to 9 meters tall. For ease of harvesting, the plant is pruned around the 4-meter mark. The light green, young tea leaves are generally used for culinary applications and for tea production.
Fresh Tea leaves are available year-round.
All tea, be it, white, green, oolong, Darjeeling or black, comes from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis. The two main varieties of the plant that are commercially cultivated are Camellia sinensis var. sinensis (Chinese tea), and C. sinensis var. assamica (Assam or Indian tea). Chinese tea is cultivated in China, Taiwan, Japan, and parts of Darjeeling. Chinese tea is delicate, with smaller leaves on the plant which are used for green, white and oolong teas. Assam tea is grown in India, Sri Lanka, and in other parts of the world. The Assam tea plant produces large leaves with a strong flavor, and are used for black teas. Fresh Tea leaves are found around the world, and are most often steamed or dried and then used for drinking.
Fresh Tea leaves contain catechins, which have beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Thus, consuming tea can lower the risk of stroke. There is evidence that tea, which contains caffeine, may be protective against cognitive impairment and decline later in life. Tea leaves are a natural source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins C and B6, carotene, thiamine and folic acid. They also contain the essential minerals potassium, manganese and fluoride.
Fresh Tea leaves are not used raw, and are usually processed immediately after being harvested, as they wilt quickly. They may be withered, dried, steamed and fermented to make loose tea leaves for brewing as a beverage. Dried tea leaves may also be used for cooking smoked dishes, such as tea-smoked chicken and duck. Tea leaf eggs, in which eggs are boiled in a tea-infused liquid, are a popular Chinese dish. In Japan, the spent tea leaves of high-quality teas, such as gokuru, may be dipped in a simple soy or ponzu sauce and eaten. Fresh Tea leaves may be fermented - a process that can take several months to many years. In Myanmar, fermented tea leaves are used in a flavorful salad called Lahpet Thote, which also features lime juice, peanuts, sesame seeds, chili peppers, pounded shrimp and sugar. Fermented tea leaves are gaining popularity around the world, and ready-made fermented tea leaves be found in specialty shops in the United Kingdom and the United States. Fresh Tea leaves that are unprocessed are most often found in tea plantations and estates. Whether fresh or dried, tea leaves are best stored in airtight containers, away from moisture, light and strong odors. Like other delicate plants such as mint, Fresh Tea leaves may store well in the freezer in vacuum-sealed bags.
Some of the earliest written records of tea-drinking come from China around the 10th century BCE, when tea was taken as a medicinal beverage. It was later used in religious ceremonies and rites. To this day, tea plays a huge part in Chinese life, and is served in restaurants along with meals. The Chinese tea ceremony is a common part of Chinese weddings, where the bride and groom must serve tea to both sets of parents as a signal of respect. The Japanese are also famous for ritualistic tea ceremonies. There, the tea ceremony is seen as a reflection on life, and becoming a tea master in Japan can take years. Fresh Tea leaves may be steamed and fermented, then used for chewing, much like betel leaves or chewing tobacco. One such product is called miang, made in parts of rural Thailand and Myanmar. Fresh Tea leaves are steamed in wooden casks, then pressed tightly into bamboo baskets which are sealed, weighted down and left to ferment for up to a year. Once ready, miang is chewed as a stimulant.
Fresh Tea leaves were first cultivated around the time of the Han dynasty (206 BCE to 220 AD), and by the time of the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644), tea-drinking became a daily social activity in tea houses. The practice of tea-drinking spread to Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. Tea first appeared in British records in the 1600s as a drink of the elite. By the 1700s, it was available in tea shops and at grocers in London. The British popularized the addition of milk and sugar to tea, a practice not seen with the Chinese. In the 1800s, the source for Fresh Tea leaves was still China, and in an effort to break the monopoly of the Chinese tea trade, the British smuggled plants and seeds out of the country and established plantations in areas such as Darjeeling, Assam, and Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon). Today, China, India and Kenya are the largest producers of tea.