Tea


Tea -

The first discovery of the virtue of the beverage obtained by infusing the tea-leaf in water, is hidden in the obscurity of ancient history. One Chinese tradition gives the credit to some Buddhist priests, who, unable to use the brackish water near their temple, steeped in it the leaves of a shrub growing in the vicinity, with the intention of correcting its unpleasant properties. The experiment was so successful that they spread the news among their neighbors and subsequently engaged in extensive cultivation of the plant.

Another record attributes its discovery, about 2737 B. C., to Chin-Nung, a celebrated scholar and philosopher, to whom nearly all agricultural and medical knowledge is traced in China. In replenishing a fire made of the branches of the tea plant, some of the leaves fell into the vessel in which he was boiling water for his evening meal. The consumption of the beverage thus formed - the first "pot of tea" - proved so exhilarating in effect that he formed the habit of so using the leaves. Later, he imparted to others the knowledge thus accidentally gained, and in a short time it became the common property of the empire.

China is generally acknowledged as the birthplace of the tea industry. Some writers reason that the honor belongs to India or Japan, but other authorities name the thirteenth century as seeing the first use of the leaf in the latter country.

Tea was brought to Europe in the sixteenth century, the Dutch East India Company introducing it into Holland. The first authenticated mention of it in England is in the year 1657 - at which time it was considered a very rare luxury. It was known as early as 1680 in the American colonies, selling at from five dollars to six dollars a pound for the cheapest varieties. Its use was for many years widely condemned by writers and preachers, who attributed to it numerous qualities inimical to health, morals and the public order, but that attitude was long ago relegated to oblivion and the enormous quantity now consumed places it among the most important of food articles. Its title comes from Té, the Chinese name for it in Amoy dialect. In other parts of China, it is known at Ta, Cha, Dzo, etc.

The tea shrub is an evergreen somewhat similar in appearance to the camellia, to which it is botanically related. The Assam type in its wild state grows to a height of fifteen to thirty feet, with numerous branches and a wealth of lance-like leaves, which often attain a length of six to nine inches. The China varieties and the numerous crosses are more dwarf in habit and of smaller leaf. The rather large, white, fragrant flowers grow singly, or two together, in the axils of the leaves. Under cultivation, the shrubs are not allowed to exceed four or five feet in height, and flowering is permitted only for seed purposes.

The plant, raised from seed in the nurseries, is set out in the fields or "gardens" when about twelve inches high. It bears its first crop when about four years old - according to locality, soil, etc. - but a year or more before the crop is expected it is cut down to a height of a foot or less. It is again cut down to about twenty-four inches three months before gathering - the object being to make the bush spread and to stimulate the fullest possible growth of the "flushes" or young shoots which furnish the tender, succulent new leaves desired. After this operation it is "picked" regularly for two years - the bushes putting forth new "flushes" at frequent intervals - when it is again pruned back to allow it to rest. With proper care and under favorable conditions, its bearing life is practically unlimited.

The picking is generally delegated to women and children. Each has a basket strung by a cord over the head or attached to the waist in such a manner as to leave both hands free for plucking. Only the new shoots are gathered, and care is taken to avoid damaging the leaf-bud in the axil below the leaves taken, as that in its turn soon develops into a new "flush." The whole flush may be taken or only the choicer upper part, according both to the size of the shoot and the minimum grade leaf desired. The rapidity and accuracy of the experienced picker is almost incredible.

Though in actual growth such exact regularity is unusual, the young leaves frequently appearing two or more together. A mixture of Nos. 1 and 2 is the grade known as Broken Orange Pekoe or Flowery Pekoe. Nos. 4, 5 and 6 make the teas of medium to popular prices. Cheaper grades consist frequently, in whole or part, of the larger leaves from more fully developed shoots. The title "Congou" is by several authorities still accorded to No. 6, but this expression is confusing, as in the American market the word Congou serves as a general name for the bulk of China Black Teas. The name Bohea, correctly the title of one of the China varieties of the shrub, is similarly applied in some circles to any leaves larger than No. 6, though it was formerly used as a specific title for very choice grades.

The young leaves of all varieties are very similar in general appearance when fresh plucked. The larger leaves differ considerably in general proportions, but they always retain the characteristic construction which renders it easy to detect the addition of leaves from other plants.

The quality of the tea leaf before preparation depends on: (1) the locality - even the poorest product of an up-land garden is often choicer than the best of a low-lying garden; (2) soil composition - the minerals contained - for this plays an important part in determining flavor; (3) the selection of the leaves - by including some of the older leaves, the crop may be greatly increased, but the grade is correspondingly lowered; and (4) the judgement exercised in the time of plucking.

The weather exerts a great influence. When the rain falls equably and a bright sun appears after heavy showers, the plants become rich with new shoots, and the leaves bright green, elastic in texture and rich in flavor. When too much rain falls at one time, shoots and leaves become hardened and less flexible. If there is too little moisture, they are stunted and sapless.

In Ceylon, where there is no winter, the picking takes place every eight or ten days all the year round, but in China and Japan there are four principal harvest periods. The earliest buddings - pale green and very delicate - are gather in the beginning of April and are termed "first picking." In China, these, as a rule, realize high prices and are consumed chiefly by the wealthy classes in China and Russia, very little reaching other markets.

The first general gathering commences in May, and it is from this collection that we receive the finest China tea of commerce - known to the trade as "First Crop tea." Then follows a later picking, known as "Second Crop tea," and again a third and fourth, the quality gradually becoming lower in quality as the season proceeds, a large percentage of the later harvests being consumed locally and made into "Brick Tea."

All kinds of tea come from the same shrubs, the main difference between "Green" and "Black" being that Black Tea is fermented and Green is not. The number of varieties of prepared tea, both Green and Black, is due to the sorting of the leaves into the different sizes, and to local differences in making and blending.

Prior to the sorting, the freshly picked shoots undergo four main processes if Black Tea is required - withering, rolling, fermenting and firing. For Green Tea, fermentation is omitted.

The shoots for Black Tea are first spread on shelves of wire or jute-hessian to "wither," the object being to allow the sap and other moisture to evaporate until the leaf is soft and flaccid for "twisting" in the rollers. The shelves are very loosely woven, so that the air can pass through them freely. The time required for this process varies widely - sometimes twenty-four hours, occasionally much longer. If the weather is damp, artificial heat is generally employed. For Green Tea, in order to avoid fermentation, steaming for a short time is substituted for the withering process.

The withered shoots are put through rollers, which squeeze out any excess moisture remaining and give the "twist" which results in the characteristic form of the prepared leaf. The appearance of the leaf or "roll," as it is technically termed, when taken out of the roller, is a mess of mashy lumps. This is put through a roll breaker, which breaks up the lumps and sifts the detached leaves and young stems through the wire mesh into cloths placed below to receive them.

For Green Tea, the product from the roll breaker immediately undergoes "firing." For Black Tea, it is spread out in wooden frames, covered with wet cloths and allowed to ferment until the leaves attain a bright copper tint - the color which they should have in the teapot after infusion. The extent to which fermentation is permitted, is determined by the smell and appearance of the leaf - points that require experienced judgment, as too little means rawness and bitterness, and any excess destroys much or all of the flavor.

For "firing," the tea is spread thinly upon wire trays and placed in the Sirocco or Desiccator, where a current of hot air, from 190° to 240° Fahr., passes through it. It emerges thoroughly dry and brittle - the finished tea, requiring only sorting and packing to be ready for the market. About 4,200 pounds of green shoots are required to make 1,000 pounds of the prepared article.

After cooling over night, the tea goes to the Sifter, a machine with a series of sloping sieves, one above the other.

The sieves are shaken, by engine or motor power, at a very high speed, and the tea falls through from one sieve to another, each sieve retaining a different size and emptying itself into a chest through a spout at the low end.

The leaves and stems retained by the top sieve - i.e., the largest-form the "ordinary" grades of tea. Each size smaller is correspondingly choicer - excepting the last, known as "Dust," or "Dust and Siftings," or "Fannings," sold at low prices.

The second sieve retains (in Black Teas) Pekoe or Pekoe-Souchong, according to the crop or estate policy; the third, Pekoe or Orange Pekoe; and the fourth, Orange Pekoe or Broken Orange Pekoe or "Flowery Pekoe" (so-called because of its cup quality). The term "Pekoe" refers to the downy appearance of the under-sides and ends of the young leaves, and "Orange" to the color of the ends of the still newer leaves and to the "tips" or leaf-buds, which look like little chips of wood and are also commercially classed as "Golden Tips."

The Tips give the tea a good appearance and add greatly to its strength and flavor. They are sometimes separated and offered as Pure Golden Tips, selling in London for as high as fifty dollars a pound.

When the sorting is done largely by hand, as in China and Japan, the size grades are much more numerous.

Caper is a Black Tea resembling the green Gunpowder in shape.

In the Green Teas, the sorting produces the different sizes of Gunpowder, Young Hyson, etc. (see sub-head of CHINA GREEN TEAS). Uncolored green tea varies in tint from yellow to a greenish brown. The gray-green of the China and Japan teas imported prior to May 1, 1911, was due to the addition of a minute quantity of coloring powder during the firing.

The various grades - after, frequently, a supplementary picking over by hand - are day by day stored away in their separate bins, until there is enough to make what is technically known as a "break" - 5,000 pounds and upward.

The next operation is Bulking. The whole contents of the bins of one grade are thrown together and agitated by scoops or shovels until so thoroughly mixed that each pound of tea will be the same as another in flavor and appearance. Finally comes the packing in chests, cans and packages - the tea in the first two cases being shaken down to make it lie close. The numerous processes of preparation are responsible for the broken condition of most of the leaves in the product finally marketed.

Much of the Tea Dust which accumulates in manufacture and as the result of transportation and commercial handling, is of very fine quality. If protected from contamination and properly cared for in other respects, it makes good liquor. There is a strong prejudice against its use in America - partly, perhaps, because it lends itself so readily to adulteration - but in England it commands a ready sale, as, used in the correct proportions, it improves the blend, adding to its strength and pungency. In tea-growing countries it is a common practice to pulverize the leaves by rubbing in the hand, dropping the powder into the drinking-cups in which it is steeped.

The foregoing description gives a general idea of the method now employed in making India and Ceylon teas, both Black and Green, but the principles employed are those also used in the preparation of China and Japan teas, the chief difference being that in the two latter countries machinery plays a comparatively unimportant part - much of the Firing is done in pots, bowls or baskets over charcoal fires, and the Twisting by placing the leaves in bags and rolling them with the hands.

In China there is a strong contrast between the busy season and the slack time which follows it. In an interesting article, published prior to the recent introduction of modern methods, the Foochow Herald said: "A tea-packing house at this season presents a very different scene from that of two months before. Then, one found long lines of fifteen-catty boxes waiting to be soldered up. Now, none. Next, one found fat bags stacked up eight or ten feet high, bursting with tea that escaped here and there through holes temporarily stopped with bamboo leaves; the bottom of the bags mostly stained from contact with wet flights of mountain stairs upon which the exhausted coolies had set them down on the passage. Now, one finds but empty chests, hundreds in number.

"Farther on, one came to the dozen long row of sifters facing each other, forty in a row, the mesh of some taking a pencil, that of others refusing a pencil point - sifting tea-leaf rough and bold that, after a persuasive grasp or two of the hand, broke and consented, after a few shakes of the sieve, to be stripped of some of the sappy leaf-edges and leaf-ends and to appear below, the even and uniform leaf which the tea-drinker insists he must have (plus the dust due to the persuading). The transformation in a rough leaf in passing the meshes of a coarse sieve, with a gentle crush from the sifter's hands, enhances a rough bold tea very considerably in value.

"In place of the rows of men then seen tilting and jerking their sieves in a monotony only broken by the Cantonese taskmasters' roll-call twice a day before the general meal of fish and rice, there is now to be seen only the bare floor of hardened earth, piles of empty benches stacked in a corner and the sieves of the twelve different sizes used, each in its division in the three-story stands.

"The dozen or score of fanning mills are still, too. The tea-leaf separated in these fanning mills has been sold, and the mills will rest until another May shall bring courage back to the pale and dispirited native teamen.

"There are stacked in this huge go-down a few hundred packages of the native maker's brick-tea wrapped in plaited bamboo strips, bound in half bamboo and triply rattaned. Aside here, its manufacture still continues. The Chinese upper millstone is being turned upon the nether by a Chinaman who is grinding the tea seeds left by a fanning mill, and in these sycee-boxes sharp spades are falling upon the stems, chopping them fine enough to go into the stemmy, dusty mixture to which the seed-dust gives the strength, while the chopped stems vouch for its being tea.

"In the firing house are the four Chinese rice kettles, two feet across the mouth, which when in use - set obliquely upon edge - turn the tea back in a shower over the hand of the stirrer, a wood fire being kept up in the brick-work underneath.

"Fire holes also, scores in number, follow in rows the walls of the firing house, in each an iron charcoal pan. Over each of these fires is a huge hour-glass-shaped basket-hood or muffler that shuts in all the heat of each fire to but one outlet - that through the tea sieve which chokes the throat of each basket. In these baskets is dried the tea that comes in from the hills, wet or flat from constant down-pours and from the first fermentation of the leaf.

"Here, too, on the floor above, the benches are empty where girls and women came to sort the rough stems from the leaf, getting half a cent for removing them from the two catties of tea apportioned to them, in wound bamboo-woven trays.

"The floor is now bare where we then saw the Ningteh tea brought to a uniform shade, by shaking the bags with a few spoonsful of lamp black - then bulked upon the floor, to be strewn white as a spring grave with the pure muhli blossoms; then blossoms in turn buried under another avalanche of funeral tea, and this again with blossoms, life upon death - then both rudely mingled together and put away in boxes for a night till the fragrance had been robbed by the dead tea, the faded flowers being finally thrown aside, spent and worthless.

"Our round finished at the shed where, out of long sheets of lead, Chinese lads were glibly making lead cases by moulding them, hatter-like, upon a box, and then running the soldering iron along the edges. Other Chinamen, in their natal costume, were washing off the dust and sweat of the day at a huge four-hogshead vat of hot water. There, too, were piles of wood for the hot tea-coppers, crates of up-river hardwood charcoal for the firing pans and firing baskets. We must leave without the sight we then had of the mad dervish dance of two Chinese, who, given a dozen pounds of tea stems in a tray, under their sandals perform about the interior periphery a double shuffle, twist and grind that is cooler for the spectator, the thermometer in the nineties, than for the performers from whose bodies the perspiration rolls onto the tea stems below.

"The box factory is elsewhere. We enter on our homeward way. It is in another old disused tea hong - occupied by foreigners in the days when money was made - tumbled-down now and abandoned to Chinese. Inside, a few Chinese youths, eating a dollar's worth of rice per month, were rapidly gluing and dove-tailing together, by rough wholesale strokes, boxes by the score. Few nails are used, for these are hand-made and cannot be afforded. What a bungling "mending" the merchant pays for when these frail cases reach the land of rough usage and coarse nails!

"There you saw a bit of thin teakwood; there a bit of paper gaudily daubed with cardinal colors - a stroke or two - side marries end, the gaudy paper cover hides all joints, and the catty-boxes, gay with bird, butterfly, dragon and phoenix, are en route to be stared at in a far-off grocer's window.

"Every season sees vast quantities of tea pass through the sieves in hundreds of packing houses, some in hamlets in the hills, some, as in Foochow, in cities ten to fifty miles from the hills, much of it brought in by women who have carried it up and down the mountain pathways, twenty-five miles a day, regardless of their bent backs, their only food often a double handful of salt in their girdles to bite at before they drank.

"Probably all the tea leaving Foochow has been lifted up and down as much as if it had been carried up one side of the great pyramid and down the other a score of times. Boatmen at river marts have fought pitched battles for it, their livelihood depending upon its transport, and plenty of other men have been ready to fight for the privilege of carrying it - women, also, under their loads, behind their new husbands."

Consumption and Principal Varieties.

The consumption of Green Tea - twenty or thirty years ago the standard variety - has to a considerable extent given place to the taste for Black Tea.

An equally important commercial change has been the increase in favor of Ceylon and India teas at the expense of the Chinese varieties. Imports from China have been greatly reduced during the last few years, falling from 53,157,332 pounds in 1904 to 24,394,663 during 1910.

When to this loss of trade from the United States in coupled a still greater diminution in the English market, where Ceylon and India teas are most popular - for, after China and Japan, England is the world's largest per capita tea consumer - the natural assumption is that China must feel the change of conditions very severely. As a matter of fact, the Chinese merchants are the only material losers. The greater part of the China tea sold was, and is, produced by small planters who have never been able to secure an adequate price for their leaves, so when the demand for tea fell off many of them planted more beans and potatoes and were just as well contented.

Japan has succeeded China as the principal source of the Green Tea consumed in this country, and supplies about half of the total quantity of all tea imported. The third place is held by Ceylon and India teas, imported both direct and via England.

The titles most familiar to the public are Black, in all qualities and prices; English Breakfast, generally a China Congou; Mixed, blends of black and green leaves; Ceylon and India, black; Oolong, green-black leaf; Green, in "Gunpowder," "Young Hyson" and other sizes, and Japan, in general usage applied to a light Japan green tea.

The more "fancy" varieties include the Pekoe, Orange Pekoe and scented types.

"English Breakfast" tea is an American trade term unknown in England.

The titles popularly known are, however, entirely inadequate to describe or classify the many varieties of tea on the market. They leave the importer, wholesaler or retailer a wide range from which to select varieties and blends to suit his trade and environment.

Even the list following of China, Japan, Ceylon and other teas is far from being exhaustive. It includes only the most important, and most generally accepted, trade titles and distinctions. Accuracy is rendered the more difficult by the lack of system in applying and retaining titles.

The widest range in qualities is found in China teas - they vary from very choice types which are too expensive to make importation profitable, to large quantities of grades so poor and so badly manipulated that their importation into this country is not permitted.

Teas as retailed consist usually of several varieties or grades "blended" to produce the most pleasing results - a small quantity of an expensive highly fragrant tea being added to a plainer, lower grade to improve its flavor; an over-strong high grade being toned down by a lighter variety - and so on indefinitely.

CHINA GREEN TEAS.

The highest commercial types of China Green Teas are Moyune and Teenkai. Others of importance are Hoochow, Fychow and Pingsuey.

All China Green Teas are graded as Fancy, Choice, Finest, Fine, Medium or Standard - as Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. These are also sub-divided into: -

Gunpowder tea">Gunpowder, consisting of the youngest and smallest leaves, and roundish in appearance. In four grades - extra, first, second and third; the smallest and most curled, being the choicest.

IMPERIAL, like "Gunpowder," but larger. In three grades - first, second and third.

YOUNG HYSON. In five grades - extra, first, second, third and "Cargo." The best grades have long, well-twisted leaf, varying in size.

HYSON, larger than Young Hyson and more loosely twisted. In three grades - first, second and third.

The average consumer regards "Gunpowder," "Hyson," etc., as distinct qualities or varieties of green tea. Correctly speaking, they are the titles for particular sizes and shapes only - you may have a Gunpowder size of the poorest or of the choicest.

OOLONG TEAS.

Oolongs are frequently classified as Black Teas, but they really constitute a separate type, for they are not as thoroughly fermented before firing as the general run of Black Teas and therefore hold part of the flavor and a little of the color of Green Tea. There are three recognized varieties, Foochow, Formosa and Canton, but practically all of the supply imported is of the first two.

Formose Oolong, in the choice grades, has evenly curled dark leaf with a mixture of Pekoe tips. It is very aromatic in flavor.

Foochow Oolong is especially black in leaf, and the liquor of the finer qualities is rich and mellow.

Oolongs are commercially graded as Fancy, Choicest, Choice, Finest, Fine, Superior, Good, Fair and Common.

CHINA BLACK TEAS.

The bulk of the China Black Teas imported into the United States is known as Congou. There are numerous grades, the highest of excellent cup quality, and their blending results in a great many varieties of all styles and values - among them numerous qualities of English Breakfast, Black Tea and Mixed Tea. The principal commercial classifications are into Choice-New-Crop, Choicest, Choice, Finest, Fine, Superior, Good, Fair, Common; by numbers, 1, 2, 3, etc.; as Pekoe, Souchong, etc. The leaf of the better qualities is greyish black and well twisted and the liquor is rich in color and pungently pleasant in flavor.

Prominent among the fancy teas are:

Flowery Pekoe: small evenly-folded, olive-colored, generally scented.

Orange Pekoe: small, black leaf with yellowish ends, generally scented.

Pekoe: small, with whitish tips, generally scented.

Pouchong (also used as a general term for all China paper package tea): rather rough, dull black leaf, generally scented.

SCENTED TEAS.

The Scented Black Teas come almost exclusively from China and Formosa. They are generally perfumed - in most cases after manufacture - by contact with the flowers of other plants, usually with the Chulan blossom, which has an odor similar to jasmine.

The two leading varieties are Foochow and Canton, sub-divided into Scented Caper, Scented Flowery Pekoe, Scented Pekoe, Scented Pouchong, etc.

Scented teas are chiefly used for blending - sometimes with high grade leaf to further enhance its value and sometimes with cheaper kinds to disguise their harshness. The best blends are frequently listed by the titles of the Scented Teas employed.

JAPAN TEAS.

The best varieties of Japan tea show a medium-sized or small leaf and a bright, clear, fragrant liquor - the latter in the Green Teas generally of a lighter color than the China Green.

On importation they are graded as:

Pan Fired: medium size, generally green, evenly curled.

Basket Fire: long, dark, well twisted.

Dust or Fannings.

"Nibs" is irregularly twisted, larger leaf, sifted from the higher grades.

For commercial purposes, Japan teas are graded as Extra Choicest, Choicest, Choice, Fine, Good, Medium and Common. They are marketed both as "Japan Teas" No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, etc., and by conventional titles for size and style.

CEYLON TEAS.

The ordinary grades of Ceylon Tea are largely marketed in this country as "Ceylon Tea" of First quality, Second quality, etc.

A fuller division is into the following principal varieties, each subject to sub-division into several grades:

Broken Orange Pekoe, or "Flowery Pekoe," the very finest variety: small young leaves and a large proportion of Golden Tips.

This grade is not generally marketed here because the U. S. Laws prohibit the entry of any tea containing more than a certain percentage of Broken Leaf that will pass through a certain designated sieve. As Broken Orange Pekoe is always small in leaf and contains a considerable proportion of still smaller tea, it must be very carefully screened if it is to pass the test, and the loss and difficulty thus involved prevent all but the very largest importers from attempting it. The intent of the act when passed was to guard the public against inferior and unclean grades, but it has also resulted in keeping out some very choice types.

Orange Pekoe: similar to Broken Orange Pekoe, but the leaves larger and with a smaller proportion of Tips. The liquor is clear and fragrant.

Pekoe: leaf slender, whitish and satiny; liquor, dark-reddish, bright and fragrant.

Pekoe-Souchong and Souchong - constituting the bulk of the Ceylon teas of general consumption, blended frequently with Pekoe: leaf larger and coarser than the preceding varieties, but giving a rich and pleasant liquor.

It is the black varieties which have won popularity for Ceylon teas, but some Green Ceylon is also prepared under titles corresponding to those of China Green.

Ceylon teas are further divided by shippers into "low" and "high" grown - those from low ground and those from higher altitudes. The latter are much superior.

INDIA TEAS.

The greater part of the India product is of Black Tea, the best qualities coming generally from the districts of Darjeeling and Assam. The leaf is ordinarily a grey-black and is in the best grades Golden-Tipped. The liquor is strong and pungent.

The chief commercial classifications are Broken Orange Pekoe or Flowery Orange Pekoe, Orange Pekoe, Broken Pekoe, Pekoe, Pekoe-Souchong, Souchong, etc., or "India tea" of First quality, Second quality, etc.

The general style and appearance of China teas are followed, but there is a difference in detail - the leaf is generally longer and narrower and better curled and cured.

JAVA TEAS.

A small quantity of Java teas is annually imported, both direct and via Holland. They are primarily known under local classifications, but they are prepared as Pekoes, Souchongs, Oolongs, etc. In liquor they have good strength, flavor and color.

THE INDUSTRY IN THE UNITED STATES.

Attempts covering nearly a century to create a tea-growing industry in this country have not met with any degree of commercial success. Some of the tea obtained has been excellent in quality, but none has been able to compete with the Asiatic crop.

TEA TERMS.

It will be noted that the titles originally applied exclusively to the China product have extended to nearly all teas, irrespective of their place of growth or manufacture. A majority are corruptions of local Chinese terms, as for example:-

"Oolong," from ou-loung, "black dragon," referring to the black leaves mixed with the greenish-yellow.

"Hyson," from hetsien, "spring time," the season of the first and second pickings.

"Young Hyson," from yü-tsien, "before the rains," or "young spring time."

"Pekoe," from pak-ho, "white hair" - referring to the down on the young leaves.

"Souchong," from siaou-chung, "small sprouts."

"Congou," from kung-fu, "labor."

"Gunpowder" tea is an Anglo-Saxon name, originally suggested by its small round form. It is called choo-cha, or "Pearl tea," by the Chinese.

Retailing Tea.

The demand for tea has so greatly increased during the last few years that retailers find it profitable to give it special attention. Only good dependable varieties should be stocked, and when a satisfactory line is established and selling well, it is usually the wisest policy to avoid making any changes, as the average tea-drinker becomes used to one particular flavor and prefers it to anything new.

In purchasing, the first and most important test is that of flavor when brewed. Next comes the appearance of the leaf in bulk and individually. Generally speaking, the best qualities are small and more or less tightly curled - with variations as noted in the descriptions of different types. Young tea is easily chewed to a pulp, and fresh Black Tea is smooth and elastic when pressed in the fingers.

For the flavor test, the requirements are a scale of the style ordinarily used by druggists (cost about $5) and a dozen small china cups of equal size. The old rule for sampling was to weigh the equivalent of a silver 5-cent piece into each cup, pour boiling water over and taste when sufficiently cool. As the silver 5-cent piece has gone out of use, the easiest method for the average person is to weigh the equivalent of a dime and put half of the quantity into the testing cup. It would be useless to attempt to impart any detailed rules by which to discriminate, as only experience and constant application - with a fine palate as an initial qualification - can produce a really proficient tea-taster.

Success in catering to consumers requires a knowledge of individual tastes - there is a tea to suit everyone, if you know what each one's preference is. As a general thing, one can count on a good sale of Oolongs, Mixed and English Breakfast, when the neighborhood has no particular race characteristics. Ceylon and India and Oolongs are most popular where English and Irish people are especially numerous.

Blending, Storage, Etc.

The highest branch of the tea-merchant's calling is found in the blending of teas - the mixing of different styles and strength to produce special results - but for the retailer without good experience to attempt it, is rather risky. To produce an especially pleasing blend is not an easy matter, and to repeat it is still more difficult - and it is very undesirable to establish a demand for a particular flavor if you are unable to continue supplying it. The art is fascinating - and profitable if successfully conducted - but first experiments should be on a very small and conscientiously recorded scale, and they should be accompanied by a close study of the literature of the business, for there are many points - the comparative keeping qualities of different varieties, for example - in addition to flavor and aroma, which must be very carefully considered.

Tea, whether in bulk or package, should always be kept in a moderately cool, dry place, away from all other articles of distinctive smell. Not only cheese and similar strong smelling articles, but even the aroma of oranges, lemons, etc., will affect it. Dampness will spoil it utterly by starting secondary fermentation, and exposure to the air, if in bulk, will cause it to lose flavor, strength and aroma.

Tea naturally keeps fresh best in tight-fitting canisters and in sealed tin or lead packages, but it deteriorates with age no matter how packed. A retailer who is jealous of his reputation should sell no tea of any kind - package or otherwise - that is more than six to nine months old.

Tea Analysis and Its Use as a Beverage.

The most important components of the tea-leaf of commerce are (1) Theine, the chief stimulating principle, usually placed by analysis at from 2% to 3 1/2%; (2) the oil and resinous ingredients, which furnish the flavor and aroma of the liquid, and (3) the tannin and gummy substances, which give it "body" and strength. There is, in addition, a small quantity of essential oil, which slightly increases the stimulating properties.

Chemical analysis shows also a large percentage - 40% to 60% - of portein, cellulose, fibre, etc. - but nearly all of this is found in the residue, the "tea-leaves," left after making the liquid. The greater part of the tannin, which averages from 12% to 18%, meets the same fate if the tea is fresh made.

To enjoy the best qualities of any variety - and also the best physiological effect - tea drinkers should bear in mind that, (1) the water used must be both fresh and boiling; (2) the pot in which the infusion is made must be kept hot, but not boiling, for from three to five minutes after pouring in; and (3) the tea must not stand longer than three to five minutes before drinking.

If the water used is not fresh - i. e., if it has been standing long or been previously boiled - the tea will be flat in flavor. If it is not actually boiling at the time of pouring on the leaves, the result will be a rough, raw taste. A china or earthen pot is better than a metal one. A pot warmed before putting in the dry leaves, is better than a cold one.

The fresh-brewed liquid (after a three to five minutes infusion) contains nearly the total amount of the theine (which corresponds to the caffeine in coffee) and only enough tannin, etc., to give it palatable strength. If it is allowed to stand on the leaves longer than five minutes, its flavor will be injured by the excess of tannin developed; if longer than seven minutes, the tannin will not only detract from the flavor, but also tend to render the beverage a detriment to digestion. The brewed tea can, however, be saved for later use, either hot or cold, if poured off the leaves into a china or earthen vessel.

The quantity of leaves required to make good tea depends both on individual tastes and on different varieties. India and Ceylon are generally stronger than China and Japan.

The result is also frequently affected by the water supply - the water in some localities makes much better tea than is possible in others. Some authorities assert that the quality of the water should be considered as a factor when making a blend - that water containing an excessive amount of lime or other mineral matter, requires the stronger, coarser varieties of leaf, and that the delicate types produce their fine flavor and aroma only when the water is "soft." This is disputed by other experts, who assert that the "best tea" is the best everywhere, though it will display its qualities to better advantage under favorable conditions.

To make good

Iced Tea use from one-quarter to one-third more of the leaf than for tea to be served hot. Prepare the beverage just as carefully, and do not allow it to stand on the leaves for longer than five to seven minutes. Pour the liquid off into another vessel and allow it to cool gradually. It should always be made two or three hours before serving, to give it time to cool gradually. To chill hot tea by setting in the refrigerator or putting ice in it, is to spoil its flavor. When ready to serve, add ice, lemon, sugar, etc., according to taste.


Arround Tea in The Grocer's Encyclopedia


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