We’ve created this guide to loose leaf tea to provide a brief history of tea, along with tips on the buying and preparation of quality loose leaf tea. So, let’s start with the very basic of questions…
What is Loose Leaf Tea?
Tea is, without a doubt, among the world’s most popular (and oldest) beverages. According to one very popular legend, tea was first discovered by the Shen Nong, a legendary emperor from China. He was boiling water in a kettle when the wind blew and transported some tea leaves into the kettle. After tasting the accidentally prepared brew, Shen Nong realized the potential benefits of the beverage and recorded it as a tonic. Black tea, white tea, pu’er, green tea and oolong, all originate from Camellia Sinensis, a plant native to China. The reason these teas all have different tastes is because of the way they are grown, as well as the location and how they are processed. Interestingly, the main reason why tea originally gained popularity was because of its caffeine content. You may have read some of the historical accounts of the Buddhist monks drinking cupfuls to keep themselves up when performing long meditations. Tea is appreciated all over the world because of the range of tastes and textures people enjoy, despite the different teas all coming from the same plant. The taste and texture of any type of tea is a reflection of the land on which it was grown and the craft of the tea maker. For example, I recently enjoyed a GongFu tea session with my wife and 3 young children, and one of the greatest joys was looking at a map of Taiwan and learning more about where the tea was grown. In this way, drinking tea can be a considered to be a ritual through which you can connect to the land, and savor the tastes and aroma.
Rich History of Loose Leaf Tea
The history of tea offers great insight into the history of the world. Since tea was first discovered in China, it has traveled the world, conquering the thirsts of virtually every country. Tea is the most popular beverage in the world as well as one of the healthiest. Tea has captured the hearts and minds of virtually every person in every corner of the world. According to legend, tea was discovered by the ancient Emperor of China in 2737 BC. He inscribed it in his medical journal as an herbal medicine and it was used as such for centuries. Because of its popularity and soothing qualities, the monks and priests turned it into a religious offering. It was because of this that tea became a beverage only for the rich and religious royalty. It was centuries later that tea production increased and the lower class and common folks were able to enjoy drinking this much revered beverage. This led to the setting up of tea shops and planting more tea plants to meet the increasing demands of the people. It was during this time that tea was brought to Japan by the priests. There as well, tea was limited only to the rich and priests. The Emperor of Japan loved tea so much that he started a trade with China to import tea seeds from China so they may be grown in Japan as well. It was during the 17th century that tea finally arrived in England during the reign of King Charles II. He married a Portuguese princess who made tea for her King and soon, tea became the drink of royalty in England as well. This prompted Britain to import tea via the East India Company. Even though tea is imported in large quantities, the high taxes prevented the common and the poor to enjoy a cup of tea. In order to make more profit, the East India Company started importing tea to America. There as well, the tea was taxed heavily, something that contributed to the famous Boston Tea Party.
Why Loose Leaf Tea Is So Great
When buying loose leaf tea, it comes with all essential nutrients intact. In comparison, the leaves that go into teabags are mere fragments of the tea leaves that have been left over during the picking and processing (often referred to as “dust