Tea and infusion

Tea is the common name of a plant called Camellia sinensis, of Chinese origin. It is also the name of the drink that is obtained from the infusion of said plant in hot water.

Tea is characterized by its particular way of preparation, which includes utensils such as an infuser and a teapot. It is also the name of the social event that has been created from this drink, popularly known as tea time.

Infusion is a drink obtained from hot water and parts of dehydrated plants, flowers or fruits. For centuries, infusions were used as a medicinal resource, but now they are valued more because they represent a healthy and natural alternative in contrast to beverages or products of industrial origin.

Due to its preparation, tea is a type of infusion; However, not all infusions are tea, because to have this name they must be made with Camellia sinensis leaves .

DefinitionPlant whose scientific name is Camellia sinensis , and from which a drink also called tea is obtained.Obtaining a drink from the dissolution of the soluble parts of herbs, flowers or fruits in hot water.
  • White
  • Yellow
  • Verde
  • Oolong
  • Pu-erh
  • Negro
  • Herbal
  • Floral
  • Fruit trees
  • Contains antioxidants.
  • It has caffeine in concentrations lower than coffee.
  • Stimulates concentration.
  • It acts as a digestive.
  • It has purifying properties.
They depend on the properties of the natural compound with which they are made. They can be digestive, relaxing, purifying, etc.
Marketing method
  • Loose or compacted strands.
  • Sachets
  • Industrially produced bottled beverages.
  • Dehydrated and stored compounds in small presentations.
  • Bottled drinks of artisanal or industrial production.
  • English Breakfast (black tea blend from India and Sri Lanka)
  • Matcha (powdered green tea)
  • Silver Needles (té blanco)
  • Café
  • Chamomile infusion
  • Jamaica flower infusion
  • Rooibos

What is tea?

Tea is a plant whose scientific name is Camellia sinensis and with which a drink is made that is also called tea It has three autochthonous subspecies:

  • Camellia sinensis, variedad sinensis (China)
  • Camellia sinensis , variety asamica (India)
  • Camellia sinensis , variety cambodii (Cambodia)

In the latter case there is some controversy about its taxonomic position, since some specialists do not consider it a variety.

The Camellia sinensis is an evergreen shrub that can reach up to 9 meters high, however, in crops for the production of tea, he prunes so that does not exceed 2 meters. It is grown in tropical and subtropical regions, with China and India being the most important producing countries along with Japan, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Indonesia, Vietnam and Argentina.

Although the word tea is usually attributed to refer to any drink prepared with parts of plants and hot water, in reality only what is prepared with Camellia sinensis leaves can be called this way. Any other drink obtained from hot water and plants or flowers other than Camellia sinensis , should be called an infusion. In the case of drinks made with fruits, they are called herbal teas, although the name infusion is also correct in this case.

Origin of tea

Until now, scientific records place the oldest Camellia sinensis cultures in China, hence it is taken for granted that the tea tree has Asian origin.

One of the most widespread legends about the discovery of tea is attributed to Shen-Nung or Shenoong, one of the “Three Augustus and Five Emperors”, the founding mythological figures of Chinese civilization and who transmitted the essential knowledge about agriculture, medicine and social, political and economic institutions to the Chinese people 5,000 years ago.

According to the accounts, Sheng Nung boiled water under the shade of a tea plant and some leaves fell into the water, so the emperor decided to try the drink. Upon discovering its comforting properties, he decided to share his discovery, and that is how tea became known among the Chinese population.

For centuries, tea was considered not only a drink, but an essential medicine in Chinese culture and a luxury product that only the emperors and their close environment had access to.

Tea in history

With the commercial exchanges between Asia and Europe in the 16th century, tea reached the old continent. Portugal had a business line in Macao (China), which was then a Portuguese colony. When King Charles II of England married the Portuguese Infanta Catalina de Braganza in 1662, she brought strands of tea and Chinese porcelain as part of her dowry, and she was the one in charge of establishing the tea ceremony among royalty.

It was in the 19th century that Anna Maria Russell, 7th Duchess of Bedford, established the code of conduct and ritual of English tea as a social event. Little by little, what began as an activity typical of the upper classes would become a daily ritual in English culture.

From there, the custom of drinking tea and accompanying it with small salty and sweet portions spread, which in turn would have an impact on the world of pastry and confectionery that has lasted until the present. Today, many desserts are thought of in size, shape, and sensory harmonies, to be paired with tea.

The relevance of tea as a product of high economic value was such that it was the center of two historical conflicts: the so-called “tea riot” or Boston Tea Party and the Opium Wars.

See also Pastry and confectionery

El Boston Tea Party

The tea riot originated as a consequence of the tributes that the British Empire imposed on its colonies, measures that were rejected with a series of protests that reached its climax when in December 1773 a group of settlers in Boston stormed the ships. Britons waiting to disembark the tea shipments, throwing all the merchandise into the sea. This was one of the demonstrations that started the US war of independence.

The Opium Wars

For their part, the Opium Wars occurred from 1839 to 1842 and from 1856 to 1860 between the Chinese and the British, when the latter introduced the opium business in China as a form of payment for luxury products produced in the Asian country, among which was the tea. China lost both wars, the British Empire annexed Hong Kong and Portugal expanded its position of advantage in Macao, which had been its colony since the 16th century.

Types of tea

According to the manufacturing methods used, 6 types of tea can be obtained from Camellia sinensis .

  • White tea : produced mostly in China. The most famous is Silver Needles, characterized by the presence of tender silver-colored buds.
  • Yellow tea : it is of Chinese origin and is not common in the market due to its high price. During several dynasties it could only be drunk by emperors.
  • Green tea : along with black tea, it is the best known type of tea. China and Japan are the main producers. Dragonwell is one of the most common on the market and of the best quality. When green tea is powdered, it is called matcha.
  • Oolong : its manufacturing process places it between a green tea and a black tea. The most popular oolong on the market are made in Taiwan.
  • Pu-erh : This is the only name for teas that are produced in the region of the same name, located in the Yunnan region of China. It is the only type of tea that goes through a fermentation process to activate the production of certain bacteria that give it characteristic notes.
  • Black tea : India, Sri Lanka and Kenya are the most popular producers. The best known are the Darjeeling and the English Breakfast .

The differences between one type of tea or another basically depend on the production process to which the strands are subjected, which means that any of the 6 types of tea can be obtained from the same plant.

Purple tea or purple tea

In recent years, the existence of a new type of tea, called purple tea , or purple tea , has been mentioned . However, it is not a new category, but rather a genetic characteristic of certain Camellia sinensis plants located in Kenya (Africa) and Yunnan (China) that have a high concentration of anthocyanins, an antioxidant present in other violet-colored foods. , such as aubergines and blackberries.

In the case of Kenya, it is a variety achieved in the laboratories of the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya called TRFK 306 and created in the late 90s, as a way to add value to its production. Whereas Yunnan crops belong to plants that have developed this characteristic without human intervention.

In Kenya, purple tea is used to obtain green tea, while in Yunnan pu-erh is produced, albeit by hand and in limited quantities. In both cases, the drink turns purple if you add a few drops of lemon. Hence, it is often confused with a drink called butterfly pea , a blue infusion obtained from Clitorea ternatea , which can turn purple when lemon is added.

Ways of marketing tea

The tea can be marketed in loose strands, sachets, discs or compacted blocks of strands. It can also be sold in its pure version (only tea strands) or the so-called blends or blends, which can contain several types of pure tea (such as English Breakfast, which has two types of black tea) or blends of tea with parts of other Dried plants, flowers or fruits that will give you new sensory characteristics, such as green tea with jasmine flowers.

Regarding its preparation, tea can be prepared as a hot or cold drink, as well as in cocktails with and without alcohol. In contemporary gastronomy, tea has been used to create bases, syrups or desserts.

Health benefits of tea

Although it is true that the benefits of tea vary according to the type and quality of the leaves, in general terms it is possible to speak of characteristics of the plant that can have a positive impact on health.

  • Tea is rich in antioxidants , which are compounds that help combat the action of free radicals, responsible for the oxidation of cells and therefore, the aging processes.
  • Camellia sinensis leaves , especially green tea leaves, are rich in L-theanine , an amino acid that stimulates concentration and helps improve the nervous system’s response to stress.
  • Tea also contains caffeine (erroneously called theine), but in lower concentrations than coffee and its stimulating action in the body is progressive and prolonged, while in coffee it is fast and short-lived.

What is an infusion?

An infusion is a drink that is prepared from hot water and leaves, barks or parts of herbs, flowers or fruits. The effect of hot water stimulates the dissolution of the soluble parts of the natural compound to be used, hence, for centuries this technique has been used to take advantage of its aroma, flavor or properties.

In this sense, it can be said that tea is a type of infusion. However, not all infusions are tea, since to be so they must be obtained from the leaves of Camellia sinensis , or tea tree.

Origin of infusions

The oldest infusion on record is tea, the consumption of which seems to have started about five thousand years ago. However, the use of other plants (especially for medicinal purposes) has been established in manuscripts and historical records from different times and cultures. In ancient Egypt, the infusion of the leaves of the tamarisk ( Tamarix nilotica ) was used for cleansing purposes, while in the Middle Ages, drinks made from plants or flowers were highly valued to combat health conditions.

The advancement of medicine in the last two centuries caused infusions to fall into disuse for this purpose. Paradoxically, the search for well-being and a growing interest in healthy eating have brought back many herbal teas as natural substitutes for industrialized beverages.

The infusions are generally made with dry, roasted or dehydrated compounds, which allows their marketing and storage for long periods of time. The most common example are the presentations of dehydrated plants ready to add to hot water, or presentations in small bags, similar to those of tea.

Types of infusions

Infusions can be classified according to the type of ingredients with which they are made.

Herbal teas

They are obtained from plants or herbs and are generally used medicinally. The most popular are the infusions of chamomile (valued for its antibacterial and sedative properties), peppermint (digestive and refreshing) and anise (digestive).

In recent years, the consumption of infusion of rooibos ( Aspalathus linearis ), a South African bush that is prepared in a similar way to tea, but does not contain caffeine, has become popular , so its consumption is appropriate for those who cannot consume this component.

Floral infusions

They are the drinks that are made from flowers or parts of flowers. One of the most popular is the infusion of Jamaica flower, or hibiscus, the infusion of jasmine flower, valued for its intense aroma, but not to be confused with jasmine tea, which is a mixture of green tea with said flower . With the flower of Cliteria ternatea an infusion called Butterfly pea is obtained that changes color when lemon is added.

Fruit infusions

Fruit infusions are obtained after subjecting parts of fruits, generally dehydrated, to the action of hot water. In many countries they are also called herbal teas.

Fruit infusions or herbal teas are very very appropriate in the summer months, since although they are prepared with hot water, letting it cool or adding ice produces a natural and refreshing drink.

Benefits of infusions

The benefits of the infusions will depend on the properties of the plant, flower or fruit that is used, as well as other natural or non-natural components that can be added to the final result (honey, lemon, other infusions). So it is not possible to speak of specific benefits.

In any case, the quality of the natural compounds used as well as the water will influence the final result. The most advisable thing in the case of infusions made for medicinal purposes is to consult a doctor to confirm that the infusion can actually help with discomfort or ultimately be harmless. Some plants can have adverse effects if they are mixed with medicines or they can generate allergic reactions, hence it is vital to notify the specialist.

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