Tea is the most popular beverage besides water. Tea, or Camellia sinensis, is a part of the Theaceae family. Camellia is native to Tibet, China, India, and Myanmar. One origin story is that it was discovered by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2737 B.C.E when a tea leaf accidentally fell into boiling water. It is also believed that in 519 B.C.E., a Buddhist priest vowed to stay awake for seven years and contemplate Buddha. After five years of struggling to stay awake, he picked and chewed leaves from a bush.
In Japan, the Buddhist priest Eisei introduced tea. It was very popular and actually became an art form, such as the Japanese Tea Ceremony known as Cha-no-yu. Certain architecture is made for tea houses and geishas present tea for ceremonies. The Japanese Tea Ceremony represents that universal truths lie in simple tasks. During the ceremony, green tea is poured, whipped until frothy, and served from bowls. It occurs in special rooms or teahouses and the ceremony has stayed the same for centuries.
In Northern Europe, Arabs arrived in 1610 with tea. In 1650 it reached England and quickly became the national beverage. It even led to the Opium Wars with China. England smuggled their own plants to India to start their own plantations. It was introduced to the United States in 1650, but only the wealthy could afford it. Tea was served warm until iced tea became popular in the late 1800s. The tea bag was actually invented in 1904.
Tea plants are kept between one and five feet with flat tops.
The top two leaves of the plant are harvested every seven to fourteen days. Unfortunately, the work is incredibly strenuous and most workers live in extreme poverty. The final product’s appearance and flavor are affected by the variety, size and part of the leaf, along with the region it is produced and how it is processed. Essential oils and tannins affect the flavor and sometimes other plants are added to modify the taste. All tea production begins with fresh leaves, which are cleaned and sorted.
To make white tea, the leaves are simply withered and dried. The leaves are also made from young buds and are shielded from light. Green tea usually withers the leaves before panfrying, steaming or firing them. Then, either jasmine is added when they dry or the leaves are rolled and shaped. Oolong tea is made from withering the leaves, then shaking or rolling the leaves in baskets to bruise their edges. Then, the leaves undergo a short fermentation before being panfried and dried. Black tea is made from withering the leaves before rolling or cutting the leaves. Congfu black tea is rolled into strips and broken black tea is cut. Then the leaves undergo full fermentation before firing.
Chemical matter in tea leaves can be divided into water, which is the majority of the leaf, and dry matter, which usually constitutes 22-25% of the leaf. Of all the substances, only 30-50% are extractive and can pass into the tea infusions. There is more extractive substance in green teas or teas with young eaves rather than fermented and old teas. The main substances in teas are water, proteins and amino-acids, tea polyphenols, carbohydrates, organic acids, lipids, pigments, essential oils, vitamins, ferments, and inorganic compounds (Administrator).
Many plants were used to make medicines by making infusions or teas with them. Herbal or fruit teas are infusions from various plants and are typically caffeine-free. Some examples are chamomile, rose-hip, hibiscus or citrus. Ayurvedic teas are traditional Hindu herbal teas. Rooibos is an herbal tea from Aspalathus linearis, a South African plant. Yerba mate is widely drunk in Paraguay and Argentina. It is made from Ilex paraguariensis, a species of holly which contains caffeine.
Coffee is native to Ethiopia and is made from the coffee plant, Coffea arabica, which is in the Rubiaceae family. The plant grows as a woody shrub and even produces cherries. According to a legend, a man name Goatherd found his goats especially energetic after eating something. He later discovered what plant they ate and tried some himself; he really enjoyed the stimulating effect. The fruit on the coffee plant is called a cherry, but it actually a berry. There are two seeds within the fruit and these seeds are commonly referred to as beans.
Roasting the beans changes the flavor by releasing essential oils and by caramelizing the sugars. One plant yields 5.5-6.5 pounds of berries a year, which is not many, in my opinion. Initially, berries were eaten whole before being crushed and mixed with fat. Seeds, or “beans”, were not roasted until the thirteenth center in Yemen. By 1500, coffee was widely cultivated and rapidly sprat through the Arabian world. When it comes to coffee’s biochemistry, “key compounds in the coffee beverage… are volatile constituents responsible for the unique aroma, the alkaloids caffeine and trigonelline, chlorogenic acids, the diterpenes cafestol and kahweol, and melanoidins” (Ludwig, Clifford, Lean, Ashihara, Crozier, 2014).
Coffeehouses were created to facilitate the habit of drinking coffee and to provide a social atmosphere. Coffeehouses were centers for commerce, art, intellectual discussions, and political debate. The first coffeehouses in North America were in Boston in 1669. Merchants and businessmen met here rather than intellectuals. In the 1960s, coffeehouses really became a focal points for folk music and political thought.
Initially coffee was grown in North Africa and the Middle East. The Dutch brought coffee to Northeast Asia and they brought coffee to the New World along with the Portuguese. Coffee plantations use 44 percent of cropland in Latin America and is one of the most widely traded commodities today. There is sun coffee and shade coffee, which refer to the land and climate where the coffee is produced. Shade is the traditional method where coffee grows in a bird habitat with high biodiversity and many pollinators. Plants are also more protected from frost and weeds. Sun coffee has higher, quicker yields. However, it has little biodiversity and only 3% of the bird population that shade coffee has. There are more pesticides and fertilizers with this method and there is more soil resin and run-off.
Coffee trade is worth ten billion dollars per year, yet many farmers earn less for their product than it costs to produce it. Fair Trade started in Europe in the 1960s to protect farmers. Fair-trade Labeling Organization sets standards. TransFair USA oversees and certifies coffee in the USA and Canada. They also oversee and certify tea, cocoa, rice, sugar, vanilla, bananas, pineapples and mangos.
Although tea and coffee is loved by many people and has facilitated insightful conversation and connection between people, it has had some detrimental impacts in society. In the 1700s, Haiti was providing sixty percent of all Europe’s coffee and was a really wealthy nation. Sons of French nobility and creative investors built sugar and coffee plantations in Haiti and doubled their money every ten years and by the 1706s they began to double every three to four years. Actually, a French shipbuilding industry emerged because vessels were needed to carry slaves to perform the labor. To keep up with this, Haiti was importing forty thousand slaves a year by the 1780s.
The demand was so high that slaves weren’t only coming from Africa, but Jamaica and Luisiana, as well. Most slaves were dead by forty and died in horrendous ways, such as being filled with gunpowder and lit. On August 22, 1971, six thousand escaped slaves whole lived in forests, called Maroons, rebelled in Le Cap. Haiti. In just days, 100,000 slaves rebelled and destroyed 300 plantations. In the next twelve years, former slaves continued to fight, but many were also slaughtered. Nobody was there to help Haiti or recognize them as independent, especially not the catholic church. Unfortunately, this was not the end of slavery or Haiti’s demise and many negative events followed (NCR Editorial Staff, 2010).
By 1800, tea was the most popular drink in Britain, but all of the tea came from China and Britain could not change the price. About fifty years later, businessmen from Britain went to India to try to find tea they could control. Also, a man named Robert Fortune was sent to sneak tea and secrets from China. He managed to get seeds from China to India and India surpassed China as the world’s largest tea grower. It took over one hundred years for China to be decent tea producers again (Rose, 2010).
Tea also caused tension between America and Britain, which led to the Boston Tea Part. On December 16, 1773, American patriots dumped 342 chests of tea from Britain’s East India Company into the Boston Harbor. Americans were upset that the East India Company had a monopoly and that they were taxing without representation. This allowed the company to undersell anyone. Certain cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston canceled their orders and merchants refused goods. However, Boston still accepted the large shipment of tea and that os where a group of about sixty men dumped the tea. Parliament then passed the Intolerable Acts, which shut down trade until they were repaid. This measure only united British colonies and allowed strides towards war (Britannica, 2018).