Both tea and coffee are considered to be stimulating beverages because they both contain caffeine. Tea is made from the plant called camellia sinensis which is in the family Theaceae. Theaceae is the family of flowering plants that contains both trees and shrubs. Camellia sinensis is a type of evergreen shrub in which both its leaf buds and leaves are used to create tea. People may know this species as the tea shrub or the tea tree. This short shrub has a very strong root system, and its flowers are a fairly light shade of both of the colors, white and yellow.
When harvesting the tea plants, they are kept shrubby from one to five feet along with a flat top. The terminal bud and the top two leaves are harvested by hand every seven to fourteen days. Once the tea leaves are freshly plucked, they are then withered, rolled, oxidized, and then dried to finish. Oolong tea is partially oxidized, black teas are fully oxidized, green teas are not withered or oxidized, and white teas are the youngest buds that are shielded from light so they are not oxidized.
Harvesting these tea shrubs is very strenuous work, so most of the harvesters live in extreme poverty.
This plant’s variety in size, age, part of the leaf, region, and processing all affect the final flavor and appearance of the tea. Essential oils and tannins affect the tea’s flavor, and additions of other plants modify the tea’s taste. Many tea plants were used as medicine by making infusions or teas with them like willow bark tea.
Herbal or fruit teas are infusions from various plants that are typically caffeine free like chamomile, rosehip, hibiscus, and citrus. Ayuvedic teas are traditional Hindu herbal teas, rooiobos also known as red bush is an herbal tea from a South African plant called aspalathus linearis, and lastly, yerba mate is made from a species of holly called llex paraguariensis which contains caffeine.
Coffee is made from the plant called coffea Arabica which is in the family Rubiaceae. Rubiaceae is the family of flowering plants that contains herbs, terrestrial trees, and herbs. Coffea Arabica is said to be the first cultivated of coffee. People may know this species as the coffee shrub. This tree can grow to be very tall with very wide, dark green leaves and white flowers on it. One plant can yield 5.5-5.6 pounds of berries per year. The fruit that grows off of these trees are berries but they are called cherries. There are two seeds per fruit, or beans as we might call them, and only five to ten percent contain a single seed which is called a pea berry.
Initially, these berries were eaten as a whole, but later on they were crushed and mixed with fat before eating them. In the thirteenth century in Yemen, roasting seeds or “beans” began. Roasting the beans changes the flavor by releasing essential oils and caramelizing sugars. Coffee plants produced in the shade is the traditional method, has a high biodiversity, has more pollinators, less yields, and the plants are protected from frost and weeds. Coffee plants produced in the sun have higher, faster yields, reduced biodiversity, more pesticides and fertilizers, increases soil erosion and run-off, and is heading towards environmental degradation.
The flowering plant, camellia sinensis, is native to Tibet, China, India, and Myanmar. In 2737 B.C.E., camellia sinensis was said to be first discovered by Emperor Shen Nung when one of the tree’s leaves outside had accidently gotten blown into the pot of water that he was boiling. This created an aroma that he enjoyed, so he decided to taste it which made him feel good inside of his body. In 519 C.E., it was said that a Buddhist priest vowed to spend seven years without sleep in contemplation of Buddha, and after five years he had difficulty staying awake, so he grabbed the leaves to chew off of a bush that was nearby.
A Buddhist priest, Eisei, brought Ocha tea which is green tea to Japan, and then it became very popular. Ocha tea then elevated to art form which is called Chanoyu, and this word literally means “hot water for tea”. This is now more commonly referred to as the Japanese Tea Ceremony, and it is basically a combination of several different Japanese art forms such as a special style of architecture for tea houses, and the presentation of the tea ceremony by Geishas. The Japanese Tea Ceremony is a symbol of the Zen Buddhist concept that universal truths lie in simple tasks. These ceremonies have not been changed for centuries, and are held either in special rooms or teahouses. During the ceremony, the green tea is poured, then whipped to a frothy consistency, and lastly served from bowls.
Arabians acquired tea in ca. 850, and arrived in Northern Europe in 1610. The Arabians then reached England in the 1650’s, and then tea quickly became the national beverage for the British. The Chinese would not buy tea from Britain, and would only trade their products for silver in return. So, then this led to the British losing massive amounts of their silver. As a result of this, the Opium Wars had begun with China. By the 18th century, Britain could not afford the silver that China ordered if they wanted to continue to trade with them (Chatterjee 2018). This led the British to grow opium in India, and then smuggle it into China in exchange for their tea (Chatterjee 2018). Tea in the United States first appeared in the year 1650, and it was extremely expensive, so only the wealthy could afford it at first. In December of 1773, the Boston Tea Party took place, and this was a very significant event in American history because it led to the Revolutionary war which led to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Iced tea started in the United States in the late 1800’s, and then the tea bag was invented in 1904 by a New York importer.
The flowering plant, coffea Arabica, is native to Ethiopia. These coffee plants are initially grown in North Africa and the Middle East. The Dutch and Portuguese brought coffee to the New World, so coffee plantations use 44% of cropland in Latin America. These are one of the most widely trade commodities today. The legend of coffea arabica’s discovery was that an Ethiopian herder named Goatherd noticed that his goats were dancing and prancing which was unusual for them to do. Goatherd then discovered that his goats had eaten some leaves and some red berries off an unknown tree. So, then he tried some of them himself which made him enjoy its stimulating effect. By the 1500’s, coffee was widely cultivated and spread rapidly throughout the Arabian world.
Coffeehouses were established to accommodate spreading habit and social aspects, but were controversial because both religious and political leaders were against them. Coffeehouses are centers for commerce, arts, intellectual discussions, and political debates. These English coffeehouses were called penny universities because both coffee and admission were only the price of a penny. Muslims introduced coffeehouses to Europe via Italy in 1615. These were places where Muslims could socialize and talk about religion as well. Lloyd’s of London started as a coffeehouse in the year of 1688, and it was commonly used as a meeting place for businessmen and merchants whom had less intellectual conversations. In 1669, the first coffeehouse in North America was in Boston. During the 1960’s, coffeehouses became focal points of political thought and folk music. Fair trade coffee began in Europe in the 1960’s, and the Fairtrade Labeling Organization set standards on this. Trans Fair USA oversees and certifies the coffee in both the USA and Canada as well as other products like teas, cocoa, rice, sugar, vanilla, bananas, pineapples, and mangos.