The World of Tea
The most popular beverage in the world
After a major popularity surge in the 2000s, tea is now the most popular beverage (after water) in the world.
This plant, cultivated in China since ancient times, quickly spread to the Far East through Buddhist cultures, particularly in Japan and Korea. Later, it was Portuguese and Dutch merchants who brought it to Europe from the 17th century. Once this new clientele was won over to tea and its benefits, Europeans in turn introduced it to their Asian colonies in the 19th century - the English to India, the French to Indochina, the Dutch to Indonesia.
From the Producer to your cup
First of all, it must be said that today the main tea producing countries are China, Taiwan (Formosa), India, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Japan, Vietnam, Nepal, Kenya and Tanzania.
Le Cercle du Thé strives to develop privileged relationships with local producers in countries that excel in this field. This allows us to offer unique teas with exceptional qualities and characteristics.
ONE SHAFT, HUNDREDS OF DIFFERENT TEAS
All teas come from a single species of evergreen shrub grown in two varieties:
– Camellia sinensis Assamica (Assam), et
– Camellia sinensis sinensis (Yunnan).
However, there is an enormous variety of teas, distinguished by their origin, cultivation, harvesting and post-harvest treatment. So, as with wine, la nature of the soil (soil quality, exposure, climate, altitude) is one of the most important criteria of distinction.
The type of harvest plays a decisive role. It is the buds and the youngest leaves (small and light green) that give the most desired teas and it is therefore the most selective plucking (bud + one leaf, bud + two leaves, etc.) that will give the "grands crus" that the experts are striving for. It goes without saying that this quality can only be obtained by hand picking.
The main families of tea
Post-harvest treatment is also essential to distinguish teas: use of whole leaves or crushed leaves, withering, drying, oxidation, fermentation, etc.
With all these distinctions and categorisations, it should be remembered that a universal categorisation exists and allows the majority of teas to be grouped under five classification categories:
- Green teas. Non-oxidised teas. The leaves, after wilting, are heated to a high temperature in order to neutralise the enzymes responsible for the oxidation.
- Black teas. Oxidised teas. They are called red teas in China because of the colour of the infusion, whereas Westerners retain the colour of the leaves. After withering and rolling (rolling breaks up the cells, releasing the enzymes that will allow fermentation), the leaves are left to rest in a hot, humid room for a few hours for oxidation, then dried at high temperature to stop fermentation.
- White teas. Like green teas, they are minimally processed and undergo only slight oxidation, but not rolling or roasting. These are generally high quality teas from very selective plucking.
- Oolong. Oolong or Wulong tea is a type of tea with incomplete oxidation, halfway between green tea, which is not oxidised, and black tea, which is completely oxidised.
The word Oolong means black dragon and has its origins in a Chinese legend where a planter saw a black dragon emerge from a tea plant whose leaves revealed the woody chestnut and hazelnut notes of Oolong. This tea is also referred to by the colour of its infusion: blue tea. It originated in the Fujian region of mainland China and in Taiwan.
- Pu'Erh. Pu-erh is a post-fermented tea named after the town of Pu'er in the Chinese province of Yunnan. This town was for a long time an important trading centre on the ancient Tea and Horse Road from Yunnan to Tibet. The tea produced in the region was compressed so that it could be more easily transported by caravan to Tibet. Pu'ehr improves with age and, like wine, its value increases with age.
A world to discover
Like wine, the world of tea has its own vocabulary and rituals, which can be learned with curiosity and patience. Respectful preparation (the right teapot for the right tea, the right temperature and infusion time) is the first rule to follow.
Like oenologists, professional tea tasters use an extensive vocabulary to judge the quality of the leaves, the colour of the liquor and the taste properties of the tea.
A whole world to discover. If you are a beginner, you may hesitate to enter le Cercle du Thé. Don't hesitate: you will always find warmth and advice. Tea is a journey towards the world and towards others...