‘Spilling the tea’ on tea

Diego Moreno, Staff Writer

After a long day of work, you decide to make yourself a soothing cup of tea to relax. But to your surprise, you become more energized—which would make sense, given that the cup of green tea is actually the caffeine equivalent of half a cup of coffee.

Tea has been around for centuries, having originated in China before spreading across the world. Camellia Sinensis, known as the tea plant, is what the various types of tea like black, green, and oolong originate with the secret to their different flavours lies in cultivation.

“I like Korean citron tea,” senior Joonha Yoon said. “But recently I’ve been drinking more pu’er tea which was a souvenir from China.”

The tea plant is first harvested by hand, but at different times depending on which type of tea is being made.  Green tea comes from ripe tea leaves whereas white tea is made from young sprouts. After harvest, the leaves can be used as is or further processed through oxidation to change the flavor to yellow, oolong or black tea, each achieved through a different oxidizing process: Yellow tea leaves are steamed, oolong leaves are dried in the sun and black tea is blown dry; the longer the process, the stronger the tea flavor.

Although convenient, tea bags come at the expense of flavor, as the crushed and dried tea leaves lack the oils that give tea its unique flavors. For a true tea experience, loose leaves are the best way to enjoy the beverage.

“I love to make my own loose-leaf green tea,” sophomore Anthara Thirupathi said. “It has to have lots of Trader Joe’s mesquite honey though.”

A traditional loose-leaf tea is typically made by heating water to about 160 degrees fahrenheit; heating it any further would lead to damaged and flavorless leaves. Once heated, the tea leaves are added to an infuser and submerged in the water to allow the leaves to release their flavoring. After three minutes have passed, the tea leaves are removed, and the tea is enjoyed.

“I can’t live without a cup of iced black tea,” junior Carlene Nhu said. “It gives me the caffeine boost I need.”

Although a tradition to serve tea to someone who is upset,  it isn’t inherently relaxing due to the caffeine content. Instead the perceived soothing effect comes from the warm nature of the drink. For the people of England however, tea time is a time of relaxation enjoying the beverage with milk and sugar.

For a decaffeinated beverage, try herbal teas, which technically aren’t teas. Herbal teas come from a variety of plants that are steeped in hot water, instead of traditional tea that requires the Camellia Sinensis. Dandelion tea, for example, is created by steeping the roots or petals of the dandelion plant in hot water for a few hours.

Making the perfect cup of tea can take skills despite it being deceptively simple. Fortunately, Irvine has a variety of popular tea shops such as 7 Leaves, Red Straw or Cherubic Tea. All of these places provide customers with various options on how to prepare their tea, including  adding milk, sugar, fruit or boba.

The mysteries of tea were vast, but with the knowledge you have now gained from this article you can now go and craft the tea of your dreams.