This article treats drink. For other meaning of this word, to see .

tea is one slightly exciting, obtained by infusion of the sheets of tea plant, dried beforehand and sometimes fermented.

Of origin , where it is known since antiquity, the tea is today the drink most drunk in the world after. The drink itself can take very diverse forms: added with milk and sugar in , lengthily pulp with spices in , prepared in tiny teapots in the Chinese technique of .

By analogy, the word also indicates in France an infusion prepared starting from other plants (by ex. tea of lime) although one must speak more properly about .


The word "tea"

for tea is ? who has two different pronunciations. The official pronunciation (so used in confined and in ) is chá, and comes from the word to gather. Several languages borrowed it of which Portuguese (chá), Russian (tchaï), Japanese ('?', '??', ' cha'), Turkish and the Persan one.

The other pronunciation is you who comes from the Malayan word indicating this drink in the dialect Min-nan practised in Amoy. The Dutchmen who introduced the tea in Europe in 1606, having bought it in Java, named it thee, from where French tea, English tea, German tee, etc.

In the tea is sometimes indicated by a term without relation any with Chinese. Another stimulative drink, it subdued, was consumed well before the introduction of the tea, also in various places of South America, particularly in the Andean countries, the tea is called subdued.


The age of the boiled tea

The tea appears in under the dynasty of Han of the West (-206 front. - 24). It of start is appreciated for its therapeutic virtues, like relieving tirednesses, strengthening the will and reviving the sight. It becomes a daily drink in China under the dynasty of Han of the East(25 - 220) and at the time of Three Kingdoms(220-280).

The sheets of teas are then crushed and powders it obtained compacted in the form of bricks, more easily transportable. One mixed sometimes the tea with a liquid, like blood, to obtain more solid bricks.

To prepare it, bricks were émiettait, then one made roast the powder obtained for hygienic reasons (the bricks were often infested with worms and insects) and also to give to the tea a pleasant taste. The powder was then pulp with crumbs of salt, and sometimes of the ginger, onion, etc. One obtains a thick mixture thus, with the vigorous savour, been useful in a broad bowl which passed from hand in hand.

The bricks of teas were also used to the Chinese of currency of exchange, at such point that they were the subject of a monopoly of state. They in particular enabled them to get near the "cruel" people of North. Thus the tea was introduced in where nowadays it always is prepared boiled, salted, added with milk of yak or cow.

Beaten tea

Under the dynasty of Song of North (690-1279) the beaten tea was prepared. The sheets were crushed under a grinding stone in order to obtain a very fine powder, which one whipped then in hot water to obtain a substantial foam. This tea was also been useful in a large bowl common to several guests.

The tea becomes the drink of predilection of the well-read men under (618 - 907). It is introduced with at the beginning of XIIE century by the Eisai priest. This mode of preparation is still practised there at the time of ceremony of the tea (chanoyu).

Infused tea

In 1391, Hongwu, the first emperor of the dynasty issued that the tributes in tea delivered to the court were to be it no longer in the form of bricks, but of whole sheets. This imperial decree quickly modified the spending patterns of the tea. From now on, the sheets of tea are directly infused in hot water.

The service of the tea undergoes deep upheavals. It from now on was preserved in boxes reserved at this use and was prepared in a ustensil of a new kind: a teapot. One served it in small individual cups intended to exhale the odor and savour of it. This new crockery of teapots, kettles, saucers, cups quickly became object of a craft industry refined bound for rich person collectors.

One now distinguished the teas according to their areas from origin, the aspect of the sheets, their color. The shaping became also an object of attention, because the sheets of tea could be rolled in balls, "needles", learnedly folded and bound between them to form flowers, heads of dragons, etc.

At the beginning of the dynasty of Qing (1664 - 1911) a particular ustensil appears: zh?ng ? (one also speaks about gàiw?n ?? or of gàib?i ??) - a kind of cup without handle, with lid, in which one puts the sheets directly to be infused.

Introduction of the tea in Europe

Tea, just like it , was introduced in Europe by : in , a Dutch ship of Dutch East Company embarked in Java some cases of tea, exchanged against cases of . Either that Dutch then bought fermented teas, or that the tea fermented naturally during the voyage, always is it that the tea was initially known in Europe in the shape of "black tea".

In , the first cases arrive in where the tea is spread quickly, carried by the vogue of . The queen Anne Stuart consumes for the first time at the breakfast. Anne, Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861) is the first to invite his/her friends for a small collation at the time of the afternoon, around a cup of tea accompanied by small cakes, of sandwiches, pastry makings. It imitates a practice of the French living rooms, which besides disappeared in , before being again reintroduced at the end of XIXE century... by imitation of the English tradition!

Eminently social practice ofafternoon tea spread themselves in all the layers of the population and formalized themselves with XIXE century in five o' clock tea.

The tea became during XVIIE century and XVIIIE century a major economic stake, the object of a fight baited between English and Dutchman. The Company of the Eastern Indies, founded in by the queen , had the monopoly of the trade of the tea until 1834.

In , it closed its ports in the Occident for more than two centuries. China thus became the principal source of supply tea. At the end of XVIIIE century, the English reflect in place a triangular system all with their advantage: the poppy produced in their colonies , transformed into , was exchanged against tea in , and sold then on the European market.

tried to be opposed to the importation : import bans, seizures and destruction of cases follow one another without effect. After the first then the second war of opium, China is forced to authorize the trade of opium, to limit its customs rates, to open ports in the Occident, to yield Hong Kong to the English, etc.

was, in , an act of disobedience in which inhabitants of the colonies which were going to constitute them The United States of America threw to the sea of the cases of British tea to protest against the taxes. This event precedes .

In 1823, Major Robert Bruce discovered in Assam an indigenous species of tea plant. In 1834, to mitigate the loss of its monopoly, the Company of the Indies Orientales undertook to install factories of tea in India. It commissioned Robert Bruce for a voyage of exploration in China, in fact a true company of industrial espionage. Disguised in Chinese, being based without difficulty in crowd, Bruce remarkably its mission concluded. It managed to send in India not less than 80 000 seedlings of Chinese tea plants and especially to recruit two manufacturers of tea who delivered to the Company all the secrecies to conclude the culture of the tea. The assamaise variety appeared adapted best to the very hot climate of the Indian peninsula. It was quickly planted in and with . Today the majority of the tea produced in the world comes from this variety.

Myths and legends

According to a legend, discovered the tea when a sheet fell into its cup whereas it meditated, sitted in a garden.

According to another legend, it is which, being cut the eyelids not to fall asleep while it meditated, saw the first plants pushing where its eyelids had fallen.

In another legend, it is during a round of the emperor of Shen Neng, that some sheets of tea fell from a wild tree in the hot water of its drink, forming a liquor brown-yellow. It tasted the mixture by curiosity and was allured by its flavour and its stimulative properties.


Plantation de thé en Malaisie
Plantation of tea in Malaysia

The tea is cultivated in the whole world, mainly in , in , with , with , with , with , in and with .

(Note: in the trade of the tea, it and is indicated by their old names of Ceylon and Formosa, respectively.)

The tea plant needs a hot and wet climate, with one season dries little marked. In plantation (density of 10 000 feet per hectare), the tea plant is cut not to exceed a meter in height, in order to facilitate the gathering. The first harvests start at the end of three to four years.

The gathering

The gathering is still carried out with the hand, generally by women, except in Japan and in Georgia where it is mechanized. It is practised several times per annum, up to four times or more according to the areas. The gatherings are done by round from 4 to 14 days, time that the tea plant is renewed.

The youngest sheets are green clear. They are richest in substance (theine, tannin, etc) and those which provide the goûteuse drink and the most refined. At the end of the branches one finds a bud covered with a sleeping bag blanchâtre, it pekoe, which means in Chinese white sleeping bag and which is not other than the young growth rolled up on itself. This bud is particularly required. The more one goes down again on the branch, the broader the sheets are and the less tasty the drink will be.

One thus carries out several kinds of gathering according to the required quality of drink. In the gathering known as "imperial", one picking only the pekoe more one sheet, in the "fine" gathering, the pekoe more two sheets and in the normal gathering, the pekoe and three sheets or more.

For the black teas of India and Ceylon, the final bud is called tip. The precise classification of the quality of harvest is:

  • FOP (Orange Flowery pekoe): the tip and a sheet (imperial gathering). Classification is then refined, to return of account of the relative quantity in tip, and then of their quality. By order ascending of quality one finds:
    • GFOP: Golden delicious Orange Flowery Pekoe;
    • TGFOP: Tippy Golden delicious Orange Flowery Pekoe;
    • TGFOP 1: Tippy Golden delicious Orange Flowery Pekoe One;
    • FTGFOP: Finest Tippy Golden delicious Orange Flowery Pekoe;
    • FTGFOP1: Finest Tippy Golden delicious Orange Flowery Pekoe One;
    • SFTGFOP: Special Finest Tippy Golden delicious Orange Flowery Pekoe;
    • SFTGFOP 1: Special Finest Tippy Golden delicious Orange Flowery Pekoe One.
  • C$op (Orange Pekoe): tip and two sheets (fine gathering);
  • FP (Flowery Pekoe): sheets rolled in ball.
  • Pekoe: less fine sheets, without buds, of coarse aspect;
  • Souchong: very large sheets, sheets low on the tea plant, broad and old, used to prepare the smoked teas;
  • Pekoe Souchong: coarse gathering.

The term Orange mean "royal", by allusion to the royal family of the Netherlands, them Orange-Nassau. At the time of rolling, the juice of the sheets will impregnate the tips, conferring a gilded or silver plated color to him from where the terms Golden delicious and Silver.

Manufactoring processes

Various kinds of teas (black, green, oolong, etc.) do not come from various species of tea plant, as one a long time believed in Occident, but are obtained by differently treating the collected sheets. If the elementary operations are simple to describe, the exact methods are industrial secrecies jealously kept.

In more of the operations described below, the sheets of tea are sometimes worked with the hand in balls, flowers, dragons, etc.

Green tea

? For more information read the principal article: Green tea

After the gathering, the sheets are often faded, then heated very quickly at high temperature, in order to destroy them enzymes and thus to block fermentation. They are then rolled and dried several times. The Chinese method uses copper basins placed on fire, whereas the Japanese method uses a drying with the vapor.

Yellow tea

? For more information read the principal article: Yellow tea

, and often rarest of the teas. Very delicate, they undergo a light fermentation with choked and their sheets are not worked. Only the duveteux buds are used.

White tea

? For more information read the principal article: White tea

, following the example yellow teas, in fact very delicate teas, them, do not undergo any fermentation. The first three sheets, whose bud, can be present, always whole. They are simply dried with the free air.

Semi-fermented tea

? For more information read the principal article: Tea oolong

Tea of Chinese origin or Taiwanese (Formosa), also called in Oolong France. The sheets are initially faded with the sun in order to start fermentation, then brewed in a hot part (25 °C) and wet (85 %). The longer this stage is, the more fermentation will be important. In the Chinese method, fermentation is only 12 to 20 %. In the method of it is stopped to 60/70 %. Fermentation is then stopped by heating in an iron basin.

Red tea

? For more information read the principal article: Red tea

The Chinese name red teas of the teas oolong whose fermentation is pushed at 100%, which brings them closer our black teas.

In addition, the red tea sold in Europe is generally the illegal denomination given to a plant different from the tea pushing in , itAspalathus Linearis or rooibos, which does not contain theine and little tannin.

Black tea

? For more information read the principal article: Black tea

Name black tea (Pu-Erh) indicates in China of the entirely fermented teas having undergone a post-fermentation. For that one preserves them several years in ground pots stored in fresh cellars. They are teas of guard. Very expensive, they are known most of the time Westerners only by the versions of which post-fermentation does not exceed a few days, marketed by .

Black tea in Occident

? For more information read the principal article: Black tea

The black teas commonly marketed in Occident result from a manufacturing process developped at the point by the English, in India, in the medium of XIXième century. The English took as a starting point the the Chinese methods, which they largely rationalized and simplified, in particular introducing the use of machines (crushing, driers, sieve, etc.) where the Chinese continue to prepare the teas with the hand.

The orthodoxe process
  • The flétrissage (18 to 32 hours): allows to withdraw a part of moisture present in the fresh sheets.
  • Rolling (30 minutes): the sheets are rolled, that with for effect to break the cells of the sheet which will release from the enzymes allowing a better fermentation.
  • Fermentation (1 to 3 a.m.): the sheets are put to rest in a hot and wet part
  • The desiccation (20 minutes): to stop fermentation one subjects the sheets to a temperature of 90 °C.
  • Sifting: it is a question of sorting the sheets and of packing them.
Process CTC
after being slightly faded and being crossed, the sheets are completely shredded by cylinders equipped with metal blades. They are then rolled in one ghoogi (barrel turning on itself).

There are alternatives with these methods, the family of the black teas being largest and most widespread all over the world.

Most of the time, the salesman mixes jagged sheets coming from various plantations to obtain a tea with savour specifies corresponding to the product that it markets.

Other teas

Some famous teas

  • Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri : black teas originating in the areas of the same name in where the culture of the tea was imported by the English with XIXE century.
  • Ceylon : black tea originating in , whose old name is Ceylon.
  • Gunpowder : green tea of Chinese origin. This tea is manufactured in such manner that it forms small very hard pellets. This form and its color very dark green were worth this name to him which means in English "gunpowder". This conditioning facilitating transport, it was one of the first teas exported towards the Occident by the Chinese on the road of silk. It is undoubtedly for that that one finds it in the preparation of in the Arab countries which were the first "to receive" this tea.
  • Lapsang Souchong : Chinese tea of the province of . It is a black tea whose sheets are placed in the smoke of a fire of or of cypress, which gives him a taste smoked more or less marked.

Scented teas

Once the prepared sheets of tea, additives can be used to scent the tea before its infusion. That perhaps of the flowers (, ), of the gasolines (, ) or even of spices (, , , black pepper, clove, nutmeg). Generally, these flavours are added to a black tea "to Western".

Some famous scented teas:

  • Tea with the jasmine : black tea to which are added at the time of the oxidation of the flowers of . It remains about it a little like decoration.
  • : green tea (in general of Gunpowder) to which are added fresh mint sheets and sugar.
  • Earl Grey : black tea scented with the gasoline of .


Certain drinks are wrongfully marketed under the name of tea, without they having nothing to do with the plant "tea". Let us quote, amongst other things:

  • Subdued (or hierba matt) which is a bush which pushes especially in , in and with .
  • red "tea" of, which comes in fact from Rooibos (reddish bush). It does not contain cafeine at all.
  • Lapacho (named too Taheebo) which is the internal lining of the bark of a tree which grows in the Brazilian jungle.
  • two Japanese drinks: , based onbarley, and it Sobacha, containing buckwheat.
  • tea with grasses who does not refer to any plant, nor even with a specific flower. This term is often used to indicate an infusion of plants very different from the tea.

Modes of preparation

? For more information read the principal article: Preparation of the tea

The black tea is infused in a teapot, with a water with 95°C, 30 seconds to 5 minutes, according to the quality of the tea. These teas are sometimes added with sugar and milk to attenuate the bitterness of it.

oolong is infused in a water into 95°C, from 4 to 6 min. These teas also prepare by the method of .

The green tea is infused in a less hot water, between 70°C and 80°C, during 2 to 3 minutes. Teas yellows or white are prepared in the same way, in a less and less hot water as the quality of the tea increases. These teas also prepare in .

Less longer the tea infuses, more it becomes one exciting, because theine diffuses itself at the time of the first minute of, whereas after 3 to 5 minutes, they are them which is released which neutralize theine in .

Composition and virtues of the tea

A simple cup of tea is a complex mixture of more than 500 active substances. In addition to the differences related to nature of the tea, the duration of infusion, the nature and the temperature of water involve an extreme variability of the composition of drink.

The principal components of the tea are it (approximately 75 % of the "dry" tea), of tannins (approximately 4%), of (~4%, only albumin are water soluble), of (less than 1%), of the organic acids, cafeine, of (A, B, C, E, P), of (, , ) and of the aromatic hundreds of substances.

The theine, discovered in 1827 by Oudry, was identified in 1838 with . The term however never disappeared from the current language. The exciting effects of the tea are notably different from that of the coffee. The oxidized polyphenols contained in the tea bind the effect of theine. Thus this theine is released in blood over one duration which can go from 6 to 8 a.m. and a uniform way. The cafeine of the coffee will be released quickly, producing a peak of intensity, which falls down at once, over one duration from 2 to 3 a.m.. This is why the tea is famous "to stimulate without irritating".

The question of knowing which are the teas more exciting is always discussed. The Japanese teas contain a notable proportion of vitamin C, which thus makes them more stimulative than the Chinese or Indian teas.

While basing oneself on the shown effect of such or such of his components, one lends to the tea the most varied virtues. It would maintain the nervous system, would prevent cancer, would slow down ageing, would support the drainage, would avoid the decays, would flux blood, would control hypertension, etc. However, the beneficial effect of a regular consumption of tea never could be highlighted in a convincing way. The tea remains nevertheless an essential element of Chinese phytotherapy, of nature more preventive than curative.

Economy of the tea

The essence of the tea is produced by large farms in India or in Sri Lanka, bound for the large companies of the agro-alimentary one. Contrary to this industrial production, many sometimes tiny "gardens", plantations, manufacture very required teas of the amateurs. The latter can compare with the very great vintages French wines, at the same time by their scarcity and their price. Their economy escapes largely from the large world currents.


Distribution of the world production of tea in 2003


In 2003, the world production of tea reached 3,15 million tons. The principal producer country is it followed by , it and it .

Biological production of tea

The biological production of tea is always in rise, it reaches 3 500 tons in 2003. The majority of the production of this tea (approximately 75 %) is intended for France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom or the United States. China remains the only country today to produce all the families of tea (white tea, yellow tea, green tea, tea blue-green, red tea and black tea).



The quantity of tea produced increases but the exchanges are falling, the world exports were 1,4 million tons of tea in what corresponds to a reduction of 2,6 % compared to the year . This is mainly due to the strong reduction in exports of India and Indonesia.


The principal importers of tea are , itEuropean union, it , them The United States, it and it . The quantity of tea imported in 2003 reached 1,39 million tons, that is to say a rise of 1 % compared to the previous year.


Trend of the average price of the tea since 1989

The large quantities of tea produced in 2003 have only not very affected the prices which remained relatively stable in 2003.

External bonds

See too


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