Book Creator

Barista Skills: Tea

by Rachel Richards


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Barista Skills
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What is Tea?

The Tea Plant

Tea Cultivation


Tea Drinking

The Science of Tea Making

Hot Teas

Iced Teas

Bubble Teas

Special Dietary Needs









What is a Tea?
According to Wikipedia, tea is an aromatic beverage prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over cured or fresh leaves of Camellia Sinensis, an evergreen shrub native to China and East Asia. 

After water, it is the most widely consumed drink in the world. There are many different types of tea; some, like Chinese greens and Darjeeling, have a cooling, slightly bitter, and astringent flavour, while others have vastly different profiles that include sweet, nutty, floral, or grassy notes. Tea has a stimulating effect in humans primarily due to its caffeine content.

The tea plant originated in the region encompassing today's Southwest China, Tibet, north Myanmar and Northeast India, where it was used as a medicinal drink by various ethnic groups. An early credible record of tea drinking dates to the 3rd century AD, in a medical text written by Hua Tuo. It was popularized as a recreational drink during the Chinese Tang dynasty, and tea drinking spread to other East Asian countries. 

Portuguese priests and merchants introduced it to Europe during the 16th century. During the 17th century, drinking tea became fashionable among the English, who started to plant tea on a large scale in India.

The term herbal tea refers to drinks not made from Camellia Sinensis: infusions of fruit, leaves, or other plant parts, such rosehipchamomile, or rooibos. These may be called tisanes or herbal infusions to prevent confusion with "tea" made from the tea plant.
The Tea Plant
Tea plant (Camellia sinensis) from Köhler's Medicinal Plants, 1897
According to the Teahouse, the tea plant’s scientific name is Camellia Sinensis. It is related to the Camellia japonica, a common garden tree or shrub. All tea comes from this plant whether it is Green Tea, Black Tea, White Tea or Oolong Tea.

Tea grows best in tropical and subtropical climates with abundant rainfall and rich soil. The tea plant can grow to heights of 30 feet if left. Tea plants or bushes are usually kept between three and five feet. This height allows for the convenient plucking of tender tea leaves.

Pruning or nipping also stimulates the growth of new young leaves or flush. If properly cultivated, tea bushes can have a productive life span exceeding 100 years.
Tea Cultivation
All teas originate from one of two important subspecies, either the Assam (Assamica) or China (Sinensis). Grown in India, Sri Lanka and in other parts of the world, the Assam tea produces large, strong-tasting leaves. The China tea, cultivated in China, Taiwan, Japan and parts of Darjeeling, yields a more delicate tea with smaller leaves.

Climate, altitude and the soil, all play a role in determining the quality of tea. The plant flourishes at altitudes between 2000 and 6500 feet. The finest quality teas grow at higher altitudes where the cool climate slows growth, allowing more concentrated flavours to develop in the leaves.

Although the plant grows mainly in tropical and subtropical climates. Some varieties can also tolerate marine climates and are cultivated as far north as Cornwall in England, Perthshire in Scotland, Washington in the United States, and Vancouver Island in Canada. In the Southern Hemisphere, tea is grown as far south as Hobart in Tasmania and Waikato in New Zealand.
Women picking tea leaves in a plantation of central Sri Lanka by Christophe Meneboeuf - Own work More photos related to Sri Lanka on my photoblog:
To ensure the highest quality teas, the newest tips of “two leaves and a bud” are plucked by hand. This practice of fine plucking produces the best-tasting tea but low yields – around two to three thousand leaves only translates into a pound of the finished product.

This frequent picking of the young leaves and buds promotes new growth throughout the year. Depending upon the origin, bushes are plucked anywhere from three to twelve times a year. Plucking is often referred to as “flushes."
Tea is generally divided into categories based on how it is processed. At least six different types are produced:

White: wilted and unoxidized;
Yellow: unwilted and unoxidized but allowed to yellow;
Green: unwilted and unoxidized;
Blue/Oolong: wilted, bruised, and partially oxidized;
Black: wilted, sometimes crushed, and fully oxidized (called 紅茶 [hóngchá], "red tea" in Chinese and other East Asian tea culture);
Post-fermented (Dark): green tea that has been allowed to ferment or compost (called Pu'er if from the Yunnan district of South-Western China or 黑茶 [hēichá] "black tea" in Chinese tea culture).

After picking, the leaves of C. sinensis soon begin to wilt and oxidize unless immediately dried.