all about tea
September's meeting treated the Gardeners' Club members to a very interesting and thoroughly entertaining talk by a professional tea taster and blender, Andrew Godstone.
"Camellia Sinensis" is the horticultural name for the tea bush. Grown in tropical and subtropical regions around the world, the different strengths of tea are achieved by the length of the oxidisation process that it undergoes. This oxidisation progress, or drying time as we more commonly call it, has may other factors that affect the flavour due to the amount of water in the leaf at the time of picking. Even picked from the same plant, an afternoon picking will differ from a boring picking due to the number of hours of sun that has reduced the water levels of each leaf. Levels of recent rainfall will have also determined how much water has been taken up by the roots, and even the strength of the wind will determine the amount of evaporation the leaf has undergone before it is picked. Not only this, but soil conditions, fertilisers and pests can all affect the contents of the leaf.
With all of these differing factors, our favourite teas are being constantly re-blended from different suppliers to achieve the same final taste!
With 96% of the population now drinking tea made with a teabag, blenders even have to do "paper tasting" due to the supplied paper often coming from different sources, again altering the final taste. Members were surprised to hear that 20% of teabag paper actually contains plastic; this is so that when the bag is passed through a heated roller, it will seal the bag around the edges.
Black, green, yellow and white tea are all derived from the length of time the oxidisation process is allowed to continue for.
Then there is the water with which we make our lovely cup of rosie-lee. The hardness of the water, and additives from different water companies, also has an affect on the final taste. Blenders will develop a tea for a chain of clients from an area in accordance with their geographical location and conditions, take the product to the site, trial it, drive back with water samples, and then within a few hours (before the water has had a chance to deteriorate) will make the final adjustments to the blend to make the final product.
Members came away from the meeting looking at the humble tea bag in a completely different light!
Congratulations and many thanks to our "tea ladies" who must have been under enormous amounts of pressure presenting our speaker with a well-deserved cup of tea that evening.
Now, I'm off for a cup of coffee!