July 31, 2008 by TMO
Tea is an infusion made by steeping processed leaves, buds, or twigs of the tea bush, Camellia sinensis, in hot water for several minutes, after which it is drunk.
The four basic types of true tea are black tea, oolong tea, green tea, and white tea.
The term “herbal tea” usually refers to infusions or tisane of fruit or herbs that contain no Camellia sinensis.
Tea is one of the most widely-consumed beverages in the world, second only to water. It has a cooling, slightly bitter, astringent flavor. It has almost no carbohydrates, fat, or protein. Tea is a natural source of the amino acid theanine, methylxanthines such as caffeine and theobromine, andpolyphenolic antioxidant catechins (often referred to as tannins).
The word tea came into the English language from the Chinese word for tea, which is pronounced tê in the Min Nan spoken variant. The British English slang word “char” for “tea” arose from its Mandarin Chinese pronunciation “cha” with its spelling affected by British English arhoticdialect pronunciation.
According to Mondal (2007, p. 519): “Tea originated in southeast Asia, specifically around the intersection of latitude 29°N and longitude 98°E, the point of confluence of the lands of northeast India, north Burma, southwest China and Tibet. The plant was introduced to more than 52 countries, from this ‘centre of origin’.”
Based on morphological differences between the Assamese and Chinese varieties, botanists have long asserted a dual botanical origin for tea; however, statistical cluster analysis, the samechromosome number (2n=30), easy hybridization, and various types of intermediate hybrids and spontaneous polyploids all appear to demonstrate a single place of origin for Camellia sinensis — the area including the northern part of Myanmar and Yunnan and Sichuan provinces of China.
Yunnan Province is identified as “the birthplace of tea…the first area where humans figured out that eating tea leaves or brewing a cup could be pleasant.