Click here to learn about different tea growing regions of India.

Tea Info - History of Tea

According to Chinese mythology, in 2737 BC the Chinese Emperor, Shen Nung, scholar and herbalist, was sitting beneath a tree while his servant boiled drinking water. A leaf from the tree dropped into the water and Shen Nung decided to try the brew. The tree was a wild tea tree.

Conversely the Indian and Japanese legends both attribute the discovery of tea to Bodhidharma the devout Buddhist priest who founded Zen Buddhism. The Indian legend tells how in the fifth year of a seven year sleepless contemplation of Buddha he began to feel drowsy. He immediately plucked a few leaves from a nearby bush and chewed them which dispelled his tiredness. The bush was a wild tea tree.

From the earliest times tea was renowned for its properties as a healthy, refreshing drink. By the third century AD many stories were being told and some written about tea and the benefits of tea drinking, but it was not until the Tang Dynasty (618 AD - 906 AD) that tea became China's national drink and the word ch'a was used to describe tea.

The first book on tea "Ch'a Ching", circa 780 AD, was written by the Chinese author Lu Yu. It comprises three volumes and covers tea from its growth through to its making and drinking, as well as covering a historical summary and famous early tea plantation. There are many illustrations of tea making utensils and some say that the book inspired the Buddhist priests to create the Japanese tea ceremony. The spread of cultivation throughout China and Japan is largely accredited to the movement of Buddhist priests throughout the region.

The modern term "tea" derives from early Chinese dialect words - such as Tchai, Cha and Tay - used both to describe the beverage and the leaf. Known as Camellia Sinensis to Western botanists, tea is an evergreen plant of the Camellia family.
top


Tea Info - Tea Processing

The freshly gathered shoots are collected and a method of withering, rolling fermenting and drying, produces the fine teas of India. Black tea makes up 98 percent of the international tea trade and is the familiar coloured tea, flavoured with a delicate aroma and should be without any bitterness. Green tea does not go through the fermenting process and the leaves are heated (roasted in an iron pan or steamed) to prevent fermentation. It makes a pale greenish-yellow tea, which is milder and slightly bitter.

In the final sorting or grading, tea acquires the colourful names that are used in the tea trade. They do not refer to the quality but to the size and appearance of the tea. There are two main grades - leaf and broken leaf.
  • Leaf grades: These have larger leaves and are classified as Orange Pekoe and Pekoe.
  • Broken leaf grades: Broken Orange Pekoe and Broken Pekoe.
Within the broken leaf type there are further divisions which include:
  • Fannings: All small leaf teas. They make stronger tea than broken leaves.
  • Dust: The smallest leaf particle size and it is certainly not "dust from the factory floor".
It can take five years to train a tea tasterís palate capable of tasting one to three hundred teas in a day. People imagine that a tea taster drinks the liquid until he is awash with it, but, as in the case with wine tasting, this is not so. The taster will take a large spoonful of tea, suck the liquid onto the taste buds all over the tongue, savour it, and spit it out.

The process of blending takes place after further professional tasting. Usually a blend may be made up of different teas from various tea gardens. The blenderís expertise guarantees consistency - to ensure tea picked and packed throughout the year in different seasonal conditions does not vary in quality, aroma or taste.
top

Tea Info - Tea Grades

On a general level, tea leaves can be classified as Green, Oolong or Black. The tea color is a result of the chemical changes that occur to the leaves when they are given time to oxidize, before drying, during the manufacturing process. Tea leaves that have been given full time to ferment become black tea. Oolong leaves are those that have been given a shorter time to oxidize or semi-ferment. Tea leaves which have been dried without being given time for oxidation or fermentation remain green in color.

Black tea leaves from India are graded according to various criteria. The most important factor is the size of the leaf which is not in itself an indicator of flavor or quality, though it often influences the taste of the tea liquor (brewed tea liquid). Teas are divided into broken grades and leaf grades. The broken grades consist of smaller leaves and broken leaf particles. These teas usually produce stronger and darker tea liquors. The smallest tea particles are labeled as dust and are typically used in tea bags. Only about 20 percent of teas produced are of leaf grades which are the larger tea leaves. These rarer teas tend to produce liquors that are smoother and lighter though less strong than the broken grades. Shangri-La Gourmet Tea specializes in the leaf grade teas as they produce a superior cup of tea.

The tea grading initials, which are commonly stenciled along the side of tea chests, are briefly described below.

OP - Orange Pekoe (pronounced pek-oh): The term often used to describe the largest leaf grade for teas from Sri Lanka and occasionally from the South of India. The term Orange was derived from the Dutch house of Orange. Pekoe was derived from a Chinese word meaning white down and refers to the tips of young tea buds' leaves.
FOP - Flowery Orange Pekoe: The term used throughout the rest of India to describe the largest tea leaves.
GFOP - Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe: FOP with golden tips which are the delicate yellow tips of the buds' leaves.
TGFOP - Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe: FOP with a larger proportion of golden tips than GFOP.
FTGFOP - Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe: Very high quality FOP
SFTGFOP - Supreme Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe: Very high quality FOP with lots of golden tips. For Darjeeling teas, the "S" indicates Supreme light colored liquor.
BOP - Broken Orange Pekoe: Broken size tea leaves
BOPF - Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings: Tea fibers that are smaller than BOP leaves and are commonly found in tea bags.
top

Tea Info - Tea Storage

Tea easily absorbs moisture and odours and so it is essential that it is kept in a cool dry place away from any strong smelling items. It must be stored in an airtight container not exposed to light and used within a reasonable time. Because light breaks down the quality of tea, glass containers are not suitable for the storage of tea unless stored away from light.
Packaging is Important

The process of packaging tea is important because tea that is old or not properly packaged loses its flavour and aroma. Our tea is fresher than most tea brands because it is packed and exported in vacuum sealed foil pouches. Quality teas are packed in different types of packaging/caddies made from tropical hardwoods, metal, papier mache and/or cartons.
top

Tea Info - Tea Consumption

Because of the importance of pure water for good health, the act of boiling water is an essential task in many parts of the world. History tells us that Emperor Shen Nung was one of the first people to discover the importance of boiled water, as well as having discovered tea. Today, the consumption of tea is just as important as the consumption of drinking water. On average about 2½ million metric tons of tea are produced worldwide. Some of this tea is retained by producing countries for internal consumption, while the rest is traded either directly to value-added resellers in other countries or bought through auction on the open market. India and China are the largest consumers of tea on the basis of total leaf used, and this consumption is largely from internal production. These countries are the largest producers of tea, as well. The UK is the largest per-capita consumer of tea averaging about 3.5 to 4.0 cups per day.
top

Tea Info - Tea and Health

Is tea good for me?
Not only is tea soothing and delicious, but it is healthy too. In fact, the American Health Foundation recommends we consume 5 - 6 cups daily because . . .

Tea
•  contains 1/3 less caffeine than coffee or cola
•  helps reduce fatigue
•  maintains mental alertness
•  stabilizes fluid levels
•  is fat free and calorie free

The antioxidant in tea help prevent . . . cancers of the mouth, stomach, pancreas, lungs, esophagus, colon, breast and prostate.

The antioxidants in a single cup of tea equal those in one serving of vegetables.

Teaís flavanoids prevent heart disease by
•  reducing blood clotting
•  lowering blood pressure
•  lowering cholesterol

A study conducted by Harvard University researchers found that those who consumed one or more cups of black tea per day had more than a 40 percent lower risk of having a heart attack compared to non-tea drinkers.

Tea is a rare source of natural fluoride which inhibits growth of the oral bacteria and enzymes responsible for dental plaque.

Tea is also a rich source of manganese, necessary for healthy bones, and of potassium which regulates the heartbeat.

Other valuable vitamins and minerals found in tea include . . . vitamins B1, B2, B6, folic acid, and calcium.

Eating Well Magazine named tea "Beverage of the Year" for its health benefits and mass appeal to consumers searching for an alternative to soft drinks and coffee.

So is tea good for you? You bet it is!
And tea is one of the least expensive beverages available today . . . costing just pennies per cup.

Lose Yourself in its Charm
Relax with a cup of steaming, fragrant tea. Savor unblended, exotic and characterful teas like Darjeeling, the Champagne of Teas.
top

Tea Info - Tea Preparation

Tea brewing is an art that is simple to perform but which also requires some care to do well. While essentially tea is brewed by adding boiling water to the dry leaf, the quantity of leaves, the temperature of the water and timing is of vital concern. The following is a guide for brewing tea leaves. Please feel free to experiment to find the method that best suits your taste and the particular leaves that you are preparing. Each package of our tea contains detailed instructions as well as brewing times for the various teas.

1) Warm your empty tea pot by filling it with hot water. This will prevent the hot water from cooling too quickly when it is added to the leaves.

2) Boil freshly drawn tap water. If the quality of your tap water is poor, try using filtered or bottled spring water. For black tea, use the water when it comes to a boil. Water left boiling too long will de-aerate. This will result in a flat tasting tea. For green tea, the water should be heated to a lower temperature (usually approximately 80 degrees Celsius), which may vary from tea to tea.

3) Empty the hot water from your tea pot and add 2.25g or one rounded teaspoon of tea leaves for each cup (5.5 oz) of water (or one heaping teaspoon per mug). We suggest placing the tea directly into the bottom of the pot or using a basket infuser. Tea ball strainers, while convenient, often yield poorer tasting tea as they are often too small to allow all of the leaves to fully unravel. If you do use a tea ball, be sure to use one that is sufficiently large.

4) Add the freshly boiled water over the leaves in the tea pot.

5) Brew your tea for the appropriate amount of time. The amount of time needed to brew your tea varies depending on the leaves being used and the drinker's individual taste. Careful timing is essential for brewing tea that meets your desires. A very general rule to follow is the smaller the leaf, the less time required for brewing. Broken grades of tea leaves and most Darjeeling teas usually only need 3-4 minutes to brew. Whole-leaf teas often need 4-5 minutes. All teas, however, will become bitter if brewed for longer than 5 or 6 minutes. When brewing tea, time with a timer, and not with your eyes. It is a common mistake to brew the tea until it looks a particular color or shade. The color of tea is a poor indicator of the tea's taste.

6) Serve the tea. If you use a basket infuser or a tea ball, remove these promptly when the brewing time has expired. If you placed the tea directly into the pot, pour the tea into the cups through a strainer to catch the leaves. In this instance, if you do not wish to serve your tea immediately, pour your tea through a strainer into another pre-heated tea pot.

7) ENJOY YOUR TEA!!! Add whatever you desire to your tea. You may find that some teas taste particularly nice with sugar and/or milk or lemon, while others taste best pure.

top