What's Your Cup of Tea?

Tea Day is on 21st May 2021.

Discovered by serendipity in 2737 BC, tea is a hot steeped beverage that many people enjoy around the world. It's the most consumed beverage in the world if you don't consider water.

There are many varieties of tea and most of the traditional ones arise from the same plant species, Camellia sinensis. Depending on where in the world C. sinensis is grown (location, elevation, climate), age of harvest (young buds vs. mature leaves), levels of oxidation and fermentation of tea leaves after harvesting, you get different types of tea: pu-erh, black, oolong, green, yellow, white.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit a Tea Estate in Sri Lanka and learn about the process from harvest to cup. Tea leaves plucked by hand make the best cup of tea!

I also walked among tea shrubs in their plantation and this is what they look like.

These C. sinensis shrubs were growing on the misty terraces in the upcountry of Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka. Here the elevation is high, reaching an altitude of 1868 metres and the climate is temperate, meaning that the temperature is cool at around 16°C on average.

Besides the traditional teas derived from C. sinensis, other teas that are consumed are known as herbal teas or tisanesThey are made with other herbs, spices, and plants. Many involve steeping of flowers, fruits or roots. There are countless varieties of these non-caffeinated teas. Some examples are mint, rose hip, jasmine, chrysanthemum, chamomile, lemon, ginseng, ginger and rooibos.

Look at this Chemistry Molecule Tea Towel that I designed and screen printed with my very own hands, showing some of the many varieties of tea along with one representative molecule each contains. Of course, any given tea or beverage actually contains a myriad of molecules. Some of the commonly found classes of molecules in teas include flavanols, antioxidants and polyphenols.


My favourite teas are Milk Oolong, Butter Roasted Sencha, Genmaicha, Mint Green Tea and Chrysanthemum. What's your cup of tea? Do you have a favourite kind? Let me know in the comments below. 

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