We’re on a mountain. Not the icy, craggy kind. The misty, green kind. The kind you’d dream up if you thought about China.
It’s been a long day of travel. But finally we’re standing still, here on the roof of our black tea factory looking out at the waves of green hills rolling off into Burma. Our shoes are red from trouncing around in the rust-colored soil of the farm.
This is the birthplace of tea. Being here makes you think. About the history and about all the cups of tea that have been poured. And mostly about the miracle of the tea plant. It’s no wonder we humans discovered it so early in our own history.
The tea plant. Camellia Sinensis. Easy to grow. Easy to harvest. It’s just leaves—dried and shaped certain ways. And it has caffeine! Only about 60 species on planet Earth contain caffeine—humans have learned to cultivate nearly all of them. And of course there is the load of antioxidants (mostly polyphenols), and other good stuff in the tea plant. Drinking tea is like eating your vegetables—with caffeine. Nature is great.
Most tea plants that you see are bushes, about 3 feet in height. They appear like this because farmers trim them back every season to make the plucking easier. But if you don’t trim them, they become trees. Here at our black tea farm, it’s all trees. In fact, the whole mountain is a forest of wild growth tea. This is where it all started four thousand years ago. It’s why we named our flagship black tea 100 Year, because it’s plucked from the ancient trees here. The old trees lend the finished cup a distinctly earthy, peaty flavor, like a single malt scotch with mild notes of roasted grain and smoke.
While we’re talking botany, here are some other fun tea facts:
1. Tea leaves have more caffeine by dry weight than coffee, but less caffeine is extracted in the brew.
2. “Tea Tree Oil”, used as an herbal remedy for many things, isn’t actually from the tea tree. It’s a completely different, unrelated plant oil.
3. Tea cultivation is amazingly efficient, needing orders of magnitude less inputs (land, water, energy) than coffee per cup.
-Mangben Village, April 20, 2016