Tea time

the history, the science and the taste of tea

by Debbi Collar

Known as a hot or cold pleasant and relaxing drink, medicinal aid or
specialty, this herb dates back thousands of years.

It's the camellia plant.   
Otherwise known as tea.

Have you ever wondered, as you sit and sip, how much is really in that cup?
Below are just a few of many stories inside the contents of that tea cup.The
history of the boiled leaves traditionally carries  with it stories from  
around the world.

The first being that of its origin.  Articles from a variety of sources including
Wikipedia and The Book of Tea.  "The story of tea begins in China. According
to legend, in 2737 BC, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung was sitting beneath a
tree while his servant boiled drinking water, when some leaves from the tree
blew into the water."

Whether you box it in a tea chest, place the leaves in a tea bag or infuse
loose leaves, there are many uses for this brew.

Herbal teas today, and in the past, are known for their medicinal value, yet
are not considered"real tea." Instead, they are called "tisanes." Teas are only
considered "real" if they are made from the leaves of  a single plant known as
"the tea bush." Scientifically, its name is the "camellia sinensis."  Real tea
includes green, black, white and oolong teas." Although the processing of
each is different, all on the list above are "real."

Even though herbal teas (tisanes) are made with dried flowers, leaves, stems
and roots they are often referred to as "tea" but officially they are not
considered within the real tea category. However, the process of boiling the
water and pouring it over the herbal concoctions are similar to that of the
making  a "real" cup of tea.  Thereby the confusion.

"Real" tea, before becoming known as a relaxing drink has also been
considered medicinal as well as herbal teas.  Just take a look in the tea aisle
in many stores.  There are teas claiming to cure the common cold, assist with
vision, calm the nerves, cure sore throats, help with breathing, and help with
getting a good night's rest.
When wandering down the tea/coffee aisle at your favorite grocery store,
count how many labels there are on teas offering you the best of health for a
variety of ailments.

Historically, don't forget The Boston Tea Party.

In December of 1773,  a group of citizens (Sons of Liberty) led by Samuel
Adams, in a protest concerning "taxation without representation," put on
disguises and threw crates of tea into Boston harbor.

Visitors to The Boston Tea Museum throw crates of  tea overboard

Today, interactive exhibits are on the site where The Eleanor, The Dartmouth
and The Beaver ships became known.   The Boston Tea Party Museum has
undergone renovations where actors portray the major characters of the
Boston Tea Party, dressed in period attire and explaining its history.

Historian portraying Sam Adams  and one of the Boston Tea Party
Museum's Tour Guides

The interactive aspect of the museum is excellent.  However, if looking for a
relaxation in a quiet tea house, remember, Abigail's Tea Room at the
museum is in the midst of a tourist attraction. Customers order scones and
tea at a counter or light lunches. However, on the second and fourth Friday of
each month, the museum hosts "Tavern Nghts." Tourists can enjoy a dinner
while joining in with historic figures as they sing songs, play games and
dance to the music of Colonial days. This show is offered on the second and
fourth Friday of each month.

Our scientific and historic stories also blend  in with may cultures.  Taking
tea is a custom around the world.  Queen Victoria's name is associated with
Britain's afternoon tea. However, the advent of it began instead with one of
her ladies in waiting.  Simply put, the lady in waiting was hungry and did not
feel she would be able to suffer the hunger pangs in waiting for the usual
late night dinner.  Therefore, she ordered tea, biscuits, and other pastries to satisfy her stomach while she waited for her late night supper.

Carol Van Valkenburgh enjoys a tasty treat at Heath's family owned tea
house in Rockport.

Ironically, one of the owners of the tea house in Rockport, Kim O'Connell,
currently holds a job in a portion of the health field.  She is a  medical device engineer. She and her husband, Michael, who has spent years traveling with local bands, opened the business 7 years ago. The idea stemming from Kim's mother.  The couple met at Worcester Poly-Technic Institute and now hope
to retire, concentrating all of their efforts into this family run operation.

Heath Tea Room's owners Michael and Kim O'Connell.Mike credits Kim
with teaching him how to make "Quiche."

Mike O'Connell shows off freshly baked lemon ginger scones

As it is impossible to visit all of New England's tea houses and write about
each one of them in this article, one suggestion would be to search the
Internet for listings of  tea houses throughout New England and plan your
visits. Several museums and libraries also offer tea room atmosphere within
their walls.

Meanwhile, something new, (at least to this tea drinker) in the past few
decades is Bubble Tea.

Manager Sarah Stevenson serves Kiwi Bubble Tea with Tapioca Pearls

Coffee, Tea and Me Manager Sarah Stevenson grew up in Melrose.  
Stevenson says Bubble Tea introduced to the business,which is owned by
Emily Tenreiro, is a popular item on the menu.

She also explained how to order bubble tea,"Choose the flavor of the tea and
then combine it with flavored "bobas" that sink to the bottom of the cup.
Traditional "bobas" are tapioca flavored."  A starchy gel texture similar to
that of gummy bears but less sweet.  These flavored gels sipped up through
a fat star are to be chewed. The liquid in the bubble tea takes on a
consistency that is a bit milky and chewing the gels adds an unusual method
to the typical form of sipping a steeped cup of tea.  Bubble Tea is usually
served as a special treat. Its origin is said to be Vietnamese .  It is often
served as a snack or special treat rather than a "cuppa" (translation- "cup of"
real or herbal tea. Despite Bubble Tea's Asian origin, a check of the Main
Street restaurants that offer Taiwanese food and/or Chinese food do not
include this "specialty" item on their menus.

Next month in The Melrose Mirror, equal time for coffee beans and
coffee houses!

You can search below for any word or words in all issues of the Melrose Mirror.
| Return to section | The Front Page | Write to us |

Write to us