From plant to cup

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Even though Melbourne is known for coffee, tea is an alternative that is enjoyed by people of all ages – anytime of day!

With the popularity of stores like T2 making weird and wonderful flavoured teas mainstream, it is important to remember that tea has some nutritional and healing benefits such as antioxidants, as well as delicious taste!

On a recent trip to Sri Lanka, we were lucky enough to visit Store Field Tea Factory in the hill country in the centre of Sri Lanka.tea-shop

We toured the traditional production factory and learnt that tea leaves are picked and then go through a rigorous drying and fermentation process before they begin to resemble the loose leaves we are familiar with.

The higher quality teas are made from the newest, smallest leaves at the top of the plant, while the hardier, older leaves down below end up being the mid-grade teas. The leftover tea dust that doesn’t meet either of these standards is what goes into teabags – so always remember that it is best to go with loose leaves to enjoy the full flavour and health benefits tea can offer you.

Green tea and black tea are actually taken from the same plant, but are processed differently to produce the difference in flavour and colour. This is why the common myth that green tea is caffeine free is not true – they are created from the same plant!

For caffeine free, nutrient dense tea, a white tea is the way to go. This is created from the buds and young leaves of certain types of tea plants, and is then naturally dried in the sun. It is a much weaker flavour than black or green tea, and pale yellow in colour.

It is thought to be rich in polyphenols, which have health benefits including cancer prevention, cardiovascular disease prevention, bone density improvement and weight loss. It is important to remember these benefits are found in black and green teas too, just in a variety of concentrations.tea-plantation-sri-lanka

After learning about how tea is picked and produced at various grades of quality and strength, we were lucky enough to get to taste and buy our own Ceylon tea to bring home – the variety of strengths in black tea alone is truly astounding, with some needing milk or sugar to balance out the punch and bitterness and other milder black teas being easy to drink alone.

Even if you are not a tea person normally, flavoured teas or mild teas like a white tea can be a fantastic alternative to coffee. Just brew a pot and sit it on your desk at work and top it up all day, or sip on cups throughout the day at home.

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