America has quite a reputation for coffee. In fact, we’ve had a long and storied love affair with the drink. But experts say tea may soon replace coffee in our affections.
According to the Tea Association of the USA, the market for tea has quadrupled quickly – from under $2 billion in 1990 to a wholesale value in excess of $10 billion last year alone. In fact, tea imports have risen by more than 700 percent over the last 50 years, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
How do you Take Your Tea?
Every country has its own unique approach to the art of tea-making. For most Brits, milk is the requisite accompaniment to a great cup of tea. However, in the U.S.:
• Some like it hot, but most Americans gravitate towards iced tea
• America’s favorite variety is black tea, with fruit and herbal landing at 2nd on our most-consumed list
• Green tea consumption is on the rise and accounts for 11 percent of all tea sold in the U.S.
While we achieve taste profiles that vary wildly from cup to cup and country to country, few realize that, as diverse as it might be, all tea comes from a single source.
Reading Tea Leaves
Referred to as Camellia sinensis, the evergreen shrub species is used to make all tea varieties. So, how do we achieve so many diverse tastes from a single plant? Tea producers alter the shape and chemistry of the leaf – producing a wide variety of tastes – simply by varying their processing approach. Tea can be plucked, withered (or wilted), rolled or dried. Oxidization, or exposing the enzymes in the leaf to oxygen, is perhaps the most important factor in determining the tea category that will ultimately be produced:
• Green tea is plucked, withered and rolled. Additionally, heat is applied during the rolling process to prevent oxidation from taking place. The leaves are generally steamed or fired in a pan while they are rolled into different shapes, each with its own unique taste
• Oolong tea is perhaps one of the most time-consuming to create. Production requires all five processing steps – from plucking to oxidation – repeated in succession. The process ultimately layers flavors to produce the tea’s characteristic complexity
• Black tea also utilizes all of the key processing steps, but the leaves are allowed to oxidize more completely. This produces what is arguably the strongest taste among the tea varieties, one reason many temper it with milk
• White tea is minimally processed and derives its name from the white “down” on tea leaf buds
• Pu'erh Tea (pu-ARR or pu-ERR) is produced similarly to green tea, but the leaves are aged and fermented. Like wine, Pu’erh matures over time. The tea is complex, balancing an earthy fragrance with a rich, smooth flavor
Overall, we find that workplace beverages catalyze all kinds of workplace interactions and become a critical part of the day. In addition, drinks are very personal. Each individual typically has a unique pattern to which drinks they prefer during multiple activities throughout their day. Ask people about their preferences for workplace beverages and they will definitely have strong opinions. We believe that to support people throughout their work activities and their work day is a sure pathway toward achieving a Workplace Vitality™ environment in your office.
Let's Toast to Tea
Wrestling with a complex business issue or struggling to unearth the next big idea? A cup of tea may help. Research suggests the combination of L-Theanine - an amino acid found exclusively in the Camelia Sinensus plant - with Caffeine (200mg each) is noted to improve our cognition and attention. And still other studies indicate that people who drink tea four times daily for at least six weeks have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Its complexity and taste to suit any mood, the range of different ways to enjoy it and even its benefits at work – are all reasons to say “yes” to a hot cup. Cheers to tea!