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Tea leaves steeping in zhong caj
Oolong tea being infused in a gaiwan
Type Hot or cold beverage
Country of origin China
Introduced First recorded in China in 59 BC, though probably originated earlier.

Tea is an aromatic beverage commonly prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis, an evergreen shrub native to Asia. After water, it is the most widely consumed drink in the world. There are many different types of tea; some teas, like Darjeeling and Chinese greens, have a cooling, slightly bitter, and astringent flavour, while others have vastly different profiles that include sweet, nutty, floral or grassy notes.

Tea originated in Southwest China, where it was used as a medicinal drink. It was popularized as a recreational drink during the Chinese Tang dynasty, and tea drinking spread to other East Asian countries. Portuguese priests and merchants introduced it to Europe during the 16th century. During the 17th century, drinking tea became fashionable among Britons, who started large-scale production and commercialization of the plant in India to bypass the Chinese monopoly.

The phrase herbal tea usually refers to infusions of fruit or herbs made without the tea plant, such as steeps of rosehip, chamomile, or rooibos. These are also known as tisanes or herbal infusions to distinguish them from "tea" as it is commonly understood.

The Chinese character for tea is , originally written with an extra stroke as (pronounced , used as a word for a bitter herb), and acquired its current form during the Tang Dynasty. The word is pronounced differently in the different varieties of Chinese, such as chá in Mandarin, zo and dzo in Wu Chinese, and ta and te in Min Chinese. One suggestion is that the different pronunciations may have arisen from the different words for tea in ancient China, for example (荼) may have given rise to ; historical phonologists however argued that the cha, te and dzo all arose from the same root with a reconstructed pronunciation dra, which changed due to sound shift through the centuries. There were other ancient words for tea, though ming () is the only other one still in common use. It has been proposed that the Chinese words for tea, tu, cha and ming, may have been borrowed from the Austro-Asiatic languages of people who inhabited southwest China; cha for example may have been derived from an archaic Austro-Asiatic root *la, meaning "leaf". Most Chinese languages, such as Mandarin and Cantonese, pronounce it along the lines of cha, but Hokkien varieties along the Southern coast of China and in Southeast Asia pronounce it like teh. These two pronunciations have made their separate ways into other languages around the world.

Rank Country 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
1  China 1,257,600 1,359,000 1,450,000 1,623,000 1,804,655 1,939,457
2  India 987,000 972,700 991,180 1,063,500 1,135,070 1,208,780
3  Kenya 345,800 314,100 399,000 377,912 369,400 432,400
4  Sri Lanka 318,700 290,000 282,300 327,500 330,000 340,230
5  Vietnam 173,500 185,700 198,466 206,600 216,900 214,300
6  Turkey 198,046 198,601 235,000 221,600 225,000 212,400
7  Iran 165,717 165,717 165,717 162,517 158,000 160,000
8  Indonesia 150,851 146,440 150,000 142,400 143,400 148,100
9  Argentina 80,142 71,715 88,574 96,572 82,813 105,000
10  Japan 96,500 86,000 85,000 82,100 85,900 84,800
Total World 4,211,397 4,242,280 4,518,060 4,321,011 5,034,968 5,345,523

  • White: wilted and unoxidized;
  • Yellow: unwilted and unoxidized but allowed to yellow;
  • Green: unwilted and unoxidized;
  • Oolong: wilted, bruised, and partially oxidized;
  • Black: wilted, sometimes crushed, and fully oxidized; called (called 紅茶 [hóngchá], "red tea" in Chinese tea culture);
  • Post-fermented: green tea that has been allowed to ferment/compost (called 黑茶 [hēichá] "black tea" in Chinese tea culture).


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