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All About Tea

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

As sold in the shops, tea is the leaf of the tea-tree, dried and stored for use. These leaves are gathered at three or four different seasons, by which in some measure the different qualities of tea are produced, those first picked being the most valuable and the last coarse and large. The young leaves are narrow, convoluted, and downy; the middle-aged have their edges serrated and veined with more or less delicacy, while in the old leaves the serration and veining are more marked, and, in addition, some peculiar hoops are developed along the margins, which are readily seen when the leaves are closely examined. All teas are classed as black and green, depending partly on the age of the leaves, partly upon the locality where they are grown, and partly upon the method of drying. Thus the black tea is not, only roasted in a shallow iron vessel, called the Kus, but it is also again submitted to the action of a charcoal fire, in sieves. Green tea, on the other hand, escapes the second process. As the names of the different teas relate to the time of their being gathered, or to some peculiarity in their manufacture, consumers should know something about them.

Black Teas. As soon as the leaf-bud begins to expand, it is gathered to make Pekoe. A few days' later growth produces what here is called Black-leaved Pekoe. The next picking is called Souchong. As the leaves grow larger and more mature they form Congou ; and the last and latest picking is called Bohea.

Bohea is called by the Chinese Ta-che (large tea), on account of the maturity and size of the leaves. It contains a larger proportion of woody fiber than other teas, and its infusion is of a darker color and coarser flavor.

Congou, the next higher kind, is named from a corruption of the Chinese Koongfoo (great care, or assiduity). This forms the bulk of the black imported, and is most valued for its strength.

Souchong, Seaon-chong (small, scarce sort), is the finest of the stronger black tea, with a leaf that is generally entire and curly. It is much esteemed for its fragrance and fine flavor.

Pekoe is a corruption of the Canton name Pak-ho (white down), being the first sprouts of leaf-buds ; they are covered with a white silky down. It is a delicate tea, rather deficient in strength, and it is principally used for flavoring other teas.

Green Teas. The following are the principal kinds: Twankay, Hyson-Skin, Hyson, Gunpowder, and Young Hyson.

Young Hyson (when genuine) is a delicate young leaf, called in the original language, Yu-tsien (before the rains), because gathered in the early spring.

Hyson, from the Chinese word, Hich'un, which signifies flourishing spring. This fine sort of tea is gathered in the early part of the season. There is extreme care and labor used in the preparation of this tea ; each leaf is picked separately, and nipped off above the foot stalk, and every separate leaf is twisted and rolled by the hand. It is much esteemed for its agreeable flavor.

Gunpowder, as it is called, is nothing but Hyson rolled and rounded to give it the granular appearance whence it derives its name. The Chinese call it Choo-cha (pearl-tea).

Hyson-Skin is so named from the original Chinese term in which connection the skin means the refuse or inferior portion. In pre-paring Hyson, all those leaves that are of a coarse yellow, or imperfectly twisted appearance, are separated and sold as skin tea, at an inferior price.

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