Much mystery and error for a long time existed upon the subject of the species pro ducing the tea of commerce. By many it was said that the qualities known as black teas were produced by the species known to botanists as T. Bohea, and the green teas from T. viridis. Others held that only one species was used to make both the black and. green varieties, and that the difference arose from the method and time of preparation. The eminent botanical traveler, Mr. Robert Fortune, has, however, entirely set the question at rest by investigating the matter on the spot. He found that in the Canton, district, where black teas alone are prepared, only the T. Bohea is grown; while in the province of Chekiang only T. riridis is grown, and green teas made. But the cultiva tion of the latter plant he also found to be absolutely universal in the Fokien district, although the inhabitants make only black teas. The tea-farms are mostly in the a. of China, and are usually of small size, and require much attention: for the plant will only thrive in well manured or very rich soil, and the spaces between the plants, which are 4 ft. apart, must be kept in good order, and free from weeds. The farms always occupy the hill-sides, where the soil is deep and well drained. Although an evergreen, the leaves can only be gathered at certain seasons: the first is in April, when the new leaves begin to burst from the buds; and some of these in their most tender state are gathered and made into young hyson of the finest quality; so fine, indeed that it has rarely been brought to England, because it is said to lose flavor by the sea-voyage. Much is, how ever, sent overland to Russia, where it fetches an exorbitant price. The ordinary pick ing begins just after the summer rains are over, at the beginning of May; and later in the season, a third picking takes place, the produce of which is inferior, and used only by the poorer classes of the country. The later gatherings are more bitter and woody than the earlier, and yield less soluble matter to water. The leaves, when freshly plucked, possess nothing of the odor or flavor of the dried leaves, these properties being developed by the roasting which the leaves undergo in the process of drying. More- over, different qualities of tea are prepared from the same leaves, which may be made to' yield green or black teas at will.
For a description of the specific processes for obtaining the green and the black teas generally, we refer to Mr. Fortune's work (Tea Countries of China), or to Johnson's Chemistry of Common Life, vol p. 161, in which it is quoted. It is sufficient here to remark, first, that, in the process of drying, the leaves are roasted and scorched in suck a way as necessarily to induce many chemical changes in them; the result of such changes being to produce the varieties of flavor, odor, and taste by which the different kinds of teas are distinguished; and secondly, that the different colors of green and black teas are due to the mode in which the leaves are treated. For green teas the leaves are roasted in pans almost immediately after they are gathered. After about five minutes' roasting, during which they make a cracking noise, become moist and flaccid, and give out a good deal of vapor, they are placed on the rolling-table, and rolled with the hands. They are then returned to the pans, and kept in motion by the hands: in about
an hour, or rather more, they are well dried, and their color, which is a dull green, but becomes brighter afterward, has become fixed. The essential part of the whole opera tion is now over, nothing more being required than to sift and re-fire it. For black teas, the leaves are allowed to be spread out in the air for some time after they are gath ered; they are then further tossed about till they become flaccid; they are next roasted for a few minutes, and rolled, after which they are exposed to the air for a few hours in a soft and moist state; and lastly they are dried slowly over charcoal fires, till the black color is fairly brought out. Hence the dark color and distinguishing flavor of black teas seem due to the long exposure to the atmosphere in the process of drying, and the oxygen of the air acting rapidly upon the juices of the leaf, and especially upon the astringent principle during this exposure. For the purpose of giving special scents to different varieties of tea, numerous odoriferous plants are employed in different parts of China; the cowslip-colored blossoms of the sweet-scented olive (olea fragrans) com municate an especially fragrant scent to tea.
The adulteration of tea, when the duty was very high, was probably carried on to a great extent; but notwithstanding the terrible tales of alarmists, it may be asserted that very little adulteration of tea is uow carried on in Great Britain. In China, spuri ous teas have been prepared and sent to this country under the name of " lie teas," but they had no sale, and of course were discontinued. The Chinese give an artificial coloring to the green teas sent to Europe because it pleases the eye, but the coloring matter is very innocuous, and is never produced by heating over copper plates—a popu lar error, which has been persisted in for a long time without a shadow of truth for its foundation. Prussian blue in very minute proportion, and a species of native indigo and gypsum, are the real materials employed for giving the face, as it is called.
In 1836 the culture of tea was attempted on a large scale in India, under the direc tion of the able and indefatigable botanists, Dr. Royle and Dr. Falconer; and after some difficulty, a good supply of plants was introduced to the districts of Kumaon and Gurhwal, and in the mean time plantations formed at an earlier period in Assam were making great progress. From these sources a steadily increasing supply is received, the value of which in 1876 was £2,473,882. The quality, too, is superior to many of the Chinese teas, a fact which is testified by the large quantity of Indian teas now used. The only other country which has grown tea successfully is Brazil, where, in the high i lands, tea of the most excellent quality is produced, and in sufficient quantities to sup ply a large portion of the Brazilian demand.
The varieties of tea are very numerous; the following are those found in the shops of Great Britain: GREEN TEAS.—Chinese: (1). Gunpowder sorts—viz., Shanghae, Ping-suey or pin's head, Moyune, imperial Moyune, and Canton; (2). Hyson sorts—viz., Shanghae, Shanghae young, Moyune, Moyune young, Canton young, and Twankay or imperial Hyson. Japanese: Gunpowder and young Hyson. Java: Gunpowder.