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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/1643

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The Tea Plant.—The cultivation of the plant requires great care. It is raised chiefly on the sides of hills; and, in order to increase the quantity and improve the quality of the leaves, the shrub is pruned, so as not to exceed the height of from 2 to 3 feet, much in the same manner as the vine is treated in France. They pluck the leaves, one by one selecting them according to the kind of tea required; and, notwithstanding the tediousness of the operation, each labourer is able to gather from 4 to 15 lbs. a day. When the trees attain to 6 or 7 years of age, the produce becomes so inferior that they are removed to make room for a fresh succession, or they are cut down to allow of numerous young shoots. Teas of the finest flavour consist of the youngest leaves; and as these are gathered at four different periods of the year, the younger the leaves the higher flavour the tea and the scarcer, and consequently the dearer the article.

Indian and Ceylon Teas.—Much Indian and Ceylon tea is now brought to this country, and is, as a rule, more highly flavoured than the Chinese, which it has displaced to so great a degree that now only about 10 per cent. of the tea consumed in this country comes from China, the remaining 90 per cent. being imported chiefly from Assam and Ceylon. The best tea is comparatively high priced, but not necessarily dear, as some tea is heavy and some light, so that a teaspoonful does not bear the same ratio to every pound, nor produce the same strength of infusion. "Strong, brisk, family tea" is generally warranted to produce the greatest quantity of the blackest liquid from a given number of spoonfuls, but the connoisseur does not need to be told that the best tea generally produces a pale-coloured infusion, and the depth of colour is not an invariable sign of strength. Orange, mandarin, imperial pekoe are used sparingly in this country, generally to mix with other qualities. Caravan tea comes overland to Russia, where it is sold at a high price, on the supposition that the sea voyage destroys the flavour. Some is brought to this country. Twankay, Hyson and Gunpowder are green teas; their use in England, has, however, now practically ceased. Tea, when chemically analysed, is found to contain woody fibre, extractives, colouring matters, and mineral ash. A more important constituent is the tannin, or tannic acid, to which it owes its bitter taste, particularly noticeable when the tea has stood for a long time, or has been boiled. It is to the tannin that its decided and often baneful effects upon the digestive organs are ascribed, effects that are most noticeable in those persons who have the habit of drinking tea that has stood or "drawn" for a length of time.

The constituent theine is now found to be identical with caffeine in coffee, theobromine in cocoa, and with the vegetable alkaloid found in maté, the tea of Paraguay. It must be considered as something more than coincidence that men under widely different circumstances of life, and in widely removed countries, should have brought into