Once dubbed as the most liberal product in the USA, Kombucha, or fermented tea, has been experiencing a surge of sales since the last decade. And why wouldn't it be? It's tasty, makes you feel energetic, can protect your cells from getting damaged, and much more.
However, the origin story behind fermented tea is quite convoluted. Most people do not even know how they were even created or formulated. So, that's why, we're going to focus on the history of fermented tea and how (and where it was) first produced.
Demystifying the Origin of Fermented Tea
The recorded history or database of sparkling tea is a bit cloudy. But according to a report, it was first invented and popular in the north-eastern side of China in 220 B.C.
However, during that period, it was supposedly being called ‘the elixir of life.' However, we are not really sure if the claim is true or not, although the product has its own benefits.
Historically speaking, the origin of sparkling tea can be traced back primarily to two nations - including China and India.
China: The Apparent Birthplace of Fermented Tea
China, like almost any other form of tea, is considered as the provenance of sparkling tea as well. As per research, the procedure of fermenting tea leaves began during the time period of 25 AD to 220 AD (the Eastern Han Dynasty).
They used to pluck the leaves from the sapling and left them in the air to ferment naturally. This, sequentially, led to the invention of Pu-erh - a fermented tea admired for its earthy scent and robust characteristics. The fermentation usually takes some time to complete.
But, it's quite impeccable.
Anyway over time, the Chinese tea makers refined the art of fermentation via experimenting by introducing microbial cultures. This helped in accelerating the process and laid the basic foundation for the varied range of fermented teas we consume today.
India: The Inventor of Ayurvedic Fermentation
In India, however, the process of fermenting tea was deeply rooted into Ayurveda. Thanks to the scientific exposure, most tea masters in the country understood the transformative power of fermentation and used it to enhance the health benefits of tea.
Kombucha, for example, is made with a curious symbolic culture of yeast and bacteria. This is collectively known as SCOBY, which focuses on converting sugars in it into various acids that are beneficial for us. However, due to this very reason, the tea tastes a bit tangy as well.
How is Fermented Tea Actually Made?
In essence, fermented tea is made from some specific tea leaves that're aged for a quite long time. Usually, most of these products are made by following the same process.
So, here, we'll talk about the production method of Pu-erh only.
Step - 1: Harvesting the Plant
Firstly, a tea master will harvest the tea plant from a varietal, known as camellia sinensis. The tree is known for having large leaves, and they are usually found in south-west China.
Usually, the leaves are plucked from the wild-growing, older trees, as they tend to be more mature. The period of harvest is also important, with pu-erh being harvested in the spring.
Step - 2: Dry Roasting
Once the leaves are harvested, they go through a strenuous process of oxidation. After this is done, the leaves are, then, dry-roasted through a procedure called ‘killing the green.'
After this, the tea is lightly bruised through rubbing and rolling,and then dried under the sun. A minimal amount of oxidation will occur once the process is completed.
Step - 3: The Acceleration Process
The dry-roasted leaves, then, go through an accelerated procedure. Similar to composting, it usually focuses on fermenting the team in a rather humid ecosystem for months.
The more time the tea master takes to age the tea leaves, the stronger its scent and taste will become. Usually, once this is done, you may start drinking the tea accordingly.
So, that will be all for our article today. If you are still confused about something or want us to add another section, be sure to comment below. We'll try to help you in any way we can!