At Avansas, we offer a wide range of teas, from everyday tea for office breaks to speciality office tea bag supplies and herbal infusions. Whatever your preferred brew, we can provide a range of delivery options, so you can keep your employees' mugs topped up in as little as 24 hours.
What is tea?
Traditional tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. However, there’s much more to everyday tea for office consumption than your familiar cup of PG Tips. 'True' teas, such as Earl Grey, Green Tea, and even your favourite 'builder's brown' are all derived from the same plant. While Camelia Sinensis was once the monopoly of South East Asia, it's now grown in countries across the planet, including Iran, Japan, Kenya, and Turkey.
The most important part of the tea-making process is oxidisation. Once the leaves have been harvested, they are then tumbled, rolled, or crushed together to allow air access to all parts of the leaf. Once oxygen mixes with the plant's natural polyphenols, the leaves begin to turn brown. This is part of a chemical reaction in which the polyphenols are converted into flavonoids. These compounds give the tea its colour and depth of flavour.
The longer tea leaves are oxidised, the more powerful their flavour. Certain teas, such as Green Tea, are harvested when the leaves are younger and only subject to the oxidisation process for a minimal amount of time. This results in a more delicate flavour and a lighter colour. Teas of this sort tend to be drunk without milk or sugar, allowing their natural complexities to shine through.
Once the leaves have reached their desired state, the oxidisation process is halted. This is achieved by exposing them to heat, bringing the chemical reactions to a standstill and drying the leaves further. Different tea tag manufacturers use different methods to dry out their leaves, including steaming them, roasting in pans, or leaving them to dry in the sun.
When did tea find its way to Britain?
If you’re wondering how long tea has been part of the British way of life, you’ll need to look back to the 1400s. Around this time, traders from the Netherlands began importing it into Europe, although its scarcity made it a rare and exotic brew. However, it wasn’t until the 17th Century that the East India Trading Company decided to import it to the UK in bulk. Because of the high import taxes levied on the leaves, tea was initially only consumed by the wealthy. However, as public demand for the drink grew, its inflated cost led to the formation of a network of tea smugglers.
To save the East India Trading Company from bankruptcy, the government of the time passed the Tea Act. This reduced the taxes placed on this once-exclusive, making it affordable enough to be consumed by the masses and become part of the fabric of British culture.
True tea or not true tea?
However, not all office tea bags can be genuinely considered to be true teas. While everyday tea for office consumption might be the UK's most popular drink, some find its bitter taste unpleasant, and those who find they react adversely to the caffeine it naturally contains. Herbal teas or fruit infusions are the earliest form of ‘tea’ in history and can be traced back to the 27th Century BCE. The Chinese first pioneered the use of herbs and spices in drinks, primarily as part of their medicinal beliefs. However, these drinks also found their way into spiritual rituals and ceremonies.
Modern herbal teas and fruit infusions are typically made from dried herbs, spices, fruits, leaves, and flowers. Many, such as Camomile and Peppermint Tea, are still thought to have holistic and medicinal benefits and are used in treating a range of conditions, such as insomnia and digestive disorders. While they might not be what you might expect from your tea for office breaks, they are incredibly popular and are considered an everyday tea for offices.
The caffeine conundrum
For those who do enjoy the complexity of proper tea, there is another option available in the form of decaffeinated tea bags. Like its caffeinated cousin, decaf tea is made from the leaves of the Camelia Sinensis plant. However, there is an additional step used to extract the caffeine. Most decaf teas are made by placing the tea leaves in a pressure cooker, along with carbon dioxide. This removes the caffeine but leaves all the flavonoids intact, so the flavour remains the same. There are other methods of caffeine extraction, such as using water to process the leaves or the use of ethyl acetate. The carbon dioxide method is by far the most popular and doesn't involve the use of any harmful chemicals or compounds.
Milk: first or second?
A debate that's continued to rage among tea drinkers is whether the milk should go in before the tea or after. According to Fortnum and Mason, the practice of putting milk into tea first was born out of practicality. Early tea cups and mugs were far more delicate than those we use today when drinking tea for office tea breaks. Putting the milk in first helped to cool the tea, preventing them from cracking. However, it later became a statement of class. When more durable mugs and cups became available, putting the milk in first showed that you were serving tea in your best china, which still needs to be cooled to the right temperature to prevent cracking or shattering. However you choose to drink yours, there’s no denying that tea can be a healthy and refreshing drink to see you and your staff through a busy day at work.
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