Tea and Its Cultivation

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The origins of tea are shrouded in legend and tradition. Tea's history is varied, ranging from Chinese emperors to Portuguese queens who got tea from China. In China, a leaf is supposed to have been dropped into boiling water for Emperor Shen Nung, who appreciates the taste. He had no idea he was the one who had produced the first cup of tea. In Chinese legend, Emperor Shen Nung discovered tea when leaves from a wild tree drifted into his pot of boiling water in 2732 B.C. The delicious aroma of the ensuing brew piqued his curiosity, and he sipped some discovering tea. Marco Polo was one of the first people to tell the story of tea in Europe, yet it wasn't until the early 16th century that tea made its way to the continent. During the 16th century, tea was the height of fashion in Paris, yet it became big in Britain after a London coffee house started to serve it. Tea found its way to Australia on the supply ships that accompanied the First Fleet in 1788. Whilst Indigenous Australians had their own version of tea made from the ti tree which they had been drinking for thousands of years, it was different to the plant originally used in the making of tea.

Tea comes from Camellia sinensis. Tea is harvested with pruning shears with a collecting basket or by hand. They collect the leaves in a basket carried on their backs. The argument for a manual method is quality control. Experienced pickers know when the buds are ready to be picked and how to select the best ones. Only the 'flush', or top leaves of the tea plant, are part of the new phase and contain one or two leaves and an unopened bud. A golden flush is defined as a flush with two or three leaves. For this degree of precision, handpicking is far better than machine picking. Manual plucking is necessary for oolong tea to avoid bruising of the leaves before processing. Due to the requirement for speed in preventing stock shortages, trucks move tea from the fields to the facility up to four times each day.

Leaves are immediately weighed and inventoried at the mill, then spread out on enormous white cloths stretched out on the ground. Then the process of separating the numerous varieties of tea, such as black, white, oolong, and green, begins. In general, leaves are placed in the sun to wither, which can remove up to 50% or even 60% of their moisture content. They're shuffled regularly to ensure a uniform process, and conditioned air is frequently pumped over them to speed up the process by drying out any surface water and aiding the chemical breakdown of the juices inside the leaf. This step alone can take anywhere from 12 to 18 hours, depending on how thin you spread the leaves and the sort of tea you want. Black tea, for example, is oxidized for a longer period, resulting in thinner layers of leaves. The major goal of withering is to soften the leaves; this eliminates any brittleness in the stems, allowing them to tolerate the rolling process. When the plant has softened to the point where the stem can be folded in half, it is ready to be oxidized and then rolled.

World tea production grew by 3.5 percent per year over the last decade, which was mainly driven by a 6.3 percent increase in China's tea production. Like all other parts of the trade, global tea production was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Governments trying to stop the spread prevented workers from moving from region to region to tend and harvest crops.

The tea plant Camellia sinensis can endure severe frosts and even snow, but not deep freezes or long periods of cold, and unlike some plants, it does not require a cold dormancy period. It can grow in a wide range of climates, from subtropical to tropical, although it needs high humidity and rain throughout the growing season. Although it thrives in hot, humid tropical climates, the greatest teas are cultivated in subtropical climates with seasonal variations. Tea grows best in its natural condition in areas with a warm, humid environment and at least 100 cm of annual rainfall. It prefers soil that is deep, light, acidic, and well-drained. Tea may be grown anywhere from sea level to 2,100 meters above sea level under these conditions. The tea plant is highly sensitive to changes in growing conditions, making it very variable to climate change.

In general, the human impact of tea is far bigger than the environmental impact, particularly in India and Kenya. Although things are better today than they were 100 years ago, many people still struggle in the tea industry. When a tea estate owner is underpaid, not only do the workers, who rely on the estate for not only pay, but also food, healthcare, and access to education, suffer in deplorable living conditions, but farmers often choose or are forced to abandon their plantations when they are no longer profitable. In remote areas, this is particularly damaging to the community of workers who do not have access to a town where they may look for a new job or simply buy food. A major issue in Kenya, and increasingly in India, is that estate employees are increasingly being engaged merely temporarily. This implies that the estate is not responsible for meeting their fundamental requirements, and workers must pay for their essential amenities, such as food, clean water, and healthcare while being paid pitifully low salaries. Tea workers are once again compelled to look for a new job when their contract expires. In Kenya, laborers are occasionally recruited on a day-to-day basis. Every morning, their livelihood is in jeopardy. Because most children do not have access to education, the cycle of poverty perpetuates from generation to generation.

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Furthermore, tea manufacturing is hazardous. Pickers spend their days on their feet, lifting large goods in potentially perilous weather and on challenging terrain. Injuries are prevalent, and they can put a worker's ability to support himself and his family in jeopardy. The International Labour Organization has classified the pesticides and insecticides used by the employees as hazardous to their health. Sanitation is typically inadequate, and clean water for drinking, cooking, and bathing is not readily available. Sickness is typically a difficulty when combined with poor and congested living circumstances. Access to healthcare is usually restricted if it is provided at all.

Tea production has few negative effects on the environment. Tea trees are still hand-picked today, and tea harvesting produces almost little pollution. Tea cultivation has just one significant environmental impact: deforestation. Farmers destroy enormous swaths of forest to make way for tea plants, wreaking havoc on the ecology in the process. Forests currently cover 30% of the Earth's geographical area, however, this figure is fast dwindling. The removal of trees to make place for agriculture, such as tea plantations, is the major cause of deforestation.

Tea cultivation has few negative environmental consequences. Tea harvesting causes nearly no pollution, and tea plants are still hand-picked today. Tea farming has just one major environmental impact: deforestation. Farmers clear vast expanses of forest to make room for tea plants, wreaking havoc on the environment. Forests presently encompass 30% of the Earth's land area, however, this percentage is rapidly declining. Deforestation is mostly caused by the removal of trees to create a way for agriculture, such as tea plantations.

To maintain sustainability and decrease negative impacts on those who rely on tea for their livelihoods, Australia and Australians must support firms and businesses that encourage the adoption of improved production techniques. If everyone only buys things that adhere to better manufacturing procedures, such as fair trade, firms that abuse people in order to produce more money will begin to lose consumers. This will drive them to begin using better manufacturing processes in order to attract customers.

Australia does not import enough tea to have a significant influence over the tea trade however Australians can try a buy tea that is either grown in Australia or is ethically sourced. By buying the tea that is grown in Australia customers can ensure that they are support companies that pay their workers a fair wage, follow health and safety practices and support sustainable farming within Australia. By investing and building Australia’s tea-growing capability customers can help companies and firms that try and innovate the way we farm tea, not just in Australia, but all over the world, so that we can have a more sustainable global crop yield.

People can buy products that are approved by free trade and other organizations like it in order to promote improved production techniques and try and avoid products that don’t. By doing this we will show producers of tea that we care about the effect it has on the environment and the effect it has on the people. This will encourage plantation owners and shareholders that stake claims in the companies that purchase and produce tea on those plantations to make the lives of the people who work there better by paying them more or by introducing things like better education for the children who live there.

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Tea and Its Cultivation. (2023, September 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/tea-and-its-cultivation/
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