The Science Behind a Cup of Tea

We may not be as obsessed as the English, but South Africans certainly enjoy a good cuppa when the opportunity presents itself.

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Sip on a cup while reading up on some surprisingly interesting tea facts.

The tea tree

Other than making it correctly, little is known about tea. Did you know, for example, that black tea, green tea, oolong tea, white tea and chai all come from the leaves of the same tea tree?

The tea tree genome was recently published in the Molecular Plant journal, which gives us some interesting insight into this previously unexplored plant used by millions of people across the globe. There are over 100 species in the Camellia family, but only two are used commercially for tea.

tea facts

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A flavour full of health benefits

Previous research suggested that tea’s flavour comes from a group of antioxidants that help it to survive in its environment. The one antioxidant gives it that bitter-tasting flavour tea is known for.

The caffeine contained in tea is not part of its genome, but proteins encoded in it is responsible for producing the caffeine.

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The pot is still brewing

The tea tree genome also turned out to be much larger than expected. It has 3.02 billion base pairs, which makes it four times larger than a coffee plant genome. Being so vast, it took a team of scientists five years to map it – that’s a lot of tea breaks.

Even after all this effort, the work still isn’t complete. The genome draft still needs to be double-checked and the mapping of different tea varieties from across the globe still needs to be completed. By doing this, the researchers hope to map and investigate the flavour even further.

A proper map will also lead to the discovery of how tea was domesticated, cultivated and dispersed to the various countries that enjoy it.

Not a tea enthusiast? Then read up on how to get the best cup of coffee from your French press.

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