Kindred of Camellia
We have already talked about many plants, selfless friends of man. But how to pass over silence to such plants, thanks to which we learned the taste of tea, coffee, cocoa? They have come into our everyday life so long that they seem to be something eternal and inalienable. About a billion inhabitants of the globe consume these pleasant and at the same time healthy drinks that stimulate the activity of the body, maintain a cheerful mood and do no harm.
True, tea, cocoa and coffee by no means exhaust the entire arsenal of stimulating drinks. On the African continent alone, about 40 million people drink the infusion of stake tree seeds, more than 30 million South Africans use the infusion of leaves of an evergreen tree - Paraguayan tea. It is also very common to drink a drink made from the leaves of a shrub of guarana.
In short, whoever likes what. For us, the main ones that have become “classic” drinks are, of course, tea, cocoa and coffee, but tea has been the most popular since ancient times. No wonder they say that our country has become the second homeland of tea.
To the question, where is the real homeland of tea, scientists now answer in different ways. Most, however, agree that this evergreen shrub, sometimes, however, reaching 10 meters in height, hails from places where it can now be seen in the wild. These are areas of tropical forests of northern Burma, India and Vietnam, South China, Hainan Island. As for tea as a drink, there is no disagreement or doubt - this is an invention of the Chinese, who know it and love it since ancient times. In Chinese, “tea” means “young leaf”, which indicates the use of just young apical leaves for preparing a drink.
Although the tea bush belongs to the evergreens, its rather large leaves live only one year. True, a tea plant is never naked: its leaves fall, unlike our deciduous woody plants, gradually and mainly in the spring. Instead of the fallen, new ones immediately appear. But tea blooms in the fall, in early September. Flowers, one by one, or even two or four, continue to appear until the frosts. They are very fragrant, beautiful pale white or pink. No wonder some botanists attribute tea to the genus of exquisite camellia.
Few of the tea flowers are fertilized: only 2-4 percent, forming small fruits - boxes with bitter oily seeds. The remaining flowers quickly fall off or wither barren.
Many varieties and varieties of tea plants are known, but the basis of the world tea industry is Chinese tea.
For the convenience of leaf collection, tea plants form in the form of small sheared bushes. About a million hectares is planted throughout the world, while our total area of tea plantations has exceeded 100 thousand hectares.
The distant past is shrouded in haze. There is an ancient Chinese legend about how, for days and nights, not knowing rest, a Buddhist clergyman Darma prayed, who moved from India to China and received here the new name Ta Mo. Once, exhausted by a long prayer, Ta Mo fell and immediately fell asleep, and when he woke up he was angry with himself, cut off his eyelids and angrily threw him to the ground. At this place, as if the first bush of tea had grown. From its leaves, Ta Mo prepared a drink that he found healing, conducive to mental vigor and calling for religious exploits. Therefore, before his death, he bequeathed to all his followers to drink tea, declaring it a drink, obligatory in the performance of religious rites.
However, tea pretty soon freed from the custody of worshipers, as its healing properties were established. The first evidence that came to us about the use of tea as a medicinal plant dates back to the fifth millennium BC. This is also confirmed by the ancient Chinese encyclopedia Bentsar, created in the IV century BC. It describes tea in detail, with full knowledge of the matter both as a drink and as a plant.
One unknown Arab traveler, in records dated 879 AD, noted that taxes in China are collected “not only from salt, but also from plants whose leaves the Chinese boil in water. This is a simple bush on which the leaves are larger than on a pomegranate tree, and their smell is much nicer, but they have some bitterness. They boil water, pour it on the leaves, and this drink heals many diseases. ”
Tea very quickly became a real folk drink in China. Treatises and poetic works were dedicated to him, special tea houses were arranged, which romantic poets called "oases in the sad desert of being." There was even a cult of tea - theism, which called for worship of the drink, "miraculous among the insignificance of everyday life." And in one Chinese annals there is a hymn to tea: “Tea invigorates the spirit, softens the heart, drives away fatigue, arouses thought, does not allow laziness to settle, lightens and refreshes the body and clarifies perception.” No less enthusiastically described tea in another ancient Chinese work: “Drink this wonderful drink slowly, and you will feel the strength to fight all the worries that usually burden our lives. You can only feel the sweet peace that you get through drinking, but there is no way to describe it. ”
Tea was imported from China primarily to Japan, and then to Europe at the beginning of the 16th century. Information about him for the first time came to Russia in 1567: they were brought by Cossack chieftains Petrov and Yalyshev, who returned from a trip to China. But only after almost 70 years, the Moscow ambassador Vasily Starkov brought Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich a four-pound batch of tea. It was a return gift from the Mongol Khan for a hundred sables presented to him. The Russian ambassador for a long time and stubbornly refused the insignificant, in his opinion, gift and accepted it, only yielding to the perseverance of the khan. But the imposed gift came to taste in the royal chambers. At first, in Russia tea was consumed mainly by the court nobility, and then as a medicine, as prescribed by doctors. Gradually, tea consumption expanded, and in 1696 from Moscow to China for the first time a special government caravan was equipped for it.
© Martin Benjamin
Subsequently, the demand for tea in Russia became so great that it took one of the main places in the import of goods. About 75 thousand tons of tea were imported annually by merchants to Russia and made huge investments on this. Only tea brewing cost the country 50-60 million rubles in gold per year!
The Russians contributed to the history of the use of this amazing plant: they created a special tea machine, as the Germans called our Tula samovar. Tea drinking in Russia is becoming widespread, and the people even introduced a peculiar classification of its consumption, reflecting the social inequality of the people of that time: a slip for the rich, a bit of sugar for the middle layers of the population, and a look for the poor.
But if a samovar can only be called a machine conditionally, then a tea leaf harvester, designed in our time by Georgian craftsmen, does not require any discounts. Until 1963, tea was cleaned with our hands only. Two thousand finger movements, and at the bottom of the basket the first kilogram of fragrant leaves appears, and the average daily collection of about 30 kilograms! Can you imagine what laborious work the collectors did on a daily basis?
Many inventors have tried to facilitate the collection of tea leaves. Even the father of cybernetics, Norbert Wiener, who did not recognize the boundaries of design thought, dropped his hands in front of this problem. “Everything can be thought up and made, except for the machine for cleaning tea,” other authorities concluded disappointedly. Only Georgian designers managed to create a combine for harvesting tea leaves, which they called "Sakartvelo."
“Your machine brought the real revolution to tea growing,” experts from Japan, Vietnam, India, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, who came to see it in tea plantations, unanimously admitted.
A smart machine does an amazingly delicate job, not just cutting tea leaves from the bushes, but selecting only the most tender, young leaves. She removes up to 800 kilograms of leaf per day, saving 7-8 rubles on each centner.
The history of tea acclimatization in Russia is extremely interesting. The first tea plants were brought to us about 150 years ago and planted by the famous botanist Hartvis in the territory of the current Nikitsky Botanical Garden, near Yalta. Here it was studied and propagated for 20 years, until it was convinced that the Crimea with its dry climate is of little use for tea culture.
In 1846, the first test of tea began in the Caucasus. For a long time it did not give encouraging results, but enthusiasts of the domestic tea industry did not give up. Among them were not only botanists, agronomists, foresters, but also famous scientists who seemed very far from plant growing: climatologist A. I. Voeikov and chemist Academician A. M. Butlerov. Numerous obstacles joined forces were finally overcome. During the first 100 years of culture, about 500 trial acres of tea plantations were planted.
However, the cultivation of tea bush reached its true scope only in the Soviet period. Now our country is not only fully provided with tea of its own production, but also exports it. And Michurin tea growers are successfully promoting this culture in new areas: in the North Caucasus, Central Asia, Transcarpathia and even the Carpathian region. Preliminary reconnaissance is carried out in the suburbs and Leningrad.
A large team of the Research Institute of Tea and Subtropical Crops is working in Georgia. Its experts developed several valuable hybrid tea varieties, developed agricultural technology that provides high yields, new ways of processing tea leaves.
What attracts people to this unusual plant? Biochemical studies exhaustively answer this question. It turns out that among the richest wild flora of our Motherland, which, by the way, numbers about 18 thousand species of flowering plants, there is no plant, even in an insignificant amount containing a valuable chemical substance - caffeine, and tea contains up to 3.5%. To this add up to 20% tannins, vitamins Ci, Bi, B2, nicotinic and pantothenic acids, traces of essential oil. That is why it is this culture that we so carefully cultivate, carefully collect the young leaves of the tea bush, and process them in special factories. It is very important to collect leaves in a timely manner, since the taste, aroma deteriorate, and the content of caffeine and other substances decreases when you are late with the collection, even for one day.
According to the cooking technology, tea is divided into baikhovy, green, black, and now Soviet tea growers are still preparing yellow and red tea, very rich in vitamins and other useful substances.
Modern scientific research has more fully clarified the therapeutic value of tea. It turned out that, in addition to caffeine, tea contains a very important vitamin P, which strengthens capillary blood vessels, and tannin, which is a kind of collector of vitamin C.
Talking about tea, one cannot but mention Ksenia Ermolaevna Bakhtadze. She lives in Chakva, near Batumi, and settled here in 1927 in order to improve the tea plant. Over 20 magnificent varieties of tea were created by the academician, Hero of Socialist Labor K.E. Bakhtadze. Her favorite pet was the Georgian-5 variety. Others do not recognize it as tea, its leaves are so large and the appearance of the plant is unusual. The drink from the leaves of this variety is excellent, unusually tender, with a subtle aroma. Yes, and he’s double the productivity of all ordinary varieties — 10 tons of selected leaves per hectare.
“But a man lives by more than one tea,” Ksenia Ermolaevna jokes, after cherishing tea, a fragrant rosary is cherished at her house all year round. “Roses are flowers of joy, and tea is a refreshing drink.” Without vigor, there is no joy, and without joy, what is the use of vigor? ”
Used on materials:
- S. Ivchenko - Book about trees