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Tea and its Place in Jamaican Society

Posted by culinarydelightsgb on August 26, 2007

Tea and its Place in Jamaican Society

Tea is made from the leaves and buds of the Camellia sinensis plant, which is an evergreen tropical shrub. It is native to mainland Asia but is now cultivated worldwide in tropical and subtropical regions. The seeds can be pressed for tea oil, which is a seasoning and cooking oil. Fresh leaves from the camellia sinensis plant contain about 4% caffeine; the young leaves are more desirable for tea production.

Tea tree plant

There are generally four types of tea – black, white, green and oolong. These are all harvested from the same plant, but are processed differently to achieve different levels of oxidation.

Black Tea

Black tea is more oxidized than white, green and oolong teas. It has a stronger flavor and more caffeine than the other varieties. In Chinese and some other languages, black tea is known as red tea, which perhaps better describes the color of the beverage. In the western world, red tea refers to the South African rooibus herbal tea.

Assam tea

Black tea can retain its flavor for many years, unlike green tea, for example, which usually loses its flavor within a year. Varieties include Keemun (China), Darjeeling (India), Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and Earl Grey (blended with bergamot oil – common in the United Kingdom).

White Tea

White tea is made from the new buds and young leaves of the tea plant. Oxidation is deactivated by shocking it with heat, then drying. Since this variety of tea contains buds as well as leaves, the dried product has a pale appearance.

White tea

Due to the lack of oxidation, white tea retains high concentration of catechins, an antioxidant found to reduce the risk of stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes. Buds and young leaves have also been found to contain higher levels of caffeine than older leaves, which would suggest that some white teas may have higher caffeine levels than green teas. Varieties include Bai Hao Yinzhen (China), White Puerh (China), Ceylon White (Sri Lanka), and Assam White (India).

Green Tea

Called a “true” tea, green tea has undergone minimal oxidation during processing. It has a yellowish-green color and a bitter flavor. Green tea is popular in China, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, Morocco, and the Middle East among other countries. Recently this trend has extended to the West.

Green tea

Varieties include Longjing (China), Gyokuro (Japan) and Matcha (Japan).

Oolong Tea

This is a traditional Chinese tea, also known as wu-long. With an oxidation range from 10% to 70%, it’s somewhere between green and black tea. Oolong has a flavor more like green tea, with a more nuanced profile: it doesn’t have the flowery aroma of black tea, or the sometimes grassy notes of green tea. The leaves are often processed then rolled into long, curly leaves or into ball form.

Oolong tea

Varieties include Da Hong Pao (China), Huang Jin Gui (China), and Pouchong (Taiwan).

Jamaican Connection – A Brief History

Jamaica, an island nation in the Caribbean, was originally populated by Arawak Indians. Christopher Columbus claimed the island for Spain upon his arrival on May 5, 1494. Spain eventually relinquished its claim in 1670 to England, which had claimed it in a raid. Jamaica gained independence on August 6, 1962 but has remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, a voluntary association of former British colonies/possessions.

Through many years of colonization, the Jamaican cuisine took on many of the habits and traditions of the British. The most obvious is consumption of tea. Jamaicans drink the most tea per capita in the Caribbean to this day as a result. Of the four main types of tea, black tea is the preference of most Jamaicans.

Herbal teas, often referred to as “bush teas”, are believed to be good for you, and are held in high regard. The most popular of these bush teas is cerasse tea, thought to be able to prevent and cure everything from colds and flu to headaches and bellyaches. Although hailed as a blood cleanser and sugar controller for people with diabetes, it is feared by everyone for its ghastly bitter taste. Other popular herbal teas include black mint, peppermint, fever grass, ginger, lime leaf, and bizzy or bizzy nut.

Of course, there is much more information to this topic than I can cover here, but I would love to hear from you. Especially if you’re from Jamaica or anywhere else in the Caribbean, what’s your favourite tea? How do you like it – sugar, milk, black? Which tea do you absolutely hate 🙂 ?




United Kingdom Tea Council:

Lori-Ann Thompson is the owner of Culinary Delights Gourmet Baskets, a gift basket service in Florida. She has been certified in the Culinary Arts and has worked in the field for a number of years. Visit her site at and see what’s new.


2 Responses to “Tea and its Place in Jamaican Society”

  1. azumarisan said

    Nice looking blog. Interesting reading too 🙂

  2. […] Dig deeper into the topic here […]

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