Leader: Wolfgang Gunter 

Description: Tea, Camellia sinensis, is the single source for all teas, except tisanes (herbal teas). White, yellow, green, oolong, black and Pu-erh teas are created from the same tea plant, but using different processes. There are over 3,000 teas to choose from today.

The discovery of tea dates back almost 4,000 years and is attributed to Emperor Shennong, the Divine Farmer, who introduced new farming techniques in China and taught the use of herbal drugs. The origin of tea has been traced back to the region of north-eastern India, Burma and southern China, where it was probably used initially for medicinal purposes and later as a drink of the Imperial court and scholars. Over the centuries tea ceremonies developed in several countries as a transformative practice with its own aesthetic.

Portuguese priests brought tea to Europe in the 16th century, where it was enjoyed mostly by nobility due to the high taxation (without representation). The brewing conflict between England and the 13 colonies in the New World led to the Boston Tea Party in 1773 and the Revolutionary War, resulting in the independence of the New World. Tea grew in popularity with the inadvertent invention of the tea bag in 1908, followed by the invention of instant tea in 1946.

Today, China, India (including Ceylon) and Japan are the world's leading tea producers, 85 percent of which is black tea, followed by green tea, 14 percent. All other teas account for specialties, 1 percent. A number of years back, 80 percent of all tea was shipped and sold in form of "bricks", compacted tea leaves. The world's largest consumer of tea per capita is England with 2.2 kg/capita/year.

Tea is a caffeine-containing drink with an ever increasing number of health benefits attributed to it from weight loss to cancer prevention and general well-being.

While teas are enjoyed worldwide in pure form without sugar, milk, or lemon, a number of regions have their own tea traditions. Indian chais, Mongolian milk tea or Tibetan yak butter tea are well established. As part of our tea-tasting experience we will explore some of these more exotic concoctions.


Biography:  Wolfgang Gunter received his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Cologne and during his 25-year career worked and lived in Europe, the U.S. and Asia. His interests include art, diving, physics, cosmology and neuroscience.

Materials for course: A handout will be provided.

Number of participants:

Minimum: 2
Maximum: 6

Location: BILL Conference Rm.

Meeting time: Mondays, February 24 through March 31, 2014, 10 - 11:30 a.m.


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