Tea is a beverage made by steeping the leaves and buds, or occasionally the stems of the Old Earth shrub Camellia sinensis in hot water. Most use the same term for similar preparations made from plants or cell cultures that are derivatives of Camellia sinensis. The word 'tea' may also be used for similar preparations with plants of other species, or even for analogous drinks such as "cryotea", but the term is properly used for a beverage made with C. sinensis. Along with coffee it is one of the most common beverages consumed by bionts in the Terragen Sphere. Tea is a versatile and efficient beverage that can be prepared into a variety of types and over the years countless genetically engineered cultivars of the plant has been created. And this is saying nothing of the many neogen plants inspired by tea and designed to be brewed into similar beverages.
History Tea is native to the Old Earth continent of Asia and the exact date of its invention is unknown. However credible evidence shows that the people of China were probably drinking the beverage as a medical infusion by at least the 3rd Century c.e.. From there it slowly spread across Asia to become the dominant beverage in a number of Asian cultures before being spread out across the globe by the Europeans in the 15th century c.e..
Although originally tea was only one species that is no longer the case as the plant has been the target of genetic modification since the late interplanetary age. At first genengineering was used to increase yields and improve the plants tolerance to microgravity hydroponics and partially terraformed environs. But naturally strains of tea were also subject to modifications that alters the flavor. Coffee has always been popular but during the Dark Age tea became predominant because the plant is easier to grow and takes up slightly less space in the cramped hydroponics bays that were needed to provide foodstuffs.
Production methods Tea has another level of complexity in that it can be processed into different subtypes of tea. In ancient times this was done by roasting, fermenting, drying, steaming or aging the tea in different ways. In the Current Era this is often difficult to simulate with standard beverage fabs due to immense complexity of the volatile organic chemicals present in tea that gives each variety its smell and taste. Although the Zoeific Biopolity is known for its excellent bioforges designed specifically for preparing tea. However preparing tea with grown leaves and a tea making bot or even by hand is actually quite common, especially in the Zoeific Biopolity and the Sophic League.
While some modern cultures process tea the old fashion way with minimal technological assistance, most tea in the current era has been genetically modified to aid or speed up the process. So called 'Smart Tea' is one of the simplest types. Once the Smart Tea is fully grown it can be injected with a bionano packet in order to alter it into a certain subtype of tea. The tea plant will then create a promote a series of biochemical reactions in the mature tea leaves in order to either completely or partially process the tea while still on the parent planet. After the process the tea leaves will fall from the plant to be collected. A white tea nano-packet will cause the plants leaves to fall when they are young and tender for a perfect brew. While a black tea packet will cause the leaves to oxidize on the plant stem, all the user has to do is leave them to dry.
Another popular way to make tea is with wer-water technology. Due to the chemical complexity of tea, most standard wer-water containers cannot synthesize all of the subtle flavors that the more discerning tea drinkers crave. As a result so called tea pots became one of the most widely used subtypes of wer-water hardware. Tea pots use the same technology as generalist wer-water containers, but their mattercaches and synthesis patterns have been optimized for the production of tea. Some tea pots look like simple drink containers or thermos flasks, but many are made to look like 20th century metal tea pots or kettles hence their name. Some tea pots even make a whistling noise to alert the drinker when the desired tea has been synthesized.
Varieties Tea has millions of types and species in the Current Era, but some common types of tea are listed here.
- Pure Strain: Actually a huge number of teas, Terragen botanists believe that these strains are most similar to the progenitor of Earth tea Camellia sinensis. Although this is unlikely completely true due to genetic drift and unrecorded but minor genetic modifications to this plant. They are most popular in biotist policies.
- Pick up: Popular with neb and some su policies this black tea has nearly four times the amount of caffeine as other black teas. Consumption by baseline humans or those sensitive to caffeine is not recommended.
- Downer Green: A light and earthy tasting green tea, this tea is not only free of caffeine but has a relatively strong sedative effect and pain relieving qualities.
- Caesar Chai: This plant creates huge heads of edible leaves similar to Old Earth cabbage. This is not a beverage at all but is eaten whole or with salads. It has an earthy-sweet flavor, is high in caffeine, and is rich in vitamins and minerals. This plant is very popular with clades that consume large amounts of leafy vegetables such as provolved ungulates.
- Creeping Tea: This type of tea is very similar to the normal Camellia sinensis plant. With the exception of the fact that this genetically modified tea grows like a creeping vine on walls, other plants, or purpose built agricultural support frames. This type is very popular in dyson trees as the plant can tap into the tree's trunk for water and energy allowing the inhabitants to grow tea anywhere there is room. Creeping tea is also popular in arcologies where that plant can grow on unused walls or the arcology's hydroponics section.
- Pioneer Tea This genetically modified tea was drunk by the pioneers on New Gaia to help them acclimatise to the environment on this world, which is rich in metals especially selenium.
- Cryotea: This type of tea is somewhat popular with the Soft Ones, although some would debate if this concoction is actually tea. Due to the cold biology of the Soft Ones this tea is actually a suspension of fatty acids designed to be flavorful and tasty to the Soft Ones. It provides a simulating effect on Soft One physiology and those that partake of this new Terragen created brew are seen as a bit eccentric by some of their peers. The heavily modified 'tea plant' is actually a species of neogen algae analog that grows well in the ammonia rich seas of the Soft Ones worlds. It is not "brewed" just mixed with the ammonia rich brines of the Soft Ones worlds.
- Nutri-Tea: This is a type of genetically modified tea designed to be used as a kind of nutrient supplement. It is rich in certain vitamins and minerals. The tea acts like a simple nutrient absorption sponge which removes trace minerals and vitamins from the soil or hydroponics solution, the leaves then release them into hot water when brewed. This tea has a rather strong metallic taste due to the mineral content. It is said to be an acquired taste.
Text by Rhea47
additional material by Stephen Inniss
Initially published on 07 September 2017.