The Global Tea Institute's mission is to foster the understanding of tea through evidence-based knowledge with a global perspective–promoting tea research from anywhere in the world, in any discipline, and with any methodology. We actively foster knowledge through colloquia, lectures, and workshops that address the needs of the campus, industry, and general public. As GTI transitions to become the Global Tea Institute, it is beginning to create curricula to address the needs of scholars, industry, and the public. With UC Davis’s top global position in agriculture, nutrition, and food studies, and premier faculty across the disciplines, it has robust resources to offer formal educational programs to both students and tea professionals.
Our efforts rely upon four pillars or principles:
1. function as a social good that can help improve people’s lives and livelihoods around the world
2. emphasize cultural understanding, recognizing that with humanity’s many similarities and differences, the study of tea (and “teas”) can promote cultural understanding and build community — and within the community, friendship, and from friendship, perhaps even, world peace.
3. build on UC Davis’s success in agriculture – and in fact, on UC Davis’s own long-standing history in tea agriculture, having conducted in-depth research on tea since the 1960s. Aiming to be a pioneer of tea agriculture in the United States, GTI constantly looks towards the future to discover innovations in tea sustainability, cultivation, processing, and more.
4. build on research and teaching, not only in health and wellness but across the disciplines.
As we build out our vision for GTI, we also dream of having our own building with tea rooms and gardens, a dedicated sensory theater, a model processing facility, an exhibition hall to narrate the many stories of tea, and more.
The idea for an organized tea research group at UCD came together over a chance lunch in 2012 organized by the award-winning Librarian Emeritus Axel Borg, with Katharine Burnett, Professor, Art History and then-Director of East Asian Studies Program, and Darrell Corti, a world-renowned food and beverage expert who asked, “Why doesn’t UC Davis study tea?” The question found resonance in Dr. Burnett, who had a project she had been wanting to research relating to teapots in the late Ming. With this as the springboard and then propelled further by a campus initiative designed to bring the sciences together with the humanities, the group organized the All Things Tea faculty research cluster. In 2013, Katharine Burnett hosted the first public colloquium on tea at UC Davis (with tea master and designer Wingchi Ip and art historian Steven Owyang, as speakers), along with a special exhibition of calligraphy and tea materials designed by Wingchi Ip. In 2014 at the Xiamen International Tea Fair, Katharine Burnett gave the first public talk on the vision to form a UC Davis tea center, a talk that garnered strong reception among the international tea community. By 2015, the idea had already garnered so much attention from campus and national and international industry members that Dr. Burnett was invited to pitch the idea to the Provost and Deans of Humanities and Social Sciences. Immediately receptive to the idea, then-Provost Ralph Hexter charged us to host one colloquium a year and “Make it blossom!” Initially composed of 12 faculty and librarians, GTI membership has expanded to over 40 faculty, librarians, staff, and students across the disciplines with expertise and interests in tea.
For an insider story about GTI’s origins, please see “Episode One: Origin Story” in GTI’s Cha Chat podcasts.
The Global Tea Initiative's status was formally changed to the Global Tea Institute on April 6th, 2023.
Just as most true wine derives from grapes of the Vitis vinifera, and coffee is produced from the berries of the Coffea plant, tea is made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis. Although Chinese legend credits the mythological ruler and deity Shen Nong 神农, the “Divine Farmer”, with the development of tea as a beverage, archeological evidence shows that tea has been cultivated in China since at least about 2700 BCE.
Tea is broadly categorized into six main types: white, yellow, green, oolong, black, and pu’eror dark tea, based on their various levels of oxidation and fermentation. Like wines, teas vary widely in leaf appearance, liquor appearance, and flavor profile. Other main factors affecting the finished appearance and flavor of tea include cultivar, terroir, growing conditions in a specific year, specific finishing methods used by the producer, and age of the tea.
Camellia teas are produced around the world, with an agricultural industry developing here in California. Currently, China is the world’s leading producer of tea, followed by India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia1 . Per capita, people in Turkey drink the most tea annually, followed by Ireland, the United Kingdom, Russia, and Morocco2 . In the US, interest in and consumption of tea has been increasing steadily, from a market size of $1.84 billion in 1990 to $13.12 billion in 20203 . A major factor driving the increased interest in and consumption of Camellia sinensis tea is health functions including anti-inflammatory, immuno-regulatory, anticancer, and cardiovascular-protective effects4 .
Unique traditions and ceremonies surrounding the preparation and consumption of tea have emerged all around the world and continue to evolve. There are many non-Camellia, herbal infusions which are consumed around the world as tea–or “wellness tea,” ranging from chamomile and rooibos to yerba mate and kava. Many cultures around the globe flavor their Camellia teas with these or other herbs, roots, spices, and both natural and artificial flavors. These distinct regional tea cultures and beverages are all worthy of study.
How to brew a cup of tea
Although in the US, the tendency is to pour boiling water over a bag or infuser of tea, each type of tea has an ideal temperature that brings out its best flavors. Using water that is too hot will scald the leaves and make the beverage not very tasty! In general, use these temperatures (in Fahrenheit) for the various types of teas: White 175-180°, Yellow 165-175°, Green 175-180°, Oolong 195°, Black 212°, Dark(Pu’er) 212°. Please note: depending on the quality of your tea, it might need a lower temperature than those indicated here
- 1Tea Report 2020. German Tea & Herbal Infusions Association, https://www.teeverband.de/der-verband-en/
- 2Ferdman, R. (2014). Map: The Countries that Drink the Most Tea. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/01/map-the-countries-that-drink-the-most-tea/283231/
- 3The State of the U.S. Tea Industry 2020-2021. (2021), Tea Association of the U.S.A., Inc., http://www.teausa.com/14654/state-of-the-industry
- 4Tang GY, Meng X, Gan RY, Zhao CN, Liu Q, Feng YB, Li S, Wei XL, Atanasov AG, Corke H, Li HB. Health Functions and Related Molecular Mechanisms of Tea Components: An Update Review. Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Dec 8;20(24):6196. doi: 10.3390/ijms20246196. PMID: 31817990; PMCID: PMC6941079.