Steeping

Steeping is the soaking in liquid (usually water) of a solid so as to extract flavours or to soften it. Some teas are prepared for drinking by steeping the leaves in heated water to release the flavour and nutrients. Herbal teas may be prepared by decoction, infusion, or maceration. Some solids are soaked to remove an ingredient, such as salt from smoked ham or salted cod, where the solvent is not the desired product. One example is the steeping of corn (or maize), part of the milling process. As described by the US Corn Refiners Association, harvested kernels of corn are cleaned and then steeped in water at a temperature of 50 C (120 F) for 30 to 40 hours.[1] In the process their moisture content rises from 15% to 45% and their volume more than doubles. The gluten bonds in the corn are weakened and starch is released. The corn is then ground to break free the germ and other components, and the water used (steepwater), which has absorbed various nutrients, is recycled for use in animal feeds. Tea is an aromatic beverage commonly prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over cured leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis.[3] After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world.[4] It has a cooling, slightly bitter, astringent flavour which many people enjoy.[5] Tea has been promoted for having a variety of positive health benefits, though generally these benefits have not been adequately demonstrated in humans.[6] The phrase "herbal tea" usually refers to infusions of fruit or herbs made without the tea plant, such as rosehip tea, chamomile tea or rooibos tea. Alternative phrases for this are tisane or herbal infusion, both bearing an implied contrast with "tea" as it is construed here Camellia sinensis is an evergreen plant that grows mainly in tropical and subtropical climates.[7] Some varieties can also tolerate marine climates and are cultivated as far north as Pembrokeshire in the British mainland[8] and Washington in the United States.[9] Leaves of Camellia sinensis, the tea plant Tea plants are propagated from seed and by cutting; it takes about 4 to 12 years for a tea plant to bear seed, and about three years before a new plant is ready for harvesting.[7] In addition to a zone 8 climate or warmer, tea plants require at least 127 cm (50 inches) of rainfall a year and prefer acidic soils.[10] Many high-quality tea plants are cultivated at elevations of up to 1,500 m (4,900 ft) above sea level: at these heights, the plants grow more slowly and acquire a better flavor.[11] Only the top 1-2 inches of the mature plant are picked. These buds and leaves are called "flushes".[12] A plant will grow a new flush every seven to 15 days during the growing season, and leaves that are slow in development always produce better-flavored teas.[7] A tea plant will grow into a tree of up to 16 m (52 ft) if left undisturbed,[7] but cultivated plants are pruned to waist height for ease of plucking.[13] Two principal varieties are used: the China plant (C. s. sinensis), used for most Chinese, Formosan and Japanese teas (but not Pu-erh); and the clonal Assam tea plant (C. s. assamica), used in most Indian and other teas (but not Darjeeling). Within these botanical varieties, there are many strains and modern Indian clonal varieties. Leaf size is the chief criterion for the classification of tea plants,[14] with three primary classifications being: Assam type, characterized by the largest leaves; China type, characterized by the smallest leaves; and Cambod, characterized by leaves of intermediate size