Camellia Sinensis, commonly known as the ‘tea plant,’ has become a phenomenon around the world. Every country has their own unique take on tea. England is known for their rituals, and here in the United States Southerners are known for their sweet concoctions. Let’s face it, you can’t be from the South and not have a family recipe for sweet tea.
Native to China, India, and even the United States tea has become a highly prized commodity today. In fact, when China mastered the art of not only reproducing the plants but also manufacturing the tea they kept their secret closely guarded. No one outside (foreigner) was allowed to enter the central area where the tea was produced. If caught they would be executed.
Britain was determined to learn China’s secrets, so the East India Company hired Robert Fortune in 1848 to venture into China and steal their secrets! Crazy as it sounds Fortune made it out alive and was able to describe their entire process. Because of Fortune Britain was able to enhance the flavor of their tea, and ramp up production to meet the demand of the country.
There are so many ways people take their tea today. It has evolved over many a year into something extraordinary. Just think, have you ever watched Downtown Abbey? If you have, then you should know how the English enjoyed their tea back in the day. Especially if you were high class.
Tea is highly regarded in numerous countries. China, India, Korea, and Japan are just a few examples. Both China and Japan perform tea ceremonies for weddings. Tea is more than just a hobby, but a way of life, and is treated with respect.
In Japan, the tradition of the tea ceremony is still taught today. The tradition of the chanoyu (tea ceremony) draws influence from Zen Buddhism. Each service is centered around a theme, such as the seasons. The host must take special care during the ceremony itself as each movement is planned.
Chanoyu’s aren’t just about tea. The host must prepare a special room for taking tea, and also must decide whether or not to serve a meal. The host must also create flower arrangements, wall scrolls, calligraphy, and wear a kimono.
There are also special tools involved. Here are just a few examples of the tools you will see during a tea ceremony.
Chasen: The chasen is a special bamboo brush created for mixing the matcha (powdered green tea).
Chashaku: The chashaku is a bamboo tea scoop that is used to measure out the matcha powder. Chashakus have also been made from other materials as well.
Chawan: The chawan is the tea bowl. This is your ‘cup.’ The tea is carefully prepared in the chawan and passed around during the ceremony to each guest. Of course, this all depends on the ceremony being performed.
China is known for their tea. In fact, without China, we wouldn’t have certain teas today. For instance, Jasmine Tea would have never existed if a particular village in China didn’t receive stale tea. To fix the staleness of this tea, they decided to add jasmine flowers, which in turn gave the tea a more pleasant taste.
Oolong is just another example. This tea is gorgeous! It is as sweet as honey, with floral aromas, which is enhanced by the roasting process. It’s delicious and one of the most expensive teas you could drink, but it’s worth it.
Did you know you can steep oolong tea leaves more than once? Exactly! I want to say it’s up to seven times, but don’t take my word for it!
As you can see tea is an art! It’s not just boiling water, throw in the bag, sweetener, steep, and BOOM! You’re done! A cup of tea, I mean a fantastic cup of tea, takes time. Next time you go to make yourself a cuppa’ why not make it into a meditative process.
While boiling your water, take the time to consider what type of tea you want. Don’t just choose on a whim, really think about it. What flavor are you looking for today? Florals? Spice? Maybe instead of black or green tea, you want an herbal infusion instead!
Learn about the tea your using. The proper water temperature that needs to be used and the optimal steeping time.
When you finally get to drink your tea. Take the time to actually taste it! What do you taste? Is it bitter? Does it have a sweet or nutty finish? Take this time to relieve the stress of your day. Create your own Chanoyu at home.
Tea is one of my favorite past times, so I hope to talk about it more often on here. Soon, I’ll post an article about my experience with Elmwood Inn, my local tea shop!