The Legendary Origins Of
Comes To Europe
Tea In England
Of Tea In India
From Around The World
Different Types Of Tea
The Legendary Origins Of Tea
story of tea began in ancient China in 2737 BC According to legend,
Shen Nong, an early emperor was a skilled ruler, creative scientist
and patron of the arts. His far-sighted edicts required, among other
things, that all drinking water be boiled as a hygienic precaution.
One summer day while visiting a distant region of his realm, he and
the court stopped to rest. In accordance with his ruling, the servants
began to boil water for the court to drink. Dried leaves from a near
by bush fell into the boiling water, and a brown liquid was infused
into the water. As a scientist, the Emperor was interested in the new
liquid, drank some, and found it very refreshing. And so, according
to legend, tea was created. (This myth maintains such a practical narrative,
that many mythologists believe it may relate closely to the actual events,
now lost in ancient history).
consumption spread throughout the Chinese culture reaching into every
aspect of the society. In the Chinese Art of Tea, John Blofeld noted
that the habit of drinking tea had percolated to every strata of Chinese
society - from, "emperors and peasants nomadic tribesman who bartered
horses for bricks of tea and statesman who used tea to buy off would-be
invaders" It was here that the timeless tradition of offering tea
to one's guests became prevalent. It is said to have been initiated
by a disciple of Lao Tse who one day offered the "old philosopher" a
cup of the "golden elixir". By virtue of this, this custom was deeply
entrenched in Chinese society by 500 BC. In 800 AD Lu Yu wrote the first
definitive book on tea, the Ch'a Ching. This amazing man was orphaned
as a child and raised by scholarly Buddhist monks in one of China's
finest monasteries. However, as a young man, he rebelled against the
discipline of priestly training which had made him a skilled observer.
His fame as a performer increased with each year, but he felt his life
lacked meaning. Finally, in mid-life, he retired for five years into
seclusion. Drawing from his vast memory of observed events and places,
he codified the various methods of tea cultivation and preparation in
ancient China. The vast definitive nature of his work, projected him
into near sainthood within his own lifetime. Patronized by the Emperor
himself, his work clearly showed the Zen Buddhist philosophy to which
he was exposed as a child. It was this form of tea service that Zen
Buddhist missionaries would later introduce to imperial Japan .One of
his disciples, Lu T'ung also embraced this passion for the brew and
was even known as the "tea maniac". He is indelible in tea history (among
other things) because of his famous comment "I am in no way interested
in immortality, but only in the taste of tea."
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The Japanese Influence
returning Buddhist priest Yeisei, who had seen the value of tea in China
in enhancing religious mediation, brought the first tea seeds to Japan.
As a result, he is known as the "Father of Tea" in Japan. Because of
this early association, tea in Japan has always been associated with Zen
Buddhism. Tea received almost instant imperial sponsorship and spread
rapidly from the royal court and monasteries to the other sections of
Tea was elevated to an art form resulting in the
creation of the Japanese Tea Ceremony ("Cha-no-yu" or "the hot water for
tea"). Kakuzo Okakurain his 1906 Book Of Tea points out that each
celebrant of the Way of Tea knows that the ceremony transcends the mere
imitation of the form of drinking tea - "it is a religion of the art of
life." The best description of this complex art form was probably
written by the Irish-Greek journalist-historian Lafcadio Hearn, one of
the few foreigners ever to be granted Japanese citizenship during this
era. He wrote from personal observation, "The Tea ceremony requires
years of training and practice to graduate in art...yet the whole of
this art, as to its detail, signifies no more than the making and
serving of a cup of tea. The supremely important matter is that the act
be performed in the most perfect, most polite, most graceful, most
charming manner possible".
Such a purity of form, of expression
prompted the creation of supportive arts and services. A special form of
architecture (chaseki) developed for "tea houses", based on the
duplication of the simplicity of a forest cottage. The cultural/artistic
hostesses of Japan, the Geisha, began to specialize in the presentation
of the tea ceremony. As more and more people became involved in the
excitement surrounding tea, the purity of the original Zen concept was
lost. The tea ceremony became corrupted, boisterous and highly
embellished. "Tea Tournaments" were held among the wealthy where nobles
competed among each other for rich prizes in naming various tea blends.
Rewarding winners with gifts of silk, armor, and jewelry was totally
alien to the original Zen attitude of the ceremony.
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tea finally arrived in Europe, Elizabeth I had more years to live, and
Rembrandt was only six years old. Because of the success of the Dutch
navy in the Pacific, tea became very fashionable in the Dutch capital,
The Hague. This was due in part to the high cost of the tea (over $100
per pound) which immediately made it the domain of the wealthy. Slowly,
as the amount of tea imported increased, the price fell as the volume of
sale expanded. Initially available to the public in apothecaries along
with such rare and new spices as ginger and sugar, by 1675 it was
available in common food shops throughout Holland.
consumption of tea increased dramatically in Dutch society, doctors and
university authorities argued back and forth as to the negative and/or
positive benefits of tea. Known as "tea heretics", the public largely
ignored the scholarly debate and continued to enjoy their new beverage
though the controversy lasted from 1635 to roughly 1657. Throughout this
period France and Holland led Europe in the use of tea.
As the craze
for things oriental swept Europe, tea became part of the way of life.
The social critic Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, the Marquise de Seven makes
the first mention in 1680 of adding milk to tea. During the same period,
Dutch inns provided the first restaurant service of tea. Tavern owners
would furnish guests with a portable tea set complete with a heating
unit. The independent Dutchman would then prepare tea for himself and
his friends outside in the tavern's garden. Tea remained popular in
France for only about fifty years, being replaced by a stronger
preference for wine, chocolate, and exotic coffees.
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Tea In England
Tea mania swept across England as it had earlier spread
throughout France and Holland. Tea importation rose from 40,000 pounds
in 1699 to an annual average of 240,000 pounds by 1708. Tea was drunk by
all levels of society.
Prior to the introduction of tea into
Britain, the English had two main meals-breakfast and dinner. Breakfast
was ale, bread and beef. Dinner was a long, massive meal at the end of
the day. It was no wonder that Anna; the Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861)
experienced a "sinking feeling" in the late afternoon. Adopting the
European tea service format, she invited friends to join her for an
additional afternoon meal at five o'clock in her rooms at Belvoir
Castle. The menu centered around small cakes, bread and butter
sandwiches, assorted sweets, and, of course, tea. This summer practice
proved so popular, the Duchess continued it when she returned to London,
sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for "tea and a
walking the fields." (London at that time still contained large open
meadows within the city.) Other social hostesses quickly picked up the
practice of inviting friends to come for tea in the afternoon. A common
pattern of service soon merged. The first pot of tea was made in the
kitchen and carried to the lady of the house who waited with her invited
guests, surrounded by fine porcelain from China. The first pot was
warmed by the hostess from a second pot (usually silver) that was kept
heated over a small flame. Food and tea was then passed among the
guests, the main purpose of the visiting being conversation.
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Tea In India
Victoria's England however became so enamored with tea that their
foreign policy was literally dictated by this addiction. Tea at the time
was sourced entirely out of China. The wily Chinese accepted nothing
less than silver bullions in exchange for this prized commodity. This
effected the British coffers adversely and worried the Queen. Realising
that the tea drinking habit was now unshakably entrenched in the country
she decided to promote the production of tea elsewhere in the Empire to
stall the depleting treasury.
Her royal requests were well heeded by
her subjects in India. Especially the two Bruce brothers Robert and C.A.
In 1823 Robert Bruce had chanced upon some wild tea trees in the Beesa
valley of what was then Burmese Assam. Two years later his brother
planted seeds from these trees in his own garden in Sadiya in
Darjeeling. With these seeds were sown the germination of the tea
industry in India.
Later he tamed the wild inhospitable insect
infested and disease ridden Assam forest into a plantation capable of
producing black tea. This plantation was Suddeya. Destiny too seemed
determined to allow tea to flourish in India. The year 1838 saw Britain
"annexing" Assam. This allowed the Government to control and develop
this region into a vital tea-growing segment. Later that year the first
eight chests of commercial Indian tea were shipped to London.
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Around The World
processing, maturity and form of the leaf give tea its taste - the
region in which it grows gives its character. There are more than 1500
different teas to choose from, grown in more than 25 listed producer
countries all around the world. Teas can be defined by origin- for
example India, Sri Lanka, Africa, China, Indonesia or by methods of
blending. Together these countries produce 79% of world tea and 86% of
"island of tea", produces black tea known for its rich, full, astringent
flavor and aromatic amber liquid. The country exports approximately 21%
of world's teas. While the different growing areas produce teas of
differing flavor and colour, the principal specialties are Ceylon
Blend, Dimbula, Nuwara liya and Uva.
countries: Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe produce 25% the world's
exports. The most recent of the tea producers, Eastern Africa, is now a
major force among tea growers, producing excellent teas which are used
for blending all over the world.
The birthplace of tea produces approximately 18% of world
exports. Chinese black teas are mild and have a low theine content. This
makes them an ideal evening or afternoon tea. Green tea, however is what
China is synonymous with. These teas are never drunk with sugar or milk
and are usually known to have a long lasting taste, flowery bouquet and
clear liquid. China produces four other principal teas for which the
country is famous: oolong, white, flavored and
Produces approximately 8% of world's exports. Java and Sumatra
are the main growing areas. The tea from this region is light, flavorful
and bright in colour.
from India, are black teas designed to satisfy "western"
tastes and are
therefore characterised by their full-bodied flavour and rich, deeply
coloured liquor. India also produces a teas with a more subtle taste
that can be as delicate as the semi fermented teas from China and
Formosa. Indian teas therefore, offer a fine initiation into the taste
of tea. India is one of the main tea growers, exporting more than 14% of
the world's tea and with over 400,000 hectares under cultivation.
Although indigenous to the Assam region, the first commercially produced
teas were raised from seeds brought from China. By the 1840s, India was
producing regular shipments for sale at auction in London. Gradually the
planting of estates grew throughout the country form Nilgiri in the
south to Darjeeling in the north.
The plantations range form
low-grown areas (sea level up to 2000 feet) to high-grown (more than
4000ft high). Generally plucked from March to October, each area
produces teas of distinctive character.
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is a major growing area covering the Brahmaputra valley, stretching form
the Himalayas down to the Bay of Bengal. There are 655 estates covering
some 168,000 hectares. Assam tea has distinctive flecked brown and gold
leaves known as "orange' when dries. It is well known as a good blender
that offers lots of body. Its fragrance is less intense than other
Indian teas, particularly Darjeeling. The familiar maltiness in the
medium gardens is satisfying and continues to be very popular.
Exceptionally fine cloning has created intensely rich Assams with
beautiful gold tips. These pretty gold and black teas offer a taste that
is not too astringent with good body, some of the best Assam has to
offer. These are morning teas par excellence with strong taste and a
dark liquor. They go well with a drop of cold milk. In flavour it is
robust, bright with a smooth malt pungency and is perfect as the first
cup of the day.
northeast of India, between Nepal and Bhutan lie sixty one gardens. They
produce the highly prized "Champagne" of black teas on grand estates
perched at altitudes of over five thousand feet. The incomparable
quality of these teas is the result of climate, altitude and skillful
blending. These are the most rarest and prestigious of the black teas.
They are generally sold in the best grade of whole leaves -
G.F.O.P.,T.G.F.O.P., and F.T.G.F.O.P., Darjeeling is grown on the
foothills of the Himalayas, on over 18,000 hectares at about 7000 ft.
Light and delicate in flavour and aroma, and with undertones of
muscatel, Darjeeling is an ideal complement to dinner or afternoon tea.
The Gardens in this snug hill station are ranked the best in the world.
The quality of the leaf being so superior, it is not easy to distinguish
their flavour. Also since the taste of Darjeeling varies form season to
season, Darjeeling teas are rather classified according to their harvest
First Flush Darjeeling - These are
springtime teas, harvested from late February to mid-April. The young
leaves yield a light tea with a flavour of green muscat. Their arrival
is keenly awaited by connoisseurs, and the potent tea is sometimes
air-freighted. A gentle afternoon tea.
Second Flush Darjeeling - Harvested in
May and June, the constitution of these leaves are more fully
constructed, making a bright liquor with a full, round and fruity taste.
An afternoon tea.
In Between Darjeeling - These
intermediate teas are harvested in April and May and combine the
greenness of the first flush teas with the maturity of the first flush
Autumnal Darjeeling - Large leaves and a
coppery liquor characterize the round taste of this autumnal harvest.
This tea is best drunk in the morning with a bit of cold milk.
varieties of tea grown in India are also candy to the connoisseur.
Dooars - The alluvial deposits in the
Dooars district in north east India have been effectively used for tea
production. These are low grown teas, dark and full-bodied, yet not as
strong as Assam teas. A daytime tea that goes well with a drop of milk.
Terai - Grown on the plains to the south
of Darjeeling, the brew from this leaf is richly coloured, the taste
spicy and liqueur-like. An anytime tea often used in blends. They
tolerate a bit of cold milk as well
Nilgiris- In the south of India stand the
fragrant Blue Mountains, or Nilgiris. Nilgiri teas have established
themselves in the triumvirate of India teas. Nilgiris are like good
everyday table wines: reliable, with colour and heavy nose. They fall
between he two extremes of Indian tea, the Hearty Assam and the delicate
Darjeelings. Nilgiris are also ideal for experimentation, creating
popular oolong and green varieties that never spoil in the cup from overstepping. Its innate ability not to cloud makes it a perfect choice
for iced tea. Their soft flavour also makes them wonderful foils for
flavourings, scents and fruits. These leaves produce a full-bodied,
strong and coppery liquor. These are intermediate teas that evoke teas
from Northern India while resembling Ceylon teas. They are best taken in
the morning with milk.
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