“If a man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty.” ~Japanese proverb
Tea is the most popular beverage in the world, besides water of course. It has been drank throughout history to the far reaches of the planet by kings, queens, emperors, monks and historians, right down to you and me. Tea is for everyone to enjoy and savor.
It is the very essence of the earth, creation and nature. Tea can be beautiful and expansive; it can be dark, or light; black, green, red or white; it can be bitter, sweet, delicate, dusty, clean, fresh, or smoky; and it can be in agony, be in hot water, or be steamy. It is a source of much wisdom, contemplation, strength and companionship.
Tea is made mainly of water, essence and earth- much like us.
It sustains us, it nourishes us and it comforts us. Tea picks us up when we are down, and calms us when we are anxious. Tea has been a philosophy, a way of life, an art of refinement, a health supplement, a treasure, a trading commodity, even an integral part of some religions. Above all though, tea is a gift- to be valued, appreciated, treasured and experienced.
“The leaves unfurl with delicate agony
Moaning silently with relief
Finally freed of their restrictive bounds
They stretch out their limbs
To the edges of their world,
In their steamy bath of ecstasy and release
Unleashing their senses
Infusing their essence
Quietly mingling with the air, with the water
Momentarily savoring the warmth and peace
Before they are swept away
And drained of their elegant demeanor”
Did You Know???
According to legend, the discovery of tea happened 5000 years ago, quite frankly, by accident. Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, considered the father of Chinese agriculture and herbal medicine, noticed a camillia leaf floating in a steaming bowl of water and the rest truly is history. The word ‘tea’ is most likely derived from the Xiamen name ‘te.’ Xiamen, known internationally as Amoy, was the main port from which China exported goods to the rest of the world. The Mandarin word for tea is ‘cha.’ Both China and Japan have legends and tea traditions ‘steeped’ in history as they are the oldest tea drinking areas of the world – these countries have long celebrated, recognized and ritualized the health and relaxation properties of this amazing plant. Tea began its journey west, reaching Europe about 400 years ago. Power and wealth were acquired through the great trade routes to the east and tea took its place among the giants. Powdered, caked, bricked, dried, flavoured – the journey is long and varied.
Tea was introduced into North America by British interests. Over the years, through the challenges of tariffs, the Boston Tea Party and hundreds of years of revolution and change around the world, the popularity of tea remains resilient, even triumphant. Tea drinking took on a whole new flavour with the invention of iced tea at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. In North America, we are steadily developing our understanding and use of tea. Herbal infusions are also fast finding their way into households and hundreds of blends are available.
In particular, China and Japan have many customs and beliefs regarding the rituals involved in the serving or drinking of tea – thousands of years worth. Other customs or rituals, personal or cultural, are developing around the globe as tea remains among the most popular drinks. Whether home, restaurant, marriage ceremony or teahouse; whether porcelain, ceramic, cast iron or clay drinking vessel; whether time or strictness of ceremony, the thousands of years that have passed speak to the complexity of how tea has become a part of our lives.
The TeaGuide link in a great site for finding tearooms and tea merchants all across North America. Click on the Ethical Tea Partnership logo to learn more about the work of this non-profit organization. For tons more great information visit the websites of the Tea Council of Canada www.tea.ca and the Tea Association of the U.S.A at www.teausa.com.