January 25, 2013

Tea: An Historical Perspective

In reading and researching I have discovered that all basic tea comes from the same plant (the tea we drink is of the genus camellia and the species sinensis) and it all originated in China.  Tea has been enjoyed for centuries for it's medicinal qualities... used in religious ceremonies and for a variety of other reasons including just pure enjoyment.   The basic three that come from Central Asia are Green, Black and Oolong tea.  

I will interject here that the Japanese Tea Ceremony is a very traditional Buddhist ceremony that uses a fine powder green tea called Maccha or Matcha tea.  I had the privilege of being asked by precious Japanese woman from a local gardening club to be a part of observing and partaking in tasting the tea.  I will share more about the ceremony and the green tea powder later and give you a really amazing recipe for an iced Matcha Tea drink.  
It is a very interesting ceremony.

All varieties of regular tea come from one of those three and is blended for particular tastes and flavors to make other varieties like English or Irish Breakfast Tea, Orange Pekoe, Earl Grey, etc...

Tea has since made it's way around the world with a prevalence in Great Britain, Ireland, Russia and other European countries.  France, Italy and Germany never really embraced it... they are coffee and alcohol (wine and beer) drinkers.  LOL  It truly was made more famous in the UK as the Brits brought it's status to a refined art of taking tea... 
Elevenses, Afternoon Tea, High Tea...  
It started, as it did in China as a drink for the more wealthy of society but now it is available to the masses in abundance.  

I will share more on British and Irish Tea brands in another post.

The United States has embraced tea in more recent years as they got past the Boston Tea Party Tax years.  They have their own brands and varieties here, too.  More and more people are drinking it here each year.  

There are also herbal teas and fruit teas which are used in many medicinal treatments and are not made from the traditional black, green or oolong but are steeped in hot water just like the traditional varieties.   They come from different places around the world as people discovered medicinal uses for the different herbs.

There is so much information on tea there is not enough room to contain it all on this post or in my entire blog for that matter... but there are certainly lots of references with which to dig deeper.

Books...

The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide

The True History of Tea

The Book of Tea


Variety of Links on Possible Historical Tea Events for your own more in depth research...







and THIS website (TeaGarden's History of Tea, etc...) is a massive resource of information on tea and all it's possibilities!

A good tea book that is worth it's salt will have a brief history, preparation instructions for the perfect cuppa, information on varieties and uses, tea time etiquette for high and low tea, and recipes for your own tea time enjoyment.

One such book that my Mother picked up for me as a Christmas gift at an estate sale is this little gem...

Come for Tea
by Jacquelyn Smyers 
(and the book is signed by the author!) :)





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