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Archive for December, 2012

Travel & Travails of Tea Around The World

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Can I get you anything? Coffee? Tea? Me? Working Girl (1988): Harrison Ford, Melanie Griffith

Working Girl Ceylon Tea

The beverages Black Tea , Green Tea & Oolong Tea are products of the leaf of Evergreen shrub Camellia sinensis, family Theaceae. Slight variations in the manufacturing process have resulted in our need to identify these beverages specifically. Among the numerous factors instrumental in the popularity of tea was its ability to retain the manifold qualities of the fresh leaves even in the dried form. But it was not only dried Black Tea that first traveled out of China: seeds too were taken to Japan. Though tea was brought into Japan as early as AD 593 by the Japanese Buddhist priests, it was the seeds planted in the Kyoto temple of Japan by the Japanese Zen Buddhist priest Myoan Eisai (AD1141- 1215) that popularized  Tea as a beverage in Japan.

Tea  Ceremony Japan

Tea takes root in Japan: Tea with Zen
Eisai’s association of Black Tea with Zen Buddhist meditation coupled with imperial contributions towards the cultivation of tea paved the way for the phenomenal popularity of tea in Japan. Having established its status as the national drink of Japan, Black Tea quickly found its place in the spiritual aspect of the Japanese society too. Making & serving tea was elevated into an art form called “Tea Ceremony”. While there are numerous ways in which the tea ceremony is conducted, some of them such as night tea, sunrise tea, evening tea, morning tea, and afternoon tea are firmly established.

Quote Irish-Greek journalist-historian Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), also known as Koizumi Yakumo, one of the few foreigners ever to be granted Japanese citizenship during this era. “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”. Unquote

Black tea_victorian era

Black Tea finds a sea-route China to Europe
In 1517, Portuguese seafarers presented their king with a gift of tea brought from China. However, it took almost another hundred years for the Europe to receive a substantial consignment of Tea by way of Dutch ships returning from China. Although Tea was introduced to England, France & Holland in 1600s, the beverage was used basically as a herbal medicine. During the 18th century, most possibly owing to the availability of Caribbean cane sugar at affordable prices, tea established its rightful place among the finest beverages of the world.

Black Tea extends a timely hand towards industrialization
Quote: The World That Trade Created: Society, Culture and the World Economy, 1400 to the Present by Kenneth Pomeranz, Steven Topik
And changes in social life no doubt mattered, too. More & more artisans came to labor in workshops (or in some cases, early factories) separate from their homes; work hours became more regimented, & going home at midday for a long lunch less likely. In such a setting, short breaks that provided a shot of caffeine & sugar became an important part of work routines. And even if these early stirring of industrialization did not quite cause the taste for tea, they certainly benefited from it. Tea, after all, replaced gin & beer as the national drinks in England-early factories were dangerous enough as it was without stupefied workers fumbling about their duties. Had tea & sugar not replaced alcohol as the country’s principal cheap drink & source of supplementary calories), the situation could have been far grimmer yet. Unquote

Black Tea Russia

Russian tea drinking tradition: samovar,pancakes, jam, cubed sugar, sliced lemon, porcelain set

Tea takes the land route from China to Russia
If the sea voyage from China to Europe was long & treacherous, the land route from China to Russia was no better either. The 16 month journey to & from Moscow consisted of roughly 11,000 miles of barren and mountainous terrain. The first few parcels of dried Black Tea leaves were brought to Russia by Russian Ambassador to China Vasily Starlove in 1638. Though the qualities of Black Tea were appreciated in no time, it was only in 1769 that Russians made a trade agreement with China for the delivery of Black Tea. That was following a gift of Black Tea from China brought in by Russian Ambassador to China Ivan Perfiliev. The long journey from China to Russia having raised the cost of Black Tea, the beverage had remained a luxury item in Russia. However, by the end of the 1700s, Black Tea became an affordable commodity to the Russian peasants.

Peter Stuyvesant's Legion

Lumen Martin Winter, Peter Stuyvesant’s Legion Oil on canvas, 30 in. x 80 in. 1953, Jacob Ruppert Brewery

Tea arrives in the new World
Peter Stuyvesant (1612-1672), the fourth and last Director-General of New Netherlands (1646-1664) is credited with introducing tea to the New World in 1650. The settlers of New Amsterdam (later renamed New York by the English) were known to consume more tea then, than all of England put together. American love affair with Black Tea lasted for 124 years to take a swift turn in the history of the world, if not precisely the history of tea.

Mad Hatter's Tea Party

John Tenniel's original illustration of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party by kind courtesy of Disney

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
In 1774 tea parties were hosted in Philadelphia, New York, Maine, North Carolina, and Maryland. And those were tea parties like no other. In Boston alone, 45 tons of tea brought in by East India Company was unloaded to the waters of the Boston harbor by Sons of Liberty disguised as Native Americans. There was a method in the madness of the mad hatter’s tea party: no ships were damaged. It was the Crown’s tax against Black Tea, a staple of colonial life that spurred the colonists to revolt. Boston Tea Party leading to the American Revolutionary War, the colonists were destined to become the most powerful nation of the world.

The Finest Black Tea in the World: “Ceylon Tea” from Sri Lanka
The finest Black Tea in the World comes from the Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka. The capital of the tea growing zones of Sri Lanka is Sri Lanka Holidays Nuwara Eliya is located in the Central Highlands, the one & only mountain mass of the drop pearl shaped tropical island. Nearly 700 factories in the Central Highlands & the southern zone of the island produce a exceedingly wide range of Black Tea in Sri Lanka still being marketed by the colonial brand of “Ceylon Tea” the world over.  Tea auctions are  held twice a week in Colombo. Colombo is home to Kelaniya Royal Buddhist Temple, where the Sri Lanka Holidays begins in view of the acclaimed mural therein depicting the landmarks of the 2500 year long glorious history of Sri Lanka.

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Black Tea: Ceylon Tea

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

Tea is the ultimate mental & medical remedy and has the ability to make one’s life more full and complete”
Zen Buddhist Eisai Myoan: How to Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea. (AD 1211)

Given the year, i.e. AD1211 in which the Black Tea specialty book “How to Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea” was composed, one would wonder how far the history of Black tea runs into. The briefest answer to break you free of the contemplation is “very far, as far as the History of China itself” And the history of China runs into no less than 5000 years.

Ceylon Tea Eisai Black TeaZen Buddhist Eisai Myoan

Eureka Moment: luck favors the prepared mind
The in-depth answer would make you curioser and curioser as “Alice In Wonderland”. The discovery of Black tea is believed to be a fortunate accident. But then the accident wouldn’t have taken place at all, if not for the keen eye of the legendary botanist Shen Nong, emperor of China (2737-2699 BC).
Discovery of Black Tea was a Eureka moment as the accidental discovery of world’s first antibiotic, Penicillin thanks to the keen eye of the Scottish biologist Alexander Fleming (AD1881-1955) was. The legend has it a few leaves that had blown into a pot of water boiled for the emperor turned the boiled water from being colorless to a reddish tint. Having seen the coloration caused by the fresh green leaves of the nearby tree, ever the botanist, emperor pounced upon the chance of tasting the water to determine the qualities of the green leaf.

ShenNong Ceylon teaShen Nong – the father of agriculture and medicine. Illustrated by Jessica Chang/ET staff, www.theepochtimes.com

Black tea by any other name would taste as sweet
Though the modern world is unable to ascertain to veracity of the legend, the green tea leaf that made a beverage of Red tea has since then become popular throughout the East & West. Though the beverage of tea unsweetened with milk is popularly called Black tea in the western word today, most possibly following the fashion of calling unsweetened coffee as black coffee, in Asia & especially in Africa & Middle East, it is called Red tea.

Shen Nong Ceylon tea

The world’s first botanist
History of China records that emperor Shen Nong discovered, tested, analyzed & recorded hundreds of herbs for the benefit of his nation & his land. He is credited with the title of “father of Chinese herbal medicine” as if the title of “discoverer of green tea leaf” wouldn’t do.

Ceylon tea Shennong_bencao_jing

Shen Nong bencao jing [Shen Nong's Classic of Root & Herb]

What’s in a Name?
Everything, your good name is everything. But then Shan Nong was a name like no other. Nobody could have been better named than Shan Nong meaning Divine Farmer. The Chinese methods in recognizing potential farmlands & cultivation are credited to Shan Nong. Harnessing resources, inventing the plough & yoking beasts too are believed to be introduced by the emperor. Then again the name Shan Nong is immortalized by the popularity of Tea, no matter how you call it, Black Tea, Red tea or Green tea.

Popularity of Black tea following the glorious name
Such a glorious name as Shan Nong wouldn’t be called in vain. Tea was set into the path of undying popularity by Shan Nong. According to the “Tea & Coffee Trade Journal” September 1, 1995, a professional journal, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to plain water.

Black tea Lu Yu

A statue of Lu Yu, the father of tea located in Xi'an, China

First ever treatise on Black tea
The first treatise on Tea, “Tea Classic” was composed as far as back in 760 CE & 780 CE by a Chinese poet named Lu Yu. The treatise consisted of ten chapters tilted Origin, Tea Tools, Manufacture, Tea Wares, Brewing, Drinking Tea, Anecdotes, Places, Omission & Diagrams, The book was translated into English in 1974 (ISBN 0-316-53450-1).

First treatise on Black tea in Japan
The first treatise on Tea in Japan was inscribed by the founder of Zen Buddhism, Japanese Buddhist priest Myoan Eisai following his return from China where he studied philosophy & religion. Seno Tanaka, Sendo Tanaka & Edwin O. Reischauer in their book “The Tea Ceremony” published in year 2000 narrates: In January 1211 he wrote the first treatise on Tea in Japan, Kissa Yojoki or Tea Drinking Is Good for the Health, a small booklet of twenty pages in praise of Tea. In his short treatise Eisai, strongly recommended tea as a cure for five types of disease: loss of appetite, paralysis, beriberi & sickness from tainted water. Tea, he added, is a remedy for all disorders & this was perhaps the main reason for consequent popularity of tea-drinking.

The Finest Black Tea in the World, Ceylon Tea of Sri Lanka

The Finest Black Tea in the World, Ceylon Tea of Sri Lanka

The Finest Black Tea in the World:Ceylon Tea
The finest Black Tea of the world is Ceylon Tea produced in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Holidays Nuwara Eliya, the capital of Black Tea production of Sri Lanka is located at a height of 1800 meters above the sea level in the one & only mountain mass set right in the central zone of the drop pearl shaped tropical island of Sri Lanka. While the product of Black Tea in the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka is called high grown Ceylon Tea, the product of Black Tea from the southern zone surrounding Sri Lanka Holidays Galle of lower altitude, is called low grown Ceylon Tea.

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