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Tea Consumption And A Little History

May 21, 2008
Tea consumption became part of the way of life and culture in America, too. Though North America has only one tea plantation, about 20 miles west of Charleston in South Carolina. In England it is much more fashionable than coffee.

All tea comes from the same plant "Camellia sinensis" an evergreen, tropical plant that originally grows in China and India.

Like wine, variations in tastes and characteristics are depend on the type of soil, cultivar selection, altitude, and climate conditions where the plants are grown. Different types processing also affect the taste, as does the addition of essential oils or fragnant herbal additives. Camellia sinensis likes a deep, light, acidic and well-drained soil.

There are many supposed references to tea in the centuries before Christ, even Confucius allegedly referred to tea in one of his books.

According Chinese mythology, tea was 'discovered' by a Chinese emperor, Shen Nung. Four thousand years ago, on his way to a distant region of his empire he stopped to rest. Dried leaves from a nearby tea bush fell into the water that his servants were boiling for drinking. And when he drank some, he found it very refreshing and delicious. So the first cup of tea was an accident.

The tea consumption spread throughout the Chinese culture. The first book on tea 'Ch'a Ching' was written by the Chinese author Lu Yu. The three- volume book covered tea growing, processing, drinking and history.

The book inspired Zen Buddhist priests to create the Japanese tea ceremony, the cha-no-yu. It was in the 6th century. That's why tea in Japan has always been associated with Zen Buddhism. Tea drinking influenced the whole culture, for example architecture: a separate tea-room is constructed in Japanese homes so that one enters on your knees to show humility.

It was the Portuguese traders who first imported tea to Europe, later it was transported to France, Holland, and the Baltic countries.

Tea is relatively late appeared in England in the mid 17th century, but quickly became popular. King Charles II and his Portuguese bride were tea-drinkers and they brought tea tradition to England. In the beginning, it was very expensive. The first tea is sold as a health drink in London, at Garway's Coffee House. Slowly, the price fell and tea became available to the public.

Peter Stuyvesant brought the first tea to the United States in the settlement of New Amsterdam (later renamed New York by the English). The British government put very high taxes on it. The colonists couldn't do anything about these taxes, because there were no colonists in the government in England. The Americans became very angry about this and in 1775 attacked a boat carrying a lot of tea and dumped 342 chests full of tea into the harbour at Boston, Massachusetts. That was the Boston Tea Party.

In England, tea became popular first among the rich. They had parties and picnics, visited each other, and afternoon tea soon became a habit.

Two distinct forms of services evolved: 'High' and 'Low'. 'Low Tea' was served in aristocratic homes of the wealthy and featured gourmet tidbits rather than solid meals. The emphasis was on presentation and conversation. Conversely, 'High Tea' was the major meal of the middle and lower classes and consisted of mostly full dinner.

Nowadays, maybe the most popular tea is the English Breakfast Tea. It is a fine black tea, which often includes Keemun, is blended with milk or lemon (but never together).

The Irish drink their Irish Breakfast Tea, it is very strong, usually served in the morning, except for the Irish, who are known to drink it all day. It is served with lots of sugar and milk.

Earl Grey is named after a prime minister. It is a smoky tea with a hint of sweetness and is served plain.

Black Teas and Oolong Darjeeling refers to tea grown in this mountain area of India. Oolong is a mixture of green and black teas. This elegant tea is sometimes called the champagne of teas. It has got fruity taste. Darjeeling has a flavor that reminds muscatel. Mustn't be taken with milk.

Green Tea is a strong herbal tea. Its use as a healthy tea is growing in popularity. Green Tea is also part of the Japanese tea service.

And finally, 'burgundy of teas', the Chinese Keemun Tea, a mellow, wine-like tea, never used with lemon.
About the Author
Attila Z Jancsina is a freelance copy writer. He occasionally writes for South Carolina FSBO. Website offers Free FSBO advertisement.
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