Tea For Two

July 31, 2010 5 Comments

Tea for two, and two for tea indeed.  Tea is one of the oldest beverages known to humanity.  The steeping of leaves in boiling water to release nutrients and flavors and aromas is found to have been practiced since the dawn of humanity.  Whether in a bone china cup or in a rough-hewn pottery mug, tea has been drunk by centuries of humans.  Its medicinal, social, and religious properties are legendary.  As we advance, so does our understanding and appreciation of tea: that marvelous chemistry of leaf and root and stem and seed steeped in boiling water. 

Teas have been found at some of the oldest archeological sites we have discovered.  Since humans have known fire, the boiling of water and the insertion of plant matter into that  water has been a continual action.  The process of leaching compounds from plant matter to gain nutritional benefits has a wide and varied history, spanning centuries of time, nations, kings, governments, and businesses.  The Asian cultures have a particularly rich history of tea.  China, the birthplace of tea, has a long history of tea consumption for medicinal purposes.  Japan’s tea experience began in the sixth century within the religious classes.  Many tea ceremonies exist, with seemingly infinite variances.  China’s tea culture has several specific tea customs, like the wedding day custom in which the persons getting married kneel before their parents and offer them tea, or custom which dictates that tea is to be served as part of an apology.  Different gestures are appropriate for different ceremonies, and even the way the napkin is folded counts.  Japan’s tea culture is the most famous, having evolved hand in hand with Buddhism and Shintoism.  The Japanese tea ceremony is a complete process, involving time, weather, calligraphy, flower arrangement, equipment, attitude, clothing, and exhaustively intricate series of gestures, so refined that special schools exist to better learn them.  India is the largest tea-drinking nation in the world, and of course was home to the famed British East India Company, the first major exporter of tea to the Western world.  Britain is home to the second largest group of tea-drinkers on the planet, with people drinking most of their tea in a simple, unrefined way.  Afternoon tea, with all its precise mannerisms and waist-height saucer holding, is still to be found in the better shops and hostelries.  In the past decade, herbal tea has been on the rise, outperforming traditional black tea in the marketplace.

Our discovery of tea continues.  Herbal teas present a wide range of solutions for various symptoms.  Peppermint tea and Ginger tea are said to aid in digestion, Lemon Balm tea lifts the spirits, and of course Rosehip tea is chock full of vitamin C.  Tea will continue to enrich our lives as we continue to brew it.

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