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THE HISTORY OF TEA

A Universal LOOK AT CHINA AND TEA

by Caron Lashley| November 1,2020

Tea has been around for centuries, it had established its influences from East Asia, China, tea's beginnings and the islands of Japan. The Chinese and it's Confucious beginnings into Buddisism may have discovered tea but it was the Japanese that marketed tea to it's fullest. Specific to only the wealthy, tea was used for religious and political rituals that gave them more power socially. It was not until the sixteenth and seventeenth century that tea made its way to Europe through the continental passages by Jesuit missionaries and Dutch merchants who saw it as a great opportunity to make more money. By the time the dry leafs had made it's way west Tea had become "gold".It was now a treating commodity that was a universal medicine. It was said by eight -century sage Lu Yu in his Chajing (Classic of Tea, 760CE) that 'tea', used as a drink was first discovered by the Emperor Shen Nung'(Shennong), a legendary ruler of China whose reign is customarily dated to 2737-2698BCE. One commonly told tale about tea was Emperor Shen Nung experimented on himself by drinking 100 types of herbs produced by the Chinese flora to assess the pharmaceutical properties of tea. Seventy-two was poisonous, but 28 teas counteracted all of the poison he had ingested and Tea was acknowledge as a remedy for all diseases or troubles. Tea now had a place in Chinese society as a powerful commodity used for trading. Tea also became the most favourable drink in every household. Ever heard the phrase "can I have some more tea, please." Traditional tea plantation where women picked and sift tea leaves were popular and tea cultivation and manufacturing was big business. Tea masters created new modifications of flavours and appearances of both the leaves and its infusion. They experimented with the duration of pan-frying, stir-frying, different soils and sun drying or heated chambers. The innovated find came when they discover that by exposing freshly picked leaves to the sun and wind, rather than firing immediately after picking, the resultant withering and oxidation alters the colour and the flavour of the tea. This fermentation renders then leave darker and bitterer_ yet less stringent_ then its green sibling. This tea was known as wu lung ('oolong or dark dragon'). This tea found amid Wuyi mountains of Fujian Province around the thirteenth century made China rich during the final century of the Ming dynasty. From the first set of Teas with names such as 'Yinzhen Baihao, or 'Silver Tip Pekoe') and sunned Wuyis(money-picked Dahongpao, or 'Big Red Robe") to low grades of green and oolong. Tea has stood the test of time. It had elevated itself to become a global ambassador for the world. From a natural means of medicine to a dialogue of comfort, joy and sadness in our society, in our communities in our politics and trades, tea had been woven into the very fabric of our existence.  

Lu Yu's in his manuscript"Chajing(Classic Tea,760 CE)", detailed the aesthetic qualities of tea and the celadon glaze grey-green Lobed stoneware bowls needed to drink the great Chinese sage tea.  The Chinese rituals of preparing and consuming tea show a great understanding of tea's significance in Chinese society around the second millennium. Popular in part due to their physiological effects-stimulating wakefulness, ensuring sobriety harmonizes with Buddist spiritual.  

 There was no language to describe its flavour and few directions on to consume it. Tea Transform those subject to its influences, states such as Britan was by then an "Empire of Tea".The invention of teas now affected the British, international politics, currents, cash and trade. Tea was lucrative in Britain costing 10 times more than the finest coffee. Victoria Britain was now an Empire of Tea. It was because Britain adopted 'The Asian Leaf',1820 was the year why former colonial countries adopted tea, originally restricted to the elites the demand for tea and the number of regular drinkers increased in Britain around the eighteenth century. By the nineteen-century tea became a way of life transcending distinctions of social class, national geography and cultural background: it was in early 1820 that Britain was identified as a tea-drinking society, nation. Tea was official one of the biggest driver to the British imperialism in nineteen-century economics, the most popular beverage after water. In England, the word "tea"  had five stages: the shrub, the leaf from that shrub, the dried commodity produced from the leaf, the infusion of that commodity and the event of partaking that infusion.

The first stage is agricultural planting the tea bushes in the soil, cultivating the plan, harvesting the tea leaves after they flush.

Fresh tea then undergoes multi-step manufacture in workshops and factories to create a form suitable for consumption. The leaves are crushed and encourage to oxidize, an enzymatic operation arrested by careful application of heat ( a form of dry-frying called panning or thatching, Before being further ready for market by curling, twisting and rolling. The tea then enters the commercial phrase: dried leaves are packed shipped and sold at wholesaler auctions before being graded and blended and repackaged and then sold to consumers.

A description of the tea

 

 Tea in the eighteen-century was exotic.

It's the delicate aroma, multidimensional flavours and addictiveness. Botanical, physiological effects Social and Cultural, a material commodity. People describe tea as a civilizing juice, gentle herb, the lovely liqueur, the nectar of sobriety, a restorer, a celestial dew, a bitter draught, a wondrous panacea. Tea was social interaction, polite conversation needed to happen with tea highly meditated events of rituals., In the twentieth-century tea became more sympathetic, sit down let's enjoy a nice cup of tea.

Tea is a tradition and a ritual. It was in the Song era they recommended the whisk, we still use today, 'The first cup is always the best, Lu Yu implies.' And it is. Tea leaves were supplemented with such items as onion, ginger, jujube juice, orange peel, dogwood berries or peppermint. Taken from the 'Chajing' the most highly of all Chinese writing. Tea was so entrenched in Chinese and Japanese traditions and culture, it became the common drink of their household.

Nothing has change with tea it is still a part of our cultures today. It is our go-to drink for comfort, celebrations, happiness and joy. 

Please note that this information on teas would not have been possible without reading some of my favourite books on tea. 'Empire of Tea'; The Asian Leaf That Conquered The World,( Markman Ellis, Richard Coulton, Matthew Mauger 2015), www.reaktionbooks.co.uk.

The Tale of Tea; A Comprehensive History of Tea from Prehistoric Times to the Present Day,( George van Driem), Published by BRILL, LEIDEN| BOSTON.

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