Tea has travelled the world over the centuries to become one of the most popular beverages. Various cultures have traditional ceremonies or practices when it comes to consuming tea, giving tea gifts, or having various celebrations where tea is at the center of the festivities.
There are certain countries that observe tea traditions that have been built up in their culture over the centuries.
For centuries, tea was not considered an everyday beverage, but instead a medicinal product that was used as a health tonic as well as treating certain types of illnesses. The tradition of using tea in medical treatments still exists in China today for a variety of health complaints. Tea is also used as part of meditational practices among the Buddhists priests.
For many centuries, only the elite were able to drink tea on a regular basis. However, that changed over time and tea became arguably the most popular beverage among all the classes. By the time of the Ming Dynasty there were teahouses all across China which meant that people could drink it during most times of the day.
One tradition that stems from the drinking of tea is Gong Fu, a ceremony which has similarities in its Japanese counterpart. Here, the tea master arranges the cups and creates the tea to their own exacting standards. Once the mixture of tea leaves and hot water has been completed, it is served during the Gong Fu ceremony which generally only lasts around 30 seconds.
Another tradition comes from Tibet which simmers black tea leaves overnight and it is combines with yak’s milk or goat’s milk butter and a little salt. Because of the high calorie content, it does offer a strong nutritional source for Tibetans.
Tea was first introduced to England in the 16th century and originally was consumed by those at the highest level of society because of the expense. Once it became more popular, tea gifts spread to the masses where today the tradition of the afternoon tea has developed into a very strong tradition. So synonymous is afternoon tea with England that it has become an inseparable part of the culture.
This developed because for centuries most people only ate two meals a day, a large breakfast and then a very late dinner. By the 19th century, the Duchess of Bedford became hungry during the afternoon which was only natural and wanted a cup of tea to help control the hunger pangs. Soon, word got out about the Duchess’s request and afternoon tea quickly became a tradition. From this tradition sprang another as tea gardens started popping up all over England. The gardens were quiet places where tea could be enjoyed in comfort and silence. Today, most citizens of the old British Commonwealth which includes South Africa, Australia, and Canada enjoy afternoon tea and tea gardens. Most notably, the United States never developed the traditions because it had left English rule almost a century before tea time became popular.
Although many people consider India one of the sources of tea, it did not become popular in the country until the 19th century and only then when the British created large-scale tea plantations across India. Because tea has only been part of India for a short time, there have been no traditions, ceremonies, or anything similar to what China and Japan have developed over the centuries.
Instead, tea is a part of everyday life in India where it is brewed at home and purchased in food places, restaurants, and café settings. The most popular type of tea is known as Cha-ya and it is a very strong black tea that includes a number of spices while being sweetened with sugar and mixed with milk. This type of tea can be purchased in many different places, include from street vendors and at train stations where it is served in clay cup that is smashed afterwards.
While Japan did not start developing their own traditions until centuries after the Chinese, it can be argued that the Japanese people perfected the art of the tea ceremony. Called Cha-no-yu, this tea ceremony had strong influences from divergent sources such as monks and samurai who made their contributions.
It was in the 16th century that Sen Rikyu who was considered the highest of tea masters put all the principles together for the modern Japanese tea ceremony which is observed today. The tea ceremony as practiced today in Japan provides a moment of reflection that is grounded in simplicity and strives for balance of form, objects, and movement. Interestingly enough, many of the practices in Japanese society have been based on the tea ceremony in terms of the simplicity in architecture and the harmony found in different shapes and textures.
However, unlike the Chinese tea ceremony which only lasts 30 seconds on average, the Japanese ceremony can last for hours to fully complete as well as a lifetime to learn for the few who can dedicate themselves to the craft. It requires a considerable amount of equipment and tremendous preparation that only a relative few can do to perfection.
However, many Japanese drink tea as part of their everyday life and especially on the go. Black tea that is from the West is highly popular especially for breakfast while Chinese teas have also gained considerable favor over the past few decades.
Only in recent years has tea become highly popular in the US, particularly in terms of being served hot. As with many other cultures, tea gifts for friends and family are highly popular and a common means of wishing someone well, celebrating a wedding or anniversary, and the like.
What separates the United States from most other tea-loving countries is that Americans prefer the beverage ice cold. Iced tea is highly popular all across the US and in the south Sweet Tea is a very common way to serve the product with plenty of sweetener, a slice of lemon, and occasionally a little baking soda to reduce the acidity.
Hot tea has only become a recent phenomenon in the US and is used often for meditation or relaxation purposes and it slowing growing in popularity although it is fair to say that iced tea is still the most common form in which tea is served.
Where to find Tea?
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