WORLD-TEA-CUSTOMS – CHINA
World-Tea-Customs, traditions and the tea drinking habits differ from coungtry to country.
The Chinese have consumed tea for thousands of years. People of the Han Dynasty used tea as medicine (though the first use of tea as a stimulant is unknown). China is considered to have the earliest records of tea consumption, with records dating back to the 10th century BC. Lucky, no one can challenge this!
• Laozi (ca. 600-517 BC), the classical Chinese philosopher, described tea as “the froth of the liquid jade” and named it an indispensable ingredient to the elixir of life. Legend describes Lao was saddened by society’s moral decay and, sensing that the end of the dynasty was near, journeyed westward to the unsettled territories, never to be seen again. While passing along the nation’s border, he was offered tea by a customs inspector named Yin Hsi. Yin Hsi encouraged him to compile his teachings into a single book so that future generations might benefit from his wisdom. This then became known as the Dao De Jing, a collection of Laozi’s sayings. To honor Yin’s generosity and its effect on the book’s creation, a national custom of offering tea to guests began in China.
• During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), production and preparation of all tea changed. The tea of Song included many loose-leaf styles (to preserve the delicate character favored by court society), but a new powdered form of tea emerged. Steaming tea leaves was the primary process used for centuries in the preparation of tea. After the transition from compressed tea to the powdered form, the production of tea for trade and distribution changed once again. The Chinese learned to process tea in a different way in the mid-13th century. Tea leaves were roasted and then crumbled rather than steamed. This is the origin of today’s loose teas and the practice of brewed tea.
• In 1391, the Ming court issued a decree that only loose tea would be accepted as a “tribute.” As a result, loose tea production increased and processing techniques advanced. Soon, most tea was distributed in full-leaf, loose form and soaked in earthenware vessels.
• The Chinese drink green tea as a daily beverage, as they have been doing for the past several centuries. Guests are offered a bowlful upon arrival in their homes and in some houses they perform a traditional “Gongfu” ceremony using a set of tea bowls, straight-sided cups, small earthenware teapot and the traditional method of making several infusions from the same measure of leaves, each with its own individual aroma and flavor.
WORLD-TEA-CUSTOMS – MONGOLIA AND TIBET
In Tibet, ‘brick’ tea is crushed and soaked in water overnight and the infusion is then churned with salt, goat’s milk and yak butter to produce a thick buttery drink.
In Mongolia, brick tea is crushed and brewed with water and yak buttermilk, the liquor is then strained and mixed with milk, salt, butter and roasted grain.
Both Mongolian and Tibetan tea is consumed from a bowl rather than a cup.
World Tea Customs – JAPANESE TEA PARTY
No other World Tea Customs match that of the traditional Japanese Tea Party for its elegance, beauty and culture.
Green tea is most popular in Japan, but many Japanese today enjoy Black tea the way British take – with milk.
The traditional Green Tea Ceremony is still an important social ritual in Japan. The ability to perform this ceremony is considered an essential skill for educated young ladies. • Tea use spread to Japan about the sixth century. Tea became a drink of the religious classes in Japan when Japanese priests and envoys, sent to China to learn about its culture, brought tea to Japan. Seeds were imported from China, and cultivation in Japan began.
• Green Tea became a staple among cultured people in Japan, a brew for the gentry and the Buddhist priesthood alike. Production grew and tea became increasingly accessible, though still a privilege enjoyed mostly by the upper classes. The Tea Ceremony of Japan was introduced from China in the 15th century by Buddhists as a semi-religious social custom.
• In 1738, Soen Nagatani developed Japanese Sencha, literally roasted tea, which is an unfermented form of Green tea. It is the most popular form of tea in Japan today. In 1835, Kahei Yamamoto developed Gyokuro, literally jewel dew, by shading tea trees during the weeks leading up to harvesting. At the end of the Meiji Period (1868-1912), machine manufacturing of green tea was introduced and began replacing handmade tea.
Green tea is the daily drink of all Japanese. At homes it is served with meals and as a mid morning and mid afternoon pickup. Green tea is considered most satisfactory not only for quenching thirst but also for ones health.
WORLD-TEA-CUSTOMS – VIETNAM
• Vietnamese teas are produced in many areas that have been known for tea-house “retreats”. For example some are, located amidst immense tea forests of the Lamdong highlands, where there is a community of ancient Ruong houses built at the end of the 18th century.
• Vietnamese green teas have been largely unknown outside of mainland Asia until the present day.
WORLD-TEA-CUSTOMS – KOREA
The first historical record documenting the offering of tea to an ancestral god describes a rite in the year 661 in which a tea offering was made to the spirit of King Suro, the founder of the Geumgwan Gaya Kingdom (42-562).
It is known that tea offerings were made in Buddhist temples to the spirits of revered monks.
During the Joeon Dynasty (1392-1910), the royal Yi family and the aristocracy used tea for simple rites. The “Day Tea Rite” was a common daytime ceremony, whereas the “Special Tea Rite” was reserved for specific occasions. Toward the end of the Joseon Dynasty, commoners joined the trend and used tea for ancestral rites, following the Chinese example based on Zhu Xi’s text formalities of Family.
The earliest kinds of tea used in tea ceremonies were heavily pressed cakes of black tea, the equivalent of aged Pu-erh-tea still popular in China. However, importation of tea plants by Buddhist monks brought a more delicate series of teas into Korea, and the Tea Ceremony. Green tea, “chaksol” or “chugno,” is most often served. However other teas such as “Byeoksoryung” Chunhachoon, Woojeon, Jakseol, Jookro, Okcheon, as well as native Chrysanthemum Tea, Perisimmon leaf tea, or Mugwort tea may be served at different times of the year.
WORLD-TEA-CUSTOMS – TAIWAN
Taiwan is famous for the making of Oolong tea and green tea, as well as many western-styled teas. Bubble Tea or “Zhen Zhu Nai Cha” is black tea mixed with sweetened condensed milk and tapioca.
Tea grown in Taiwan is often identified by the name Formosa, short for the Portuguese Ilha Formosa or Beautiful Island.
WORLD-TEA-CUSTOMS – RUSSIA
The Russians have a different custom in their traditional tea drinking, different from many others.
Russia was introduced to tea in the mid 1600’s, when the Chinese ambassador to Moscow made a gift of several chests of tea to the Tsar at that time.
Due to its long and treacherous trade route between the two countries, the cost of tea became exorbitant and tea became a luxury only to the royalty and very wealthy of Russia. It took years for the ordinary Russians to get cheaper tea.
In the following centuries, tea became very appealing to the Russians, and they developed their own unique traditions surrounding this drink.
When my son returned from Russia after his graduation, he brought a peculiar looking utensil, which we later reckoned a “Samovar” – an urn that developed from the Mongolian cooking stove.
A little pot of black tea is brewed very strong and placed on the top of the samovar to keep it warm. The Russians have always traditionally brewed their tea with a samovar. When the tea is served, a cup is half filled with strong tea, watered down with hot water drawn from the tap in the side of the samovar and drunk with sugar or jam.
(Pic above) Tea Custom of Russia – The pot is designed to sit one atop the other, with the bottom pot holding the hot water. A pot with thick black tea is kept on the top. This keeps the tea warm and makes it easier to dilute to suit one’s taste from the hot water readily available.
WORLD-TEA-CUSTOMS – UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
While coffee is by far more popular, hot brewed black tea is enjoyed both with meals and as refreshment by much of the population. Similarly, Iced Tea is consumed throughout. In the Southern States, Sweet Tea, sweetened with large amounts of sugar or an artificial sweetener and chilled is the fashion.
WORLD-TEA-CUSTOMS – INDIA
In India Tea had been known for a long time as a medicinal plant, but was not drunk for pleasure until the British began to establish plantations in the 19th century. The Chinese variety is used for Darjeeling Tea, and the Assamese variety, native to the Indian state of Assam, everywhere else. The British introduced tea-growing into India in 1836 and into Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1867. At first they used seeds from China, but later seeds from the Assam plant were used. Only black tea was produced until recent decades.
• India was the top producer of tea for nearly a century, but was displaced by China as the top tea producer in the 21st century. Indian tea companies have acquired a number of iconic foreign tea enterprises. The per capita consumption of tea in India remains a modest 750 grams per person every year due to the large population base. A lot of huge companies have emerged including ‘Golden Tips Tea Co’, and many other major brands that specialize and emphasize on Darjeeling Tea one of the prime locations which became famous for tea.
• As a custom, in India, Black tea is taken with milk and sugar. Spiced tea, known as ‘Chai’ or ‘Masala Chai’ added with pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and sugar is also very popular.
WORLD-TEA-CUSTOMS – TURKEY
In Turkey, strong black tea is prepared and strained into glasses and served with little sweetmeats. In some parts of the country, a cube of sugar is placed under the tongue before the tea is sipped from the glass.
Some Turks who drink so much tea that they carry a ‘Samover’ like a Russian Samovar. In Turkish homes, mothers always ensure their daughters know how to brew tea correctly.
WORLD-TEA-CUSTOMS – MALAYSIA
Malaysians like their tea very strong and mixed with thick condensed milk and plenty of sugar. Sometimes the tea and milk are mixed together and then poured several times between two jugs to make the liquid deliciously frothy. Malaysians also like Iced tea made by pouring strong hot tea and condensed milk over crushed ice.
WORLD-TEA-CUSTOMS – UNITED KINGDOM
Black tea is most popular in UK, but consumption of Green and Flavored teas are also becoming increasingly popular.
Many people start the day with a cup of tea in bed, more tea at breakfast, lunch and after the main meal in the evening.
Afternoon tea is still a very popular ‘tradition’ in British homes, served with sandwiches, pastries and cakes.
Most Sri Lankans follow the traditional English custom of drinking tea. After all, it was the British who introduced Tea to Ceylon.
WORLD-TEA-CUSTOMS – AFRICA AND SOUTH AMERICA
In the recent past, Africa and South America have greatly increased tea production, the great majority for export to Europe and North America respectively, produced on large estates, often owned by tea companies from the export markets.
Almost all production is of basic mass-market teas, processed by the Crush, Tear, Curl (CTC) method.
Kenya is now the fourth largest global producer after China and India, and is now the largest exporter of tea to the United Kingdom. There is also a great consumption of tea in Chile.
WORLD-TEA-CUSTOMS – THE MIDDLE EAST – OMAN
In the World Tea customs, Oman, like rest of the Gulf Countries has its unique tradition.
The Omanis prefer strong Black tea, with or without milk and sugar. Traditionally, the Omanis are very hospitable and always treat their guests with either Black tea or their traditional drink called “Ghawa”, which is a mixture of coffee and spices with no sugar.
The guests sit on carpeted floor in a circle and the brewed tea or Ghawa is poured from a typical Arab Tea Pot into small porcelain cups going round the circle. Thus, several rounds of tea are served and the guests have to shake their empty cups sideways to indicate they have had enough. The Omanis take this gesture as a polite way of telling it.
World-Tea-Customs - IRAN AND AFGHANISTAN
Tea is the national beverage in Iran and Afghanistan. They use both Green and Black tea with sugar. Green tea as a refreshing thirst quencher and Black tea as a warming, comforting brew. Drinkers at home or tea houses sit cross-legged on floor-mats and sip their tea from glasses or elegant porcelain bowls.
WORLD-TEA-CUSTOMS – MOROCCO
Morocco is a major Tea drinking country in the world.
For centuries Moroccans have been drinking tea, having learnt the custom from early Arab traders and consider it an important part of their social or business occasion.
The Moroccans have their own tea-drinking ceremony, with incense lit, and all those taking part wash their hands in orange blossom water and watch the host preparing the tea.
Green tea, fresh mint and sugar are measured into a tall silver pot and hot water is poured in. The golden brew is then poured into little glasses set on a tray from a certain height so that it froths into the glasses with tiny bubbles on the surface. The brew is accompanied with dried apricots, figs and nuts.
WORLD-TEA-CUSTOMS with a difference – THE BOSTON TEA PARTY has nothing to do with Ceylon Tea, yet an interesting story
World Tea Customs
June 30, 2011 – 8:05 am