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The Beverage That Conquered The World…

As I said I would be Chef Fan’s here is my first research topic for History and Culture class. I got to pick my own topic and since I am wanting to know more about how beverages have effected our world, that is what they are probably all going to be about. No not tea but beverages from the regions I am learning about. Enjoy!

Chinese Tea Culture:

Where Tea Began

Tea is among the world’s oldest and most revered beverages. It is today’s most popular beverage in the world, next to water. Tea drinking has long been an important aspect of Chinese culture. “A Chinese saying identifies the seven basic daily necessities as fuel, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, and tea.”[1] When and how drinking tea got its start in China is up to debate. Some say that, “tea was invented accidentally by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong in 2737 B.C.”1 While others would say “more than 4,000 years ago, that Yan Di, one of three rulers in ancient times, tasted all kinds of herbs to find medical cures. One day, as he was being poisoned by some herb he had ingested; a drop of water from a tea tree dripped into his mouth and he was saved.”[2] Whenever or however tea was discovered, is lost to history, what were not lost to history are the impacts that tea has had in the culture and everyday life of the Chinese people.

It was not until the Tang and Song Dynasties when tea showed some significance in Chinese tradition. “During the mid-Tang Dynasty (780 A.D.), a scholar named Lu Yu published the first definitive book, Cha Ching or The Tea Classic, on tea after he spent over twenty years studying the subject.”1 This documentation included his knowledge of planting, processing, tasting, and brewing tea. His research helped to elevate tea drinking to a high status throughout China. In the centuries following the publication of Yu’s work, tea’s popularity spread rapidly throughout China. Not only did tea drinking become a fitting subject for books and poems; it also saw many paintings, statues and other works of art dedicated to it. Later, teahouses began dotting the landscape. A Song Dynasty emperor helped the spread of tea consumption further by indulging in this wonderful custom. “This not only helped to popularize tea, it also elevated tea’s value which drew tea-growers to the capital.”1 Between the Yuan and Qing Dynasties, the technology of tea production continuously advanced to become more simplified and to improve the methods of enhancing tea flavor. During this period, tea houses and other tea-drinking establishments were opening up all over China. “By 900 A.D., tea drinking spread from China to Japan where the Japanese Tea Ceremony or Chanoyu, was created. In Japan, tea was elevated to an art form which requires years of dedicated studying. Unlike the Japanese people, the Chinese people tend to view tea drinking as a form of enjoyment: to have after a meal or to serve when guests visit.”[3]

In the over 2000 years of Chinese tea cultivation they have created and cultivated hundreds of types and verities of teas. “In China green tea has always been the predominantly produced and drank, especially in the eastern Fujian, Zhejiang and Anhui Provinces. Oolong tea is produced in Fujian, Taiwan, and Guangdong, whereas black tea is produced in Yunnan or Anhui and mostly exported. The province of Anhui is known far beyond its borders for its fine green tea, and its black Qimen variety is one of the ten best known types of tea in China.”3 While there are hundreds are varieties of Chinese teas, most fall into four basic categories. “Reputed to provide the most health benefits, white tea is made from immature tea leaves that are picked shortly before the buds have fully opened. Green teas are not fermented during processing, and thus retain the original color of the tea leaves. The most famous green tea is the expensive Dragon Well tea, grown in the hillsides of Hanghou. Also known as “red tea,” black teas are made from fermented leaves, which accounts for their darker color. Popular varieties of black tea include Bo lei, a Cantonese tea often drunk with dim sum, and luk on, a milder tea favored by the elderly. Finally, oolong teas are partially fermented, resulting in a black-green tea. Examples of oolong tea include Soi sin, a bitter tasting brew cultivated in the Fukien province.”[4] There is also a fourth category known as “scented teas, made by mixing various flowers and petals with green or oolong teas. The best known among these is jasmine tea.”4 Today, there are more than 1,500 types of teas to choose from because over 25 countries cultivate tea as a plantation crop. China is one of the main producers of tea, and in modern China, virtually every dwelling has a set of tea implements for brewing a hot cup of tea. These implements are symbols of welcome for visitors or neighbors.

Tea is a part of everyday life for almost everyone in China and there are a few times when the preparing and drinking of tea holds more meaning then just wanting to have something to drink. Whose tea got poured first or when the tea is poured can have many different meanings and implications. “In Chinese society, the younger generation always shows their respect to the older generation by offering a cup of tea. Inviting their elders to go to restaurants and having some tea is a traditional activity on holidays. When sons and daughters leave home because of work or get married, they may have few times to visit their parents, and parents may seldom meet their grandchildren as well. Therefore, going to restaurants and drinking tea becomes an important activity for family gatherings.” [5]

Chinese tea culture is the crystallization of the Chinese people’s tradition and custom of drinking tea. Tea is a mysterious but harmonious combination; it is spiritual as well as material, and invigorating as well as pacifying. Its character is flexible in different environments. For example, as tea goes in a different direction, a different tea culture is formed. In Japan, the rigorous tea ceremony reflects the nation’s character of making full use of every resource, while tea also represents peace of mind. In the West, tea with sugar and milk may be served with desserts to create a leisurely and romantic atmosphere, thus giving tea yet another facet. Though we know tea first began in China many years ago, little else is known about its early origin. Since trade routes began tea has spread from China to Western civilizations quite rapidly, and it is now the second most popular drink in the world, after water. It has had both medical and cultural importance throughout history. Each type of tea has its own special characteristics, and of the 1,500 varieties each culture that produces and each person who drinks it has their favorites. Mysterious, yet pleasantly so, we are still discovering all the faces tea has to offer maybe this is why tea is called “The drink that conquered the world.”

Bibliography

“Chinese Tea – History and Types of Chinese Tea.” Chinese Recipes – Chinese Cuisine – Chinese Food and Cooking. Web. 13 Jan. 2012. <http://chinesefood.about.com/od/chineseteaandliquor/a/chinesetea.htm&gt;.

“Chinese Tea, Tea Drinking, Chinese Tea History.” China Travel, China Travel Agency W/ Tour Packages, 24/7 Service. Web. 13 Jan. 2012.<http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/cuisine_drink/tea/&gt;.

“History of Tea in China.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 13 Jan. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_tea_in_China&gt;.

Schlotter, Katrin, Elke Spielmanns-Rome, Gregor M. Schmid, Lisa Franz, Martin Dlugosch, and Maisie Fitzpatrick. “Teatime” & “Silver Needles and Black Dragons.” Culinaria China: Cuisine, Country, Culture. Potsdam, Germany: H.F. Ullmann, 2010. 148, & 174. Print.

“Tea’s Wonderful History.” Chinese Historical and Cultural Project. Web. 13 Jan. 2012. <http://www.chcp.org/tea.html&gt;.


[1] “Tea’s Wonderful History.” Chinese Historical and Cultural Project.

[2] “Chinese Tea, Tea Drinking, Chinese Tea History.”

[3] Culinaria China

[4] Chinese Tea – History and Types of Chinese Tea

[5] History of Tea in China.”

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2 Comments on “The Beverage That Conquered The World…”

  1. Tori January 15, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    I love this paper! It’s so well researched and well written. Plus it gives us insight on such an amazing drink. 🙂

  2. Grandma January 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    Tori would love this paper as you picked her favorite drink. Job well done though, lots of research. Interesting. xoxoxox Gma

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