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Cup of tea

"Coffee is a quick fix.
Tea is an experience."

I love a cup of tea - a strong Assam, a fragrant Pearl Jasmine, an Iron Buddha, a Milky Oolong. Tea is much, much more than just a beverage. My first sip of Silver Needles was like sipping a cloud, of pu-ehr was like earthy temptation and of green tea was like bitter passion. Tea is many different things to many different people and cultures across the globe. It has crossed borders, cultures and religions. My brief lecture want to give listeners a little taste of the diverse and fascinating world of tea - to show just how far this little plant has travelled and how it has come to mean so much to so many. In the 8th century Chinese poet Lu Tong declared: „I don’t care about immortality, just the taste of tea.“ I think there are many tea lovers in the world who share his passion, and I am one of them.

Tea spread from China through established trade routes around the world. It was a Japanese Buddhist monk named Eisai (Yosai) who took tea plants back to Japan in AD 1193.

Tea was taken up by many other countries, none more so than the United Kingdom, where today Britain and Ireland hold the top two titles for the largest consumption of tea per capita. Tea was introduced to Britain by the Dutch in the 1650s and made fashionable by the Portuguese Princess, Catherine of Braganza, the consort of Charles II. During these early years prices of tea remained high and out of reach of all but the upper classes. As the popularity of tea spread and prices began to fall, there was a shortfall in supply, and demand led some unscrupulous individuals to adulterate the leaves of other plants with copper and sell it as tea. When infused these leaves gave off a copper colour similar to that of genuine tea, and no doubt fooled many unseasoned tea drinkers. A number of books published during the period warn of such scams.

The desperation of the British to establish their own tea industry in British India is apparent in the story of how in 1848 the British Tea Committee sent the English botanist Robert Fortune to China disguised as a Chinese merchant and later as a Mongolian mandarin to uncover the secrets of tea production and successfully smuggle tea plants out of China. Fortune was successful and he is now credited with establishing the British India tea industry.

Anthony Burgess suggests it was Dr Samuel Johnson, the lexicographer who created the first Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, who established the way Britons were to drink tea. Johnson may have shown them that tea could be drunk all day, every day, but few, if any, could match the volume of his consumption. Some sources suggest he could drink 25 cups in one sitting, others 32, and some suggest he could consume a whopping 40 cups. In his 1757 „Review of a Journal of Eight Days“ journey, a defence of tea, along with a valuable summary of the history and cultural aspects of tea.

A visit to a Chinese tea shop is a very daunting experience for the novice. Chinese tea takes years to acquaint yourself with and one tea master told me that even though tea was her life she would never learn it all; the subject is simply too vast. A visit to any bookshop in Mainland China or Hong Kong will attest to this; one that I went to had more than 70 books on tea for sale.

Preparing tea

Every tea has it´s own preparation, but basic information about this are common.

Kettle for water
•You can prepare water for tea in electric kettle, because it is faster.
•If you want to stick to traditions, you should warm water in noble steel rather then in an aluminium one.

•Not every material is suitable. Tea feels best in ceramics, porcelain and glass.
•You can´t use kettle for coffee, because the flavour of tea can´t assert itself.
•You don´t use clean means for dishes to clean teakettle!

•Hard water with much calcium derogates tea its colour and taste.
•You boil fresh water every time, you don´t use warm water from boiler.
The Chinese classify tea into six main types: green (unfermented); white; yellow; oolong (green semi-fermented); red (fully fermented and what is known as black tea in the west); and dark tea (Pur-erh, sometimes called black tea). The latter is a very dark 100 percent fermented tea, the best coming from Yunnan. It is treated much like wine with different vintages and grades, and its own terminology. It is bought by the young, financially savvy in China as an investment to be stored and resold in 10 to 20 years, but by the older tea lover to be stored and savoured once it has reached its full maturity. A tea brick (compressed tea) from the early 1920s currently sells for much money. Pu-ehr is the tea, that I like the best and I have some of it always at home.

Preparation Pu-erh
1.You give one litre of water that itself warm.You give in teakettle five teaspoons pu-erh and water it.
2.You can leach out tea since two till five minutes.
3.You have to pour tea in other teakette through sieve. If you want, you can relish tea with honey or syrup.

Preparation other tea sorts is similar. They differ just in time of leach. Green tea soak max 3 minutes and this tea water with water, that have 70 °C. White , yellow and oolong soak about 5 minutes and rooibos soak 6 minutes, but it depend on quality.

Tea quickly became a vital part of Japanese culture, and Chado, or the Japanese tea ceremony as it is commonly known in western cultures, is at the centre of this. Chado is guided by the four principles of harmony, respect, purity and tranquillity, and is an expression of the participants’ true inner nature. The serving and taking of tea becomes a spiritual experience.
I describe myself as „a hardened tea-drinker“, who has for several years diluted his meals with only the infusion of this fascinating plant; whose kettle has scarcely time to cool; who with tea amuses the evening, with tea solaces the midnight, and with tea welcomes the morning.“
Even I´m drinking for me the best tea in the world, pu-erh, now. And it is soon midnight... I know, that tea is my little dependence. :) But who haven´t any?

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