It might be simple in nature, but it has a very ancient and complex history.
Legend has it that a Chinese emperor, who lived over 5000 years ago, demanded that all water be boiled as a healthy precaution.
One day, when his servants began boiling water for him, leaves from a nearby bush fell into it, thereby infusing it.
And thus, this beverage was created.
Although it may be difficult to know if this is truly the story of it's beginnings, many mythologists believe it to be very close to the actual events.
It actually sounds pretty good to me.
What is for sure is that this beverage originated in China, where in 800 A.D. Lu'Yu wrote the first definitive book, chronicling the various methods of cultivation and preparation in ancient China.
His work, hailed by the Emperor himself, clearly showed his Zen Buddhism influences, which is where from the first form of this infused beverage service was created, and then introduced by Zen Buddhist missionaries into imperial Japan.
In Japan, it became regarded as almost saintly.
Yeisei, the Buddhist priest who introduced the first seeds into Japan from China, came to be regarded as the "Father of Tea", since he saw the value of the beverage in enhancing religious mediation.
After receiving imperial sponsorship, it quickly spread among the country's royalty and eventually into other layers of Japanese society.
At that point, this beverage was elevated to an art form in Japan.
Basically, all this involves is making and serving and the art is to do it as gracefully, politely and perfectly as possible.
Unfortunately, as the art form became more and more popular, the Ceremony quickly became very corrupted and lost its Zen concept.
Eventually, it was restored over time by three Japanese priests: Ikkyu, Murata Shuko and Sen-no Rikkyu.
In 1560, Portuguese Jesuit Father de Cruz, on the country's first commercial trip to China (Portugal gained the first right of trade with China because of its technologically advanced navy), tasted the delightful beverage and four years later, brought some back.
The Portuguese later developed a trade route and shipped it to several other European countries.
Holland and France were the early leaders in the heavy consumption, which was initially a luxury among the elite, mainly because of its price (over 100$ per pound!).
As imports increased, the price dropped, and by 1675, it was available in most common food shops.
England, perhaps most associated with drinking this beverage (well-known for its daily four o'clock ritual), was actually the last of the sea-faring nations to break into the Chinese and East Indian trade routes.
It reached Great Britain sometime between 1652 and 1654, and proved so popular, it replaced ale as England's national drink!
A little earlier, in 1600, Queen Elizabeth I, had founded the John company to promote Asian trade.
It became the world's single largest monopoly: it was granted all trade east of Cape of Good Hope (at the Southern tip of South Africa) and west of Cape Horn (the southernmost point of an island associated with South America) and had such rights as to legally acquire and govern territory, declare war, conclude peace, establish laws and try to punish its breakers.
The most amazing thing?
All of its power was based on the importation of this product.
Afternoon tea time in England was the idea of Anna, Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861), who experienced a "sinking feeling" between morning's breakfast and dinner, a long, massive meal at the very end of the day.
She began inviting friends over for a cup and pastries in the afternoon and thus the custom spread.
It was in 1650 that Dutchman Peter Stuyvesant brought the first of this beverage to the Dutch colonists in the settlement of New Amsterdam (now New York), thereby introducing it into America.
In 1767, taxes started being imposed on certain products (only for colonists), among them this one, which resulted in rebellion from the colonists.
(Taxes were imposed on the colonists because they were regarded as those who benefited from England's wars with France and India in the mid 1700s).
They began importing it directly from the Dutch, which in turn angered companies who up until that point, controlled the trade.
By December of 1773, things had gotten so bad, the men of Boston threw hundreds of pounds into the harbor, this event is known as the Boston Tea Party.
England was so mad it closed the port of Boston, which was occupied by royal troops.
The result: colonial leaders met and the revolution was declared.
Wow, pretty impressive what some dried up leaves can do.
Well, okay it wasn't really tea that started the Revolution, rather deeper embedded issues, that happened to coincide with the popularization of the product in America.
Still, it's pretty amazing to think something as simple as tea (seriously - think about it) could play such a big part.
Today, there are literally hundreds of varieties: made from every fruit you could imagine, herbal, green, black, organic.
The list goes on and on, and we don't think you'd want to go through the whole entire thing, so we thought we'd introduce you to the main varieties, from which all others are made.
Black: Goes through a process called oxidation, during which water evaporates from the leaf, letting it absorb more oxygen.
Black leaves are typically very dark and robust in flavor.
This variety is the most caffeinated (50-60%).
Green: Undergoes a much shorter oxidation process and therefore contains much less caffeine (10-30%).
It's flavor is much more subtle and has many accents and undertones (also contains many antioxidants).
Oolong: Undergoes only partial oxidation, and therefore has a caffeine content somewhere in between that of black and green varieties.
Its taste is not as robust as that of black, and not quite as subtle as that of green.
However, it does have its own very particular flavors, which are often compared to that of fresh flowers and fruits.
White: Does not undergo any oxidation, and therefore has extremely low amounts of caffeine.
It's considered the most delicate of all: subtle, complex and naturally sweet.
Puerh: An aged black variety from China, with many medicinal properties.
Until 1995, it was illegal to import it into the US and its production is still closely guarded by the Chinese state.
Its flavor is extremely deep and strong, but not bitter.
Rooibos (Red): Although all types are derived from the same plant, the red type is exclusive to South Africa's "aspalathus linearis" bush.
It's naturally caffeine-free and a source of antioxidants and minerals.
It has a copper color and a delicate flavor, with a hint of roasted nuts and sweetness.
It's often mixed with other ingredients to create even fuller flavors.
Most though, can now be found at your local grocery store because of their recent popularity, but specialty shops are brewing behind just about every corner.
Keep in mind that these six, are only the basic ones, you'd be surprised by just how many varieties and kinds you can find (that's even without trying too hard).
Afternoon Recipes ****************
Tea Ice Cream
Makes 2 lbs
2 oz. dry variety (with good flavor)
1 lb. refined sugar
1 oz. arrowroot or corn flour
2 lbs. fresh milk
10 oz. water
1. Heat water and remove quickly from fire when boiling.
2. Rinse out teapot with hot water and put in the leaves.
Pour boiling water into the pot.
Infuse for 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Strain off infusion and keep aside.
4. Boil milk.
5. Next, blend sugar with arrowroot (or corn flour) thoroughly and add to boiled milk.
Let mixture simmer for about 10 minutes stirring continuously to avoid lumpage.
6. Remove from fire, add infusion, stir and freeze.
Makes 4 servings
5 Sens Blackcurrant & Blackberry bags
1 Sens Strawberry/Mandarin bag
1 c. boiling water
1 1/2 c. strawberry/kiwi juice
2 Tbs. honey
1 c. vanilla ice cream (frozen yogurt, sherbet, or sorbet may be substituted)
1 c. ice
1. Brew both in boiling water, steep for 4 minutes.
2. Pour into blender, adding strawberry/kiwi juice, honey, vanilla ice cream and ice.
3. Mix ingredients until fully blended.
4. Garnish with whipped cream (optional)
So, that's pretty much everything we can think of to share with you on this particular subject.
Gotta run, it's tea time!Tweet
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