like coffee, tea has had quite an interesting history and reputation as a
beverage. Here are some surprising facts about this beverage that could actually
give coffee a run for its “hard-brewed” money.
Legend has it that the mythological Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was the first
person to have discovered and drunk tea. It seems that these Chinese Emperor was
way ahead of his time concerning hygiene, such that he made it a point to boil
water for personal and health-related reasons. One time, when visiting a far-off
section of his realm, he ask for some water to quench his thirst. Forthwith, a
servant boiled water under a small shrub. While the water was boiling, the
leaves of the shrub (Camelia Sinensis) fell, thereby discoloring the clear
liquid and turning light brown. Intrigued, the Emperor took a sip and another
drink was placed on the roster of beverages.
though the origin of tea was deemed legendary, there are those who believe that
there might be some truth to the narrative, and that the incident actually
Nothing is as intriguing as the so-called tea ceremony of Japan. Movies, novels
and even the theater played-up this almost mystical act to such an extent that
non-Japanese are left mystified as to what the ceremony actually means.
Certainly, tea drinking’s religious origins gave the tea ceremony its mystique
as the Zen Buddhists who introduced tea drinking to Japan probably grafted their
own philosophy to this stylized act of serving tea—hence our fascination or
puzzlement about it. In reality, the tea ceremony is to most observers just
another way of serving tea—in the words of the writer Lafcadio Hearn—“in
the most polite, most graceful and most charming manner possible.”
The English, aside from the Chinese and the Japanese, is another nation that
made tea drinking an art form of sorts. Indeed, they originated the so-called
afternoon tea, which true to their highly stratified society was marked by class
differences as well. In fact there is the so-called “high-tea” and
“low-tea” which are actually meant to distinguish the afternoon meals of the
middle classes with those of the aristocracy, respectively. Blame, or rather
credit, to the evolution of afternoon tea should be given to the Dutchess of
Bedford who created this national institution. However, her reasons were
actually practical, as the English then, have only two regular meals in a day
--- breakfast and dinner. The afternoon tea actually served as a means to
survive the “meal-less” period before dinner. Thereby avoiding, in the words
of the Duchess herself “that sinking feeling in the late afternoon.”
Though Americans are not known to be great tea drinkers today, they were
nonetheless considered great imbibers of tea prior to the American Revolution of
1776. In fact, it was said that New Amsterdam (the original name of New York)
was said to consume more tea than Great Britain itself. However, the Boston Tea
Party ended all that, when in a burst of patriotism, the American Colonials
turned to coffee to differentiate themselves from the English.
some Americans continued to be tea drinkers and today, as much as 27 percent of
them are known to drink tea regularly. Anyway, Americans have introduced
innovations vis-a-vis tea as well. In the 1940’s St. Louis World’s Fair for
instance, Richard Blechynden introduced iced tea to the public. His invention
was not premeditated though. Since he was serving hot tea during a heat wave,
Blenchynden dumped a load of ice to his tea to save his investment. Lo and
behold! Iced tea became a hit inspite of the other technological innovations
that should have merited more attention in the World’s Fair.
American Thomas Sullivan, invented the bagged tea. A tea salesman, he regularly
sends tea samples wrapped in paper to client restaurants. However, he soon
noticed that his clients were actually using his tea samples without removing
paper. He soon refined the idea and to this day, tea bags have become part and
parcel of our grocery list.
have some more tea.
Tisanes and herbal infusions aside, teas are generally divided into four
teas are oxidized. It is generally exposed to the air for a measure of time
allowing natural chemical reactions (oxidation) to occur.
Green teas are not oxidized. It is usually withered and dried. It is also
Oolong teas are a combination of black and green teas and is partly
known as China Whites, this kind of tea is steamed and dried and are
difficult to source as it is almost exclusively consumed in China.