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Tea Facts
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by: Celebrity Recipes Magazine

Much 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.

Surprisingly, 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 transpired.

The Tea Ceremony.
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.”

Afternoon Tea.
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.”

Tea and Americans.
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.

Nonetheless, 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.

Another 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.

So have some more tea.


Tea Types:
Tisanes and herbal infusions aside, teas are generally divided into four basic types:

  • Black.
    Black teas are oxidized. It is generally exposed to the air for a measure of time allowing natural chemical reactions (oxidation) to occur.

  • Green.
    Green teas are not oxidized. It is usually withered and dried. It is also slightly bitter.

  • Oolong.
    Oolong teas are a combination of black and green teas and is partly fermented.

  • White.
    Also 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.

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September 23, 2017

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