Make Tea a Tradition

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Tea traditions vary widely from one country to another. Each tea type and origin may be connected with a time-honored tradition.

In China, tea came into use first as a medicinal tool. It was used as a treatment for illness and aid in meditation. During the time of the Ming Dynasty tea took hold in Chinese culture and tea houses began to develop, solidifying the use and availability of tea in daily life. The Chinese practice of a tea ceremony often takes the form of Gong Fu. A tea master artistically arranges a clay Yi-Xing pot and several small teacups near a tea sink or shallow bowl to catch draining water. Bamboo tools are used to handle hot objects. Hot water is used to rinse and warm the teacups, then discarded. A generous portion of Oolong tea leaves is added to the pot with hot water and steeps for 30 seconds. The tea master measure this time in breaths and then pours a continuous stream of tea into the cups in equal amounts. Additional steepings and servings may follow.

While a classic afternoon tea in Great Britain may spring to mind when considering traditional uses of tea, the practice of hosting afternoon tea came in to being 200 years after the beverage was introduced in the 1600s. Tea came in to British culture as a costly beverage to be experienced in tea houses. Later, Anna, Duchess of Bedford, popularlized afternoon tea when she began asking servants for a snack between lunch and dinner. Today afternoon tea in Great Britain may mean a cup of tea and small cookie or a full pot of tea accompanied by three courses of food: tea sandwiches, fresh baked scones with Devonshire Cream and dessert.

France welcomed tea into society around the same time, the 1600's. Much like it was in Great Britain, tea began as a beverage enjoyed by aristocrats and wealthy members of society. Now with a strong foothold in the country it’s possible to relax in serene salon de the to escape city life.

A traditional Japanese tea ceremony celebrates simplicity, balance and harmony. No two experiences are alike. Japanese Tea Ceremonies are hosted in a sukiya, or tea house. This low space is simply adorned with a flower arrangement or artwork. It requires all who enter to do so humbly and to bow. Matcha is prepared in a chawan or tea bowl and stirred back and forth with a bamboo whisk called a chasen. Other items for the ceremony will include a chashaku, or bamboo tea scoop, furui, a matcha powder sifter, hishaku a bamboo ladle, kama, a large kettle and a heat source.

The matcha powder is sifted in the furui to a fine consistency; then the kama is placed over the heat until it comes to a simmering boil. Water from the kama is dipped once using the hishaku, to warm the tea bowl, then it is discarded. The matcha is measured into the chawan using 2 or 3 scoops of the chasaku. About 4 ounces of hot water is drawn from the kama and poured into the bowl. Using the chasen, the tea is whipped into a thick and frothy substance and can then be drunk directly from the bowl.

From the long honored traditions of the tea house to the streets of India. Cha-ya - known as Chai or spicy tea - came to popularity from street vendors in India. It may be sweetened with sugar and milk or it may be served to accompany a snack like samosas. Cha-ya is easy to secure on the go and often serves as a respite from the heat.

Traders brought tea into Russia in the 17th century but it was not until the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railroad that the beverage became more prevalent. In 1880 households across Russia became equipped with a large decorative urn called a samovar. Inside coals kept water hot and boiling. Teapots were placed atop the urn and a strong black tea called zavarka was readily available. Tea became a symbol of hospitality across Russia. Smokey teas are enjoyed throughout Russia and typically sipped through a sugar cube or accompanied by a teaspoon of jam.

Strong black tea is also favored in Egypt. And the country happens to be one of the largest importers of black tea.

In Morrocco, mint tea is used often as a digestive aid and daily beverage. Teas are often prepared traditionally by the head of the household using a silver or stainless steel tall teapot. MInt tea aerates when poured as a thin stream into cups after steeping.

Teas come from tea gardens across the globe, each with its own story and tradition.