TEA CEREMONIES AND CULTURES

Tea Throughout The World Tea is a customary drink worldwide. In Asian countries, drinking tea is an ancient tradition accompanied by a highly developed tea-based culture, which is tied to art and local customs. Among Russians and Eastern Mediterranean inhabitants, tea became a prevalent drink long after the flourishing tea culture developed in China, and yet many years before Europeans tasted it for the first time. The tea ceremonies are the crowning glory of the tea culture. They set it apart and glorify it and give a symbolic meaning to the importance of tea in society and local culture. Tea ceremonies which have been preserved from ancient times open a window to distant cultures and ancient customs which have assimilated into various traditions and accompanied them up until today. China - The Original Tea Ceremony The Chinese tea ceremony is the most ancient ceremony and plays a central role in Chinese culture. The tea is the heart of the ceremony: the host and ceremony participants smell the tea, taste it and enjoy the many layers of taste discovered with every mouthful. The tea ceremony reflects the search for beauty in every object of the world, in accordance with the Chinese Tao philosophy. The ceremony must be conducted in a peaceful atmosphere and induce a sense of tranquility and harmony among the participants. The tea ceremony is conducted for various purposes: anything from expressing appreciation or asking forgiveness, to creating goodwill among the guests of family reunions or wedding celebrations. Japan - Motifs of Harmony and Aesthetics According to a common belief, the Buddhist monks brought tea from China to Japan during the sixth century B.C. The Japanese brought the preparation and serving of tea to an aesthetic art and an impressive ceremony in general, with predefined and very strict rules. Every detail of the Japanese tea ceremony demands strict attention and is regarded with much importance and takes a great deal of time. The Japanese tea ceremony was designed in the spirit of the Zen doctrine, according to which spiritual elevation is achieved by engrossing oneself in the small details of daily life. Thus, the attention paid to the minutest details of the tea ceremony is meant to induce a sense of serenity and harmony among the host and guests. The tea ceremony is conducted in the "tearoom", which every traditional Japanese house has. The tearoom is considered to be an island of tranquility and purity, allowing the guests to leave the outside world behind and relax. Artistic motifs influenced by Japanese architecture, drawing and sculpture, are interwoven into the tea ceremony and influence the design of the tearoom and the ceremonial tea dishes. The modern Japanese culture considers tea to be a social drink and gives it a central role in their lifestyle, but the traditional tea ceremony is almost never conducted any longer in daily life. The tea ceremony holds a place of honor in Japanese culture as a magnificent trace of the past. There are currently three tea schools in Japan, established 300 years ago, which continue to bequeath the art of tea and Japanese hosting. Russia - Samovar And Strong Tea At the beginning of the 17th century, the Chinese Emperor presented the Russian Czar with a gift of tea. Thus, tea became an acceptable drink in Russia about 100 years before arriving in the European countries. The Russian population customarily drinks black tea. Russia was so strongly associated with black tea that during the 19th century certain types of black tea were called "Russian tea", despite the fact that the tea was actually produced in China. Tea culture is an integral part of Russian culture and is referred to in works of art and literature. The samovar, a metal container for heating water, can be found in almost every home and is part of the Russian cultural icons. The Russians tend to prepare a strong, bitter concentrate of black tea which is kept in a small teapot next to the samovar. The concentrate is diluted with boiling water to prepare tea according to the drinker's preferred strength. India - Mass Production And Tea Stock Markets The Indian tea industry began flourishing only during the 19th century. At this time, the British trade giant "The East India Trade Company" controlled the importation of tea from the Eastern countries in general and from India in particular. Today, the Indian tea industry is one of the most flourishing and influential branches of the Indian economy. India produces about 900,000 tons of tea per year. In the Indian tea stock market, the tea is traded among the growers, traders and marketers. Among the various types of tea to be found in India are the popular Asam Tea as well as the Darling tea which is considered to be one of the best teas in the world. The Indians customarily drink black tea with milk, an English custom which remained as a testimony to the British colonial rule over India. Great Britain - Tea With Milk The British are among the world's most massive tea consumers. Perhaps it is possible to understand the importance of tea in British culture if we recall Sir Winston Churchill's declaration during the Second World War that: "Tea is more important to the soldiers than munitions". Black Tea was very common in Britain during the 18th century and the British founded the tradition of adding milk to black tea. Afternoon tea – Drinking tea in the afternoon is a custom which began during the 19th century. Its development is attributed to the Duchess of Bedford. Due to the fact that the aristocracy customarily ate only two meals a day being breakfast and dinner, the afternoon tea was meant to abate the hunger between the meals. The afternoon tea was served along with a light meal between the hours 3:00-5:00 p.m. High tea - A further development and refinement of the afternoon tea; this is actually an early dinner which includes tea. One assumption is it that the name was derived from the late hour in which the meal was taken: 500-7:00 p.m. Another suggestion is that the expression "high tea" originated from the custom of having this meal on high tables, in comparison with the afternoon tea which was eaten on low tables. The History Of Tea Drinking tea plays such a central part in our lives, it is such a universal phenomenon with millions of people the world over enjoying their tea on a daily basis, that it’s hard to imagine a world without tea and yet while the Eastern world has been using tea for more than 4500 years, for most of this time tea was unknown in the Western world. Tea was only introduced into the West a relatively recent 400 years ago. Discovered in China, tea has exerted a profound influence on societies and cultures throughout the world so that there are unique ceremonies in various cultures and most parts of the world have social etiquettes concerning the preparation and drinking of tea as well as social customs regarding how, when and where to drink it. Many myths, legends, poems and proverbs surround tea and maintain its mystique. Tea has always accompanied and even influenced the unfolding of key historical events as well as maintaining a presence whenever economic, technological or cultural developments to k place. Today tea enjoys an unparalleled and enduring popularity. The story of tea is truly intertwined with the story of Mankind. The Origin Of The Word "Tea" The Chinese originally called it “Kia”. As far as is know it was during the course of the 6th century AD that the name evolved into "Cha". On its arrival in the West it became Té which is still the name for tea in many countries. The Discovery Of Tea Legend has it that tea was discovered by the Chinese Emperor, Shan Nong, in 2737 B.C. The Emperor had a habit of boiling his drinking water. One day while he was in his garden a few tea leaves fell by chance into his boiling water which then gave off a rich, alluring aroma. The Emperor, upon drinking this brew, discovered it to be refreshing and energizing. He immediately gave the command that tea bushes to be planted in the gardens of his palace. Thus the custom of brewing fresh tea leaves in hot water began and it quickly spread. Since the discovery of tea and over the centuries the tradition of drinking tea brewed from fresh tea leaves in boiling water has been firmly entrenched in China Until the fifth century A.D., tea was primarily used as a remedy, due to the medicinal benefits attributed to it. From this time onwards, China's upper class adopted the fashion of presenting packages of tea as highly esteemed gifts and of enjoying drinking tea at social events and in private homes. At around the same time the Chinese tea ceremony began to develop and the tidings of tea began to spread as it reached Japan. How Tea Arrived In The West Tea arrived in Europe via Dutch and Portuguese sailors at the beginning of the 17th century. They had trade relations with China and brought the tea to Britain and Holland at the outset, where it was sold at auctions and became very popular among the aristocracy and the wealthy. The beverage's initial high price prevented it from circulating among the western population at large. The tea trade was a significant factor in establishing connections between east and west. In China, tea leaves were used as a substitute for coins. In Europe, tea was used as a symbol of high status and as a stimulus for many technological developments, for instance, the development of fast sail boats such as the "Clipper", which shortened the time it took to sail from China to Europe and made it possible to provide shipments of fresh tea to the west. British companies established for the importing tea, such as the "John Company" and "The East India Trade Company" became trade monopolies, unprecedented in size and power, and were ordained by the royal family and empowered to operate in any way necessary to ensure the continuous supply of this popular drink. At the beginning of the 18th century, with the expansion of tea imports to the west and the consequent decrease in its price, tea became a common product enjoyed by all sectors of the population. Tea In America: The Boston Tea Party At the beginning of the 18th century, tea arrived in Northern America, quickly becoming a desirable drink there as well. In New York and Boston, London-style teahouses started developing, where the drink was sold to the general public. At around that time, the British Empire decided to place taxes on the tea supply to the colonies of North America who were under their power. This decision greatly angered the American settlers who decided to boycott the taxed products in protest. Whenever the British ships arrived at the harbors laden with tea, the settlers would start demonstrations which forced the ships to leave without unloading their wares. The most famous occurrence in this regard was named the "Boston Tea Party", during which a group of settlers boarded one of the ships anchored in the Boston harbor and started throwing hundreds of crates of tea from its deck into the sea. England retaliated to this by sending military forces to the harbor and shutting it down. This event marked the begini ng of the American War of Independence. Tea In The 20th Century A significant rise in tea consumption resulted from the appearance of tea bags at the beginning of the 20th century. The inventor of tea bags, a New York tea merchant by the name of Thomas Sullivan, had a custom of sending tea samples in white silk bags to his customers, and they were intrigued by this new ground-breaking product. Upon the appearance of tea bags, the price of tea was lowered. The possibility of drinking tea without special brewing utensils made tea suitable for mass consumption, turning it into the world's most prevalent hot beverage. During the 20th century, the source of tea crops spread throughout the world, from Japan to Africa and South America. Towards the end of the 20th century, an additional rise in the western world's tea consumption occurred and also in evidence was a demand for quality teas. The rise in tea consumption in the occident results from three primary reasons: The rise in popularity of the back-to-nature trend and an aspiration to lead a healthy, simple life. Tea, as a natural drink with evident health benefits, fits in perfectly with this lifestyle. A massive immigration of Asians to the west. The Asian immigrants disseminated their strongly based the tea cultures in the western countries. Western travelers in the east, who brought with them tidings of tea upon their return. Today the scope of the tea industry's worldwide economic activity stands at more than three billion dollars a year. Tea is grown and produced in more than 40 countries worldwide. Every year, more than 2.5 million tons of tea is produced around the world, most of it in Asian countries.

TEA CEREMONIES AND CULTURES

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