L. Golender, Tea, 2003
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History of Tea
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The southwestern part of China is the native place of tea trees in the world and Yunnan province is the center of China’s tea tree origination. Then it was developed mainly in Canton(Guangdong, or Kwangtung, or Kuang-tung) and Fukien(Fujian) regions.
|Turner Joseph Mallord William
Grand Canal, Venice
Oil on Canvas,
Along the trade routes of antiquity went caravans with as many as 4,000 camels bearing spices and the rich merchandise of the East, plodding along from Goa, Calicut and the Orient to spice markets in Nineveh and Babylon; Carthage, Alexandria and Rome.
The route from Gilead to Egypt was part of the "golden road to Samarkand" traveled for hundreds, almost thousands of years, bringing pepper and cloves from India, cinnamon and nutmeg from the Spice Islands (or Moluccas), ginger from China.
For hundreds of years frail ships clawed their way along the Indian coast, past the pirate-infested Persian Gulf, along the coast of South Arabia and through the Red Sea to Egypt. Those were typical ways of bringing spices from the Orient to the Western world in ancient tunes.
Suddenly European merchants realized these places could be reached by ship. Much of the mystery had had been removed from the lands of spicery, and Europe was awakened to a new quest.
While tea was at this high level of development in both Japan and China, information concerning this then unknown beverage began to filter back to Europe by Arabs via Venetians. By the 10th century Venice was beginning to prosper in the trade of the Levant. By the early part of the 13th century it enjoyed a monopoly of the trade of the Middle East, and by the 15th century it was a formidable power in Europe. Part of Venice's great wealth came from trading in the spices of the East, which it obtained in Alexandria and sold to northern and western European buyer-distributors at exorbitant prices. Earlier caravan leaders had mentioned tea, but were unclear as to its service format or appearance (One reference suggests the leaves be boiled, salted, buttered, and eaten!).
The earliest mention of tea in the literature of Europe was in 1559. It appears as "Chai Catai'(Tea of China) in the book 'Delle Navigatione et Viaggi (Voyages and Travels) by Giambattista Ramusio (1485-1557). He served in diplomatic posts for the Venetian state and eventually filled the position of secretary in the Council of Ten. In the republic of Venice, a special tribunal created (1310) to avert plots and crimes against the state. It was a direct result of the unsuccessful Tiepolo conspiracy against the Venetian oligarchy. In 1335 the body was given permanent status. It consisted actually of 17 members : the doge, 10 members chosen by the grand council, and 6 elected by the lesser council. After 1539 three members served as inquisitors of state and investigated, by means of a secret police, all criminal, moral, religious, and political offenses. The inquisitors reported their findings to the Ten, who rendered an irrevocable verdict. As the power of the Council of Ten expanded, it came to control foreign relations and financial matters. In 1582 the conservative nobles attempted to reduce its authority but failed; the Ten remained the most important governing body of the state until the fall (1797) of the republic. Although the mystery that veiled its operations gave it an aura of tyrannical despotism, it was in general an efficient and highly effective body.
Ramusio's book was a collection of narratives of voyages and discoveries in ancient and modern times, including those of the Persian merchant Hajji Mahommed, who visited Venice, who is credited with first bringing tea to Europe. The reference describing tea says, 'One or two cups of this decoction taken on an empty stomach removes fever, headache, stomach ache, pain in the side or in the joints . . . besides that, it is good for no end of other ailments, which he could not remember, but gout was one of them. He said 'it is so highly valued and esteemed that everyone going on a journey takes it with him, and those people would gladly give a sack of rhubarb for one ounce of Chai Catai'. The beverage was first called Cha, from the Cantonese slang for tea. The name changed later to Tay, or Tee, when the British trading post moved from Canton(Guangzhou) to Amoy(Xiamen), where the word for tea is T'e.
Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) came to Macau in 1582, and when he died in Beijing in 1610, he had spent 28 years in China. Charged with the mission to spread Christianity in China, Ricci felt obliged to learn the Chinese language, its writing system, and the Confucian classics as basic tools to communicate with his potential Chinese converts. He also felt the need to acquaint himself with Chinese social customs and daily life so that he could work out a better strategy for the reception of a religion alien to the Chinese mind. His discerning observations of late sixteenth-century China and his own life experience as a foreign missionary were recorded in his journals, written in Italian in his later years. Ricci's knowledge of tea and tea drinking is mostly first hand. His accounts of the history, manufacturing process, and drinking habits of tea are general and reasonably accurate by sixteenth-century standard, although they become fuzzy insofar as detailed knowledge is concerned. Ricci also states that the use of tea "cannot be of long duration among the Chinese," because "no ideography in their old books designates this particular drink and their writing characters are all ancient." This bold statement that Chinese didn't drink tea until much later in their long history is interesting, but perplexingly misleading. It is true, however, that the word for tea, cha, never appeared in ancient Chinese texts; the character cha was created by Lu Yu in the eighth century during the Tang dynasty. Ricci knew that the ideograph cha did not exist in ancient Chinese texts, and for a foreigner, his knowledge of Chinese is quite impressive. However, the fact that the ancient texts do not contain the ideograph cha does not necessarily preclude the actual use of tea as a beverage in ancient times. Based on written records and more recently excavated archaeological evidences, we know that tea as a beverage had become rather popular in Central China along the Yangzi River and its tributaries during the Western Han period, or by the second century B.C. at the latest. All in all, Ricci's accounts of tea are basically accurate, provided his observations are confined to sixteenth- century practices. He made one major mistake, however. He believed that the tea plant could be found in the fields of Europe. Let's see how it really has got there.
|The Watering Place at Anjer Point in the Island of Java,
Oil on Canvas,
William Daniell, London, 1794
|The Challenge, Clipper, New York, 1851|
The Americans were the first to design a new type of clipper. Recognising that the old ships had to carry too much weight, they designed a more streamlined vessel (based on the old ( Baltimore clippers) capable of carrying greater cargo (providing it was loaded correctly) at a greater speed. The new, faster clipper was born - so called because they were designed to "clip"; or get the last ounce of speed from the wind. The first of these three masted, full-rigged vessels was the 750 ton Rainbow launched in New York in 1845. Every line promised speed - from the sharp, curving stem to the slim, tapering stern, with tall raking masts carrying a huge area of sail. The journey time of the slow East Indian clippers was halved.
Perhaps the most famous clipper ever built was the British clipper Cutty Sark. The Cutty Sark was built in 1868 in Dumbarton and only carried tea on just eight occasions. It is preserved as a museum ship at Greenwich, London. The name comes from the poem 'Tam o' Shanter' by Robert Burns, about a Scottish farmer chased by a young witch who wore only her 'cutty sark' (= short shift); the ship's figurehead is a representation of the witch with her arm outstretched to catch the tail of the horse on which the farmer was escaping.
Each year the tall ships would race from China to the Tea Exchange in London to bring in the first tea for auction. the races between the tea clippers had become a great annual competition. The race began in China where the clippers would leave the Canton River, race down the China Sea, across the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope, up the Atlantic, past the Azores and into the English Channel. The clippers would then be towed up the River Thames by tugs and the race would be won by the first ship to hurl ashore its cargo at the docks. The first cargo home fetched as much as an extra sixpence (2.5p) per 1lb (450g) - and gained a cash bonus for Captain and crew. Though beginning half way around the world, the mastery of the crews was such that the great ships often raced up the Thames separated by only by minutes.
The picturesque era of the tea clippers was celebrated by the Great Tea Race in 1866, (these legendary ships carried both tea and adventurers across the China seas). The race began at Foochow, ending in the London Docks, took 99 days and after 16,000 miles by sail, only 10 minutes separated the winners. An unprecedented sixteen clippers assembled at the Pagoda Anchorage in the Min River at Foochow. Or from other sources nine ships laden with the first crop left FooChow (South China Coast) on dates varying from the 29th May to the 6th June last, but only four of the nine really competed for the prize -- the Fiery Cross, the Ariel, the Taeping, and the Serica. Three sailed on the 30th of May, the Fiery Cross started on the 29th, but, though she had a day's clear start of her rivals she lost the race. Five of them were stellar performers: Serica 708 tons, Capt. George Innes; Taeping 767 tons, (one year old), Capt. Donald McKinnon; Taitsang 815 tons, Capt. Daniel Nutsford; Fiery Cross 888 tons, Capt. Richard Robinson; and, rounding out the favourites, Ariel a slender beauty of 853 tons, (also one year old), Capt. John Keay of the Esplanade, Anstruther - odds on favourite with the public. The others, leaving China at the same time, sailed almost neck-and-neck the whole way, and finally arrived in the London docks within two hours of each other. A struggle more closely contested or more marvellous in some of its aspects has probably never before been witnessed. The Taeping, which won, arrived on the Lizard at literally the same hour as the Ariel, her nearest rival, and then dashed up the Channel, the two ships abreast of each other. During the entire day they gallantly ran side by side, carried on by a strong westerly wind, every stitch of canvas set, and the sea sweeping their decks as they careered before the gale. Off Dungeness the following morning the pilots boarded them at the same moment, and at the Downs steam tugs were in waiting to tow them to the river. It was at this point that the fight was really decided. Both vessels were taken in tow simultaneously and again they started neck-to-neck. The Taeping, however, reached Gravesend first, the Ariel at her heels and the Serica a good third; and she entered the dock at a quarter before ten o'clock on Thursday evening just half an hour in advance of the Ariel and an hour and three quarters before the Serica. Taeping has this secured the prize, which is an extra freight of 10s. a ton on her cargo of tea. But to spin our "seafaring yarn" a little longer here, throughout the daylight of September 5th, after more than ninety hard-pressed days, while sailors aboard other Channel vessels and spectators along the English Coast looked on in fascination, the two clippers, Ariel and Taeping, fought out the last leg of their marathon. Both captains had every scrap of canvas sent aloft, clocking over 14 knots, Ariel in the lead, but Taeping gaining by the hour. By 4am next morning they were "hove-to" off Dungeness firing rockets to summon the pilot boats. Keay called for more sail, steered NE to meet the pilots and glided straight towards Taeping's bows and McKinnon had to bear away to avoid being rammed. Then on through the Downs, Ariel in the lead, and into the Thames, both ships anxious to get their steam tugs, the Ariel and the Taeping exchanging their leads twice, as they manouvered with tugs, tides and low waters. Everyone agreed the race was won by Ariel at the moment she took the tug outside Deal Harbour, eight minutes ahead of the Taeping after 99 days at sea, since no further seamanship was required once command had passed to the tugs. But in fact Taeping was the first to dock, after all, and the owners Liverpool's Shaw, Maxton & Co (Ariel) and Cellardyke's Rodger & Co (Taeping) decided to split the prize money. The Serica arrived on the same tide as the Ariel and Taeping, on September 6th; two days later in came the Fiery Cross and the Taitsing, each logging 101 days.
But by 1871 the newer steamships began to replace these great ships. Tea Clippers were vital to the tea trade until the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and were in operation until the end of the 1880's.
All classes of tea come from the same plant. The different classes of tea (e.g. Black tea, Green tea, Pouchong tea, Oolong tea) are the result of differences in the tea manufacturing process, and not due to different types of tea plants. However, from experience, tea manufacturers have discovered that certain varieties, locations, and seasons tend to produce Camellia Sinesis (tea plants), which produce better qualities of certain classes of tea.
One of the key steps in the tea manufacturing process, that determines the type of tea that is produced, is the degree of fermentation the tea leaves are allowed to undergo. The term fermentation when applied to tea is something of a misnomer, as the term actually refers to how much a tea is allowed to undergo enzymatic oxidation by allowing the freshly picked tea leaves to dry. This enzymatic oxidation process may be stopped by either pan frying or steaming the leaves before they are completely dried out. Teas are generally classified based on the degree of fermentation: a) Non-fermented, b) Semi-fermented, c) Fully-fermented.
For generations, the tea firms of Twinings and Jacksons have been arguing over which firm was used by the Earl to blend his tea. In a way, the question became superfluous when Twinings bought out Jacksons in 1990.
White tea is considered among, if not the rarest types of tea available, because of its limited availability. What separates white tea from black, oolong, and green teas is the way it is processed: like green tea, white tea is unfermented and has a light, delicate flavor, but rather than being rolled like green tea, the leaves are plucked and dried for a perhaps "fresher" or more natural state. This happens only a few times a year, from a rare strain of the Chinese tea plant. White tea is produced only in China, primarily in the province of Fukien.
Fine little white hairs cover the leaves, the liquor is clear and almost colorless, caffeine level is low, and some research indicates that white teas have even more (or stronger) health benefits than incredible green teas. Among the rarest of the white teas :
For centuries this very famous aromatic light green tea was known by the name Xia Sha Ren Xiang (Astounding Fragrance).
A legend explains why. Once in the distant past, some pickers of a particularly good crop filled their baskets before they were ready to go home.
Wanting to carry more leaves, they stuffed the excess inside their tunics. By another version they were stealing the tea.
Warmed by body heat, the leaves began to give off a rich aroma.
"I was astounded," many pickers said, and the name stuck.
Sometime in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century while on an inspection of his realm,
Emperor Kang Xi visited the Lake Taihu area in Zhejiang province and his host, the governor of Jiangsu, presented him with this tea.
Striking the Emperor as a tea of purity he asked the name. "Astounding Fragrance" was his host's reply.
The Emperor, with disdain, replied that such a name for this treasure was vulgar and an insult.
Ordering the unused leaves brought for his examination,
the Emperor declared that a more fitting name would be Green Snail Spring because the rolled shape looked like a snail shell.
The original name is most popular, however.
Peach, apricot and plum trees are planted among the bushes. When these fruit trees bloom, the tender spouts and buds of tea absorb the aromas to be passed on to those who drink their infusion. The name is now known all over the world, for this is one of China's famous rare teas. Its home is two mountains known as East and West Dongting which poke up out of Taihu, the great lake not far west of Shanghai, and where the garden city of Suzhou is located. One mountain is an island in the lake and the other a peninsula. The water evaporating from the lake keeps them overhung with clouds and mist, thus the young leaves stay moist. The prime time to pick the tea leaves is during the Pure Brightness festival when the buds are jade-green tinged with white. Bi Luo Chun is picked during the spring until April when the spring rains begin. Only one leaf and the bud are plucked. Harvesting is done completely by hand and great skill is required to roll and fire the leaves. Bi Luo Chun was selected as the offering of local government to the emperor in Qing Dynasty.
The first Monkey tea allegedly came from Mount Ying-T'ang near Wenchow in Chekiang Province. It is a lonely place haunted by wild beasts, but in the hidden valleys there were numerous monasteries with monks or tenants engaged in farming and fruit growing. According to the legend, a very young novice from Heavenly Wisdom Monastery was looking after some pear trees covered with ripening fruit. Suddenly a large tribe of monkeys came swarming from the forest and set about gobbling up the pears. By the time a few monks came running over in response to the little novice's piercing cries for help, the trees had been stripped and the branches broken. They returned to the monastery with heads held low, expecting a severe scolding from the abbot. Instead, the old man said resignedly, "Heaven commands us to show compassion to all living creatures, and so does the teaching of the Buddha. Things come and go. Moreover, monkeys, like all sentient beings, have a spiritual nature. They have taken our pears. Well, so be it."
Henceforward those holy men allowed the mischievous animals to come and go freely, and the latter, gradually losing their inborn fear of humans, came to regard the monks as friends. The winter that year was unusually cold - heavy falls of snow lay upon trees and mountains and hundreds of pitiful beasts starved to death. After some weeks a horde of ravenous monkeys invaded the monastery grounds and, in an agitated state, ran about half-pleading, half menacing, as though to say, "Please give us food, or else we shall just have to break in and take it." So the abbot ordered that bags of food be taken out and distributed to the monkeys whereupon the animals, responding in loud cries, seized the bags and ran back into the forest.
With the arrival of spring came the time for harvesting tea leaves. While this arduous labor was being performed, monkeys came swarming down from the peak dragging along the old food bags which now bulged with freshly picked young tea leaves. It was as though one's friends were to come back with baskets of peaches to make return for a gift of pears! The tea, having been picked in places inaccessible to the monks, was found to be of unrivaled quality. In view of these circumstances, fine tea from that locality became known as Monkey tea.
Today, monkeys don't bring us these cliff-grown leaves (people do now, plucking the leaves only a few days a year), but one can still understand why people went to such trouble to get the them. Ti Kwan Yin is described as "richly fermented, dark roasted, and incredibly flavorful. Other characteristics of the tea include subtle taste, a strong flowery fragrance, and nutty and caramel undertones.
While flavored teas evolve from these three basic teas, herbal teas contain no true tea leaves. Herbal and "medicinal" teas are created from the flowers, berries, peels, seeds, leaves and roots of many different plants.
Long, thin, wiry leaves which sometimes contain bud leaf; light-or pale-colored liquid. Orange pekoe is simply a size; the term does not indicate flavor or quality.
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