Since long ago, tea has been used by the first Chinese population for medicinal purposes and later because of its refreshing quality. The Chinese appreciate this unique drink, use tea leaves for gifts, courtship rituals, ancestor worship, and imperial tribute taxes.
According to Chinese legend, tea was born in 2727 BC, when Emperor Shen Nong purified water in the shade of a tea tree. The drinks produced, from the aroma, color, and extraordinary taste, made the emperor rejoice. Tea is a daily drink in Chinese culture.
Starting in the 9th century, the pleasure of tea spread to countries outside of China, first to Japan and Korea, then to the Middle East. For centuries China was the only tea exporting country in the world. Beginning in the early 19th century, fierce competition emerged when India and Ceylon began planting tea. Today China remains one of the largest quality tea suppliers.
Japanese Tea Tradition
Tea came to Japan from China, first served in Buddhist temples for monks, priests, and ruling classes who attended special services. These temple tea practices were gradually adapted to incorporate aspects of Japanese culture when they were inherited for several hundred years. Tea is also considered to have health benefits. The luxury of tea is finally considered a necessity in Japanese daily life.
Japanese people drink various kinds of green tea. The color and delicacy taste is very important. Matcha is a powder tea used in Japanese tea ceremonies.
Indian Tea Traditions
India is the largest tea exporter in the world. Most of the tea production is consumed at home. This gives us an idea of the size of production, and the economic impact on the country. While tea plants originated in the northwestern part of India, tea was not part of Indian food until after the British began producing tea there around 1850.
Many tea varieties are produced in India. Darjeeling, known as “the Champagne of the tea” grows high at the foot of the Himalayas. They created a tea drink that we know as chai-black tea which is flavored with milk, sugar, and rich flavored spices such as cardamom, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. Every housewife has her own recipe for making tea.
Russian Tea Tradition
Tea is brought from China to Russia by “Great Tea Road”. This is part of the famous Silk Road. The trip was not easy, taking more than sixteen months to complete 11,000 miles. The average caravan consists of 200 to 300 camels. Tea costs are initially expensive and only available to rich people. Most Russians drink black tea and add sweeteners such as sugar, fruit or jam. Tea in Russia is always served hot, even in hot weather.
Middle Eastern Tea Traditions
Through the caravan route, tea penetrated all Mongol lands, Muslim countries and Russia, long before reaching Europe. In all Arab countries, tea has been the most popular beverage for centuries. Tea is very important to relax with family or when entertaining guests. The tea served is hot mint tea, which is green tea which is given fresh mint leaves and sugar. Muslim countries are one of the highest tea consumers in the world.
French Tea Tradition
One of the first connoisseurs of French tea was King Louis XIV, who drank tea regularly, initially for health reasons. It is prescribed to help with digestion, and as a preventative measure to guard against gout and heart problems.
English Tea Tradition
Tea was introduced to the Western world from China through the famous Dutch East India Company in the 17th century, when coffee was the choice of choice for the working class and hot chocolate was the choice of the upper class. British tea standards include black tea mixes, such as the famous Earl Gray.
North American Tea Tradition
The US has made its contribution to the global tea culture by popularizing ice tea. This was first introduced at the 1904 World Exhibition in St. Louis.
In recent years, the demand for premium tea specifically in North America has increased dramatically. New tea shops and tea houses are opened every week, making quality tea, innovative tea drinks and tea-related products are easily accessible to many Americans.
Today’s Tea Traditions
Various rituals and history of tea remind us that tea is far more worldly than people think. Without this cultural difference, we might not consider tea more than something to keep us warm or quench our thirst.
Health research and lifestyle trends lately make tea very important. The increasing understanding of the role of antioxidants in the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease has placed tea as a drink.