“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea” said Henry James in his famous novel The Portrait of a Lady. These words are undoubtedly worth mentioning today, on the International Tea Day.
Do many of you know that the 15th of December was officially announced to be the International Tea Day in 2005? I guess, not. It is celebrated in the countries that produce and export this most popular drink: Bangladesh, Nepal, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, India and Tanzania.
It is not a secret that tea is known longer than any other beverage beside maybe only water. The legends say that Chinese Emperor Shen-Nung discovered tea in 2737 B.C. The tea leaves fell into the water he was boiling, so the discovery was purely accidental.
Although tea is viewed as a quintessential English drink, it actually was brought to England only 360 years ago in 1657, and it didn’t gain popularity for many years after that. One had to pay high taxes to import tea into Britain, so no wonder that it was smuggled massively. When tea first appeared on British market, it was offered in coffee houses, where only men were allowed. Those places were generally very loud and full of smoke. The first teashop that allowed women was opened in 1717 by the Twining family. It was called the Golden Lyon, and it is still open today, but the Twinings Company is a well-known English marketer of tea.
Nowadays tea and English have become almost synonyms. Britain consumes about 165 million cups of tea per day, or 62 billion cups a year! Legendary mother of detectives, Agatha Christie, said once: “Tea! Bless ordinary everyday afternoon tea!”
Although one may think that nothing can be more usual or even boring than a cup of tea, tea is an exceptionally versatile beverage, what with its estimated 1 500 different types. The tea can cost a small fortune – the most expensive tea in the world is called Tieguanyin. It is a Chinese oolong tea, which price is 1,500 dollars for 450 grams. Besides, the accessories necessary for the tea ceremony sometimes are as costly as fine works of art. It was a surprise for one Scottish collector who owned two “melon” teapots from 18th century China, when after having them on his shelf for fifty years he managed to sell them for more than two million dollars!
Despite a huge variety of tea blends, the basic types of tea, from which the rest are derived, are only four. These are black, green, white and oolong. It may come as a surprise, but all tea in the world is made from the same plant called Camellia Sinensis. Beverages made from other plants, even if its package states that it is a tea are in fact herbal teas or tisanes. Camellia Sinensis is a “lady” with character. This tea plant is not easy or quick to grow. You have to wait for four to twelve years before a tea plant will present its first seeds.
If Britain is known for its love for keeping traditions, the United States take pride in making the innovations. Thus, it is no wonder that the tea bag, which by many tea lovers is sincerely viewed as the worst invention of the previous century, was invented in America back in 1904. Although tea made from bags is considered as a kind of substitute of a “real” tea, the figures speak for themselves – The Lipton Tea Factory in United Arab Emirates produces five billion tea bags per year. Moreover, Lipton is the world’s best-selling tea brand.
Tea is considered a healthy drink. Scientific researches show that regular consumption of green tea reduces risks of many diseases, helps to harmonize blood pressure and to control weight and does many other useful things for our organism. Despite all the good qualities of green tea, black tea still holds the leadership – it constitutes approximately 75% of the world’s tea consumption. Black tea is popular in the United States, Europe and England, but people in China and Japan prefer green tea.
Ēst – est.lv wishes you to have a true English style five-o’clock tea ceremony on the International Tea Day!