Here we have a taste of the history of tea in China
TEA’S GOLDEN AGE IN CHINA
China’s Tang Dynasty (609-907 AD), often called the golden age of Chinese civilisation, flourished alongside a golden age in tea. It was in this epoch that Lu Yu wrote his celebrated The Classic of Tea, which describes the Tang Dynasty’s elaborate tea culture. In his masterpiece, he describes the importance of the terroir where the tea is grown, the ideal water to use, the brewing process and the 24 items of tea paraphernalia required for serving the perfect ‘bowl’ of tea.
In this era and the centuries that followed, tea leaves were not infused but ground into fine particles whisked in hot water in a large vessel before being served in small tea bowls. In the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), this evolved into placing the crushed tea leaves directly into the bowls themselves and using a pot simply to boil the water, much like Matcha tea is served today. A royal pastime called doucha, or tea contests, gained popularity: tea dust was placed into cups and mixed with boiling water with a bamboo brush, this produced a powerful white foam and the tea-drinker with the best looking foam would win.
This tradition of whisking tea can be seen to this day in chanoyu, the elaborate and methodical Japanese Tea Ceremony. Brought to Japan by the Buddhist monk Myoan Eisai (1141-1215 AD), tea was embraced in Japan alongside Zen philosophy and flourished into a nationwide pastime.
Firmly established in the East by the 15th century, tea’s journey further west was just beginning.
With origins shrouded in millennia of
myth and folklore, the first written record of boiling water for tea appears
relatively late, in an anecdotal tale by China’s Wang Piu titled Contract of a Youth in 59 BC. It details a
contract between a servant and the author, who stipulates that the servant buy
tea, boil tea and serve tea.
A legend ascribes
the discovery of tea much earlier to Shen Nung, an emperor whose reign is
traditionally dated some 26 centuries before Wang Piu detailed his tea needs.
According to one version of the legend, Shen Nung (2737-2697 BC) was boiling
water to drink, sheltered in the shade of a majestic tea bush. Whilst the water
came to a boil, a gust of wind disturbed the branches and several tea leaves
fell into the water. He was so enchanted by the infusion that he included it in
his celebrated Pen t’sao, a medical treatise written some time later.
corroborate this period, estimating that tea was consumed for thousands of
years before Wang Piu’s written reference in the 1st century BC, as a snack to
be chewed or a medicine to be ground into a paste as well as an infusion
steeped in boiling water. Whatever its true origins, one thing is certain: tea
has been part of human history for millennia. (Courtesy Newby Teas) Since my last post I have been asked to share how to make a good cup of tea. Since my Grandmother taught me as a child I will share just the way she taught me.
How to Make a good
Cup of Tea
Always use freshly boiled water as re-boiled water will have lost much
of it’s oxygen. It is important to heat the pot first, pouring the water away,
before taking the pot to the kettle, not the kettle to the pot. Use 1 teaspoon
of loose tea per person and 1 extra for the pot. Infuse 3 – 5 minutes or to
Length of infusion
The length of infusion depends on the type of tea and leaf as well as
personal preference. Teabags require less time as the leaves are smaller, and
the increased surface area lends itself to quicker infusions. Loose leaf teas
require slightly more time, with black teas and tisanes requiring the longest length
The perfect cup of tea begins well before the water has been boiled.
Storing tea correctly is essential. Tea leaves are fragile and easily corrupted
by heat, light, moisture and air pollution. Store in a caddy with an
airtight lid.(The last two paragraphs courtesy of Newby Teas)
Many more posts to come on the subject of tea.