- Meaning and origin of tea
- Advantages of tea addiction
- Myths about the origin of tea
- Japanese tea etiquettes
- Tea in the sub-continent
- The art of tea making
Tea is the most universal of man-made beverages. There is no place in the world where the habit of taking tea is not found or is not on the increase. The word “Tea” is of Chinese origin. It comes from Chinese local Amoy dialect word “Te”, pronounced “Tay”. In Cantonese, it becomes “Cha”, pronounced “Chah”. The name traveled in this form to Japan, Persia, Russia,” England, America, Europe and the Indo-Pak sub-continent. Tea is the king of the drinks. It has permeated our daily life for half the century to such an extent that its importance to the tea addicts cannot be minimized.
Taking tea has become a social institution throughout the world. People can do without meat, fish, vegetables and other edible goods for days to come but cannot do without taking tea even for one single day. How much and how frequently people take tea depends upon thermometric fluctuations and seasonal changes. We have bed-tea, breakfast tea, tea at “Teatime” and tea at any time to entertain the guests. In Pakistan, the city of Karachi has acquired the distinction of the largest consumer of tea. Here almost every citizen takes tea at least 10 to 12 times a day.
The first and foremost advantage of this innocent addiction is that unlike so many other addictions, there is no harm in taking it. It has no intoxicating effect. It does not lead a man to a delirious state. People who take alcohol and other drugs either soar to the skies or oscillate in the air. But there is no such thing in Tea. Tea makes men serious and thoughtful. Taking Tea does not make them unconscious of selves or the surroundings. It keeps them on the mother earth. A tea taker is always safe in his stance and sure of his ground.
[the_ad id=”17141″]Tea is taken with equal zest and interest by the rich and the poor, the pious and the knave, the king and the clown, the peer and the plebian, the plutocrat and the proletarian, the head of the state and a common citizen, a lady of fashion and a working woman, a convalescent and a healthy person. The people in the Torrid Zone or the Frigid Zone, in the North Pole or the South Pole, equally relish tea. It is equally welcome in the frightful mood of anger and in the grips of lethargy and monotony. Tea is equally taken in all moods-in the moments of thought, reflection, worry, care, anxiety, grief, and in time of mirth, fun, recreation and jollity. It is welcomed in times of danger and in times of happiness. It has the quality to warm up the lethargic and cool the choleric. No person has ever claimed or complained to be allergic to tea. Dr. Samuel Johnson, the literary giant of the English language and literature speaks highly of Tea and asserts that taking tea vacillates from grim earnestness to pleasant merriment and still maintains light whimsicality. About his own habit of tea drinking he writes, “I am a hardened and shameless tea-taker, who for twenty years diluted his meals with only the infusion of the fascinating plant, which with the tea amused the evening, with tea solaced the midnight and with tea welcomed the morning”. Historically, it is said that tea began as a medicine and has grown into a beverage.
For the Chinese, tea is symbolic of earthly purity requiring the most fastidious cleanliness in its preparation, from picking tea leaves by the women, prying and preserving to its final infusion and drinking, easily upset by the slightest contamination of dirty or oily hands and cups. There goes a story about the eminent Chinese scholar, Chou Wentu, that he was so much enamored of tea that he himself prepared and drank tea about ten items daily at fixed hours. He loved his tea-pot so much that in his will, he desired his heirs to bury his tea-pot with him when he died. All the connoisseurs of tea in China prepared and drank tea with loving pleasure, religious ritual importance and distinction.[the_ad id=”17142″]
Tea, a friend of all seasons and moods, has been much glorified by the writers, poets, politicians, saints and philosophers. There is a strange legend about the origin of Tea. It is said that once Bodhidharma, an Indian saint, fell in deep slumber during his contemplation and meditation. On awakening, he was greatly upset to know that his meditation was interrupted by sleep. Offended as he was, he cut off his eyelids and threw them on the ground. These eyelids took root and after some time there grew up a bush, the leaves of which when dried and infused in boiling water produced a beverage that could banish sleep. So, in the early period, some apothecaries have been using it as “herb for abolishing sleep”. The scholars, who sat on their desks to burn the midnight oil, kept themselves awake by drinking Tea. There is another legend about a Chinese traveller who went to India where he stayed with an Indian couple. Once he feared that his hosts might assassinate him in order to possess his wealth. He planned to run away as soon as he collected his credits from his clients. He was so scared that he did not want to go to sleep. So every evening he boiled the tea leaves and ate them up in secrecy. He would throw the water in which the leaves were boiled. One evening it so happened that the Chinese traveler had to go out on urgency and forgot to throw the water of tea leaves. The hostess, taking the water to be some beverage, drank it out of sheer curiosity. This is how, it is said, and that tea was introduced in India. There is yet another legend, which places the introduction of tea-drinking in the reign of mythological Chinese Emperor, Shen Nung about 2737 B.C. So, the use of tea is thus traced to the pre-historic period. [the_ad id=”17150”]
The people of Japan are very fond of taking tea. There Tea-drinking has developed into an aesthetic ritual. With their inherent artistic sense, the Japanese have developed tea taking into the finest form of social custom. They usually observe strict rules of etiquette during the tea parties. They wear their graceful costumes, take off their shoes and sit solemnly around low tables covered by the artistically embroidered tablecloth, with elegant teacups and saucers. They maintain complete tranquility in the atmosphere and discourage noisy affairs during tea drinking.
Tea is very popular with the kings and queens and in the elite society. Anna, the Duchess of Bedford in England, introduced. Afternoon tea as a regular ceremony. It is said that the constant work and vigilance of state affairs tired her by the afternoons and she felt depressed. After taking tea, her spirits were refreshed and she felt better.
In the beginning, people took tea in different forms. It was not taken with sugar or milk. Still in the west as well as in the Middle East, people use tea without sugar and milk but in the Indo-Pak subcontinent, people take tea with sugar, and sometimes with cream, milk or lemon. Now-a-days, cold-tea is also becoming popular.
The sub-continent is very rich in tea-plantations. Bangladesh produces the finest tea in Sylhet Tea gardens and the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Sri Lanka and Kenya also produce a very fine quality of tea but the tea grown in China itself is of the best flavour. In Pakistan, tea is being grown in Sind but it is not of a good quality. There is something in the nature of tea, just like wine, which leads the tea – addicts to a world of companionship. It is best enjoyed in the select company.
More than half of the art of making good tea lies in the quality of water. A good tea addict sees to it that the tea-mixed boiled water is not allowed to stand in the pot for too long. Recent researches have pointed out that if tea water is allowed to stand in the waiting for a longer period than necessary, it produces nicotine, a poisonous element that is detrimental to human health.
[the_ad id=”17144″]Like all good and fine things in acceptability, tea too has faced bitter opposition. Henry of Sanville in 1675 denounced taking tea as a filthy habit. Some people oppose tea taking because they suspect that tea-drinkers lose their vigor and personality. Womon tea-drinkers lose their physical charm and beauty. Older people characterize it as a ‘hellish water’ which burns the intestines and benumbs the intellects. Some people oppose it on the pleas that it amounts to sheer waste of money and inculcating a bad habit. In spite of all opposition, the habit of tea drinking is increasing with unbelievable rapidity. Not individuals but families, cities, nations and generations have become addicted to it. The coffee Houses of modern times, of history and of literature, are nothing but Tea Houses. They are pleasant resorts for wits, conversationalists, rumourmongers and gossipmongers. The giants of English literature like Addison, Steele and Alexander Pope beguiled themselves over their cups of tea in the coffee houses. They asserted that taking tea makes one self-conscious of one’s humanity and encourages the habit of contemplation. In the East, tea is taken with certain amount of relaxation and eases, which is characteristic. However, let us take the word of Caution that excessive tea drinking is not good at all. In the present times when the prices are constantly rising, tea drinking is becoming an expensive process. It is burdensome on our economic structure and we should try to adopt moderation in tea drinking.