Sunday, April 1, 2012

The world in six cups of tea

If you don’t count the necessity of drinking water, tea is the most consumed drink in the world. Tea is made by brewing the leaves, buds and/or flowers of the Camellia sinensis plant, commonly called the tea plant. It plays a central role in both religious rituals and secular ceremonies. It has proven health benefits. It can promote either community and camaraderie or solitude and introspection. It can be calming or invigorating. Tea is arguably the most versatile beverage on Earth. A cup of history Historians trace the first use of tea to around 600 BC. According to Tom Standage’s A History of the World in Six Glasses, tea was likely first consumed in the eastern Himalayas by Buddhist monks in India and Taoist monks in China to help facilitate meditation. Europe did not encounter tea until 1610, Standage explains, when Portuguese traders in Macao sent a Dutch ship home with a batch and it eventually made its way to England in the 1650s. As the British Empire expanded, colonizing many parts of the world, so did its stronghold on the tea industry. The British East India Company counted on China as its sole supplier of tea until 1834, when it realized that tea grew naturally in a region in one of its own colonies: Assam, India. To this day, Assam is the biggest tea producing region in the world, and India is the biggest tea producing country in the world. Tea preparation today Masala chai (spiced tea), black tea prepared with milk, sugar, and spices like cardamom, cinnamon sticks, ginger and cloves, is now the hallmark of Indian tea culture. In the northwestern region of Kashmir, locals drink kahwa (green chai), which can be prepared almonds and sugar, as well as local spices such as saffron, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. In China, green tea is the most ubiquitous class of tea, while white, yellow, pu-erh and oolong teas are cherished delicacies. Tea ceremonies, tea appreciation and tasting services led by skilful tea masters, may feature any of the above. In Japan, the tea ceremony is often held in temples, led by Buddhist priests trained in the art of chado, “the way of tea”, and involves the use of matcha, a powdered green tea. In the predominantly Buddhist country of Tibet, tea is traditionally prepared in monasteries with the addition of butter made from yak’s milk. In Russia, tea is prepared in tea rooms using a samovar, an urn of hot water. A teapot filled with dark, concentrated black tea is diluted with water from the samovar and served. England is world-famous for its afternoon tea, in which the beverage is served with finger sandwiches, scones and petit fours. While in cold climates, tea is used to warm up, hot tea can also be used to cool down, such as Moroccan mint tea, a brew of green tea leaves mixed with mint leaves. Get to know the rest of the article and types of tea! Click Here

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