Tea is very common, it’s an aromatic beverage commonly prepared by pouring hot water over cured or fresh leaves. Tea is consumed all around the world but today I’ll be talking about it mainly in Asia. This drink has been around for a very long time, even dating back to more than 2000 b.c in China. It originated near North Burma and Yunnan, China. Tea was a medical drink that helped benefit the body. Tea was first made with fresh leaves boiled in freshwater then, later developed more ways to serve the drink. The origin of tea started with the myth that says in the year of 2737 B.C. A Chinese emperor named Shen Nung noticed that green leaves had accidentally blown into a pot of boiling water. The leaves were coloring the water and changing the taste of the water. Whether this is true or not is still unknown, the consumption of tea started even before the writing of history.
With the origin of tea in a province in China, tea has spread to other provinces in the Tang dynasty or around the ninth century. During the expansion of the beverage, tea leaves were processed into dried tea cakes to be stored longer and easier to transport as a consumer product. After that, tea has become a big part of the culture in Asian countries like Japan, Thailand, India, and many more. The brewing of tea developed more and more as time passed into different centuries to suit each countries’ tastes more. What is the reason that there is a lot of tea consumption and that it is such an important element in cultures? I will be explaining the significance and telling fun facts about tea from China, Japan, and India.
Tea in China
- Facts: tea in China is called “Cha”
Buddhist monks started drinking tea first and because of this, the beverage started to spread more through Buddhism with the thought that alcohol consumption was bad. Many scholars said and believed that tea has health benefits. With this belief, tea became more and more popular among the upper class and eventually to all classes. Alcohol was soon replaced by tea in religious ceremonies. After centuries and centuries of development, tea still has a very large significance in the lives and cultures of Chinese people. Now tea is commonly served everywhere, in restaurants or for guests, not just in religious ceremonies anymore. Since tea is such a stable in China, people are expected to receive tea for free! – hot water taps for tea preparations can be found in restaurants, transportation stations, shops, and hotels.
Chinese tea can be classified into six distinctive categories: white, green, yellow, oolong, black and post-fermented. Traditionally when serving tea. A type of special teapot is used, it’s called “ Yixing clay” teapot. It is considered to be the best of the best. It was first made in the Ming dynasty and is still the most favored type of teapot to this day. This specific type of clay is used because it is porous and handles heat well, these are properties that improve the taste of the tea. These Yixing teapots are all handmade, through a very delicate process. It is crucial that one teapot can only use one type of tea so that the flavors do not get mixed. Yixing teapots are often used to brew black tea or Oolong because the pores in the teapot help mute the bitterness of the tea. Of course, you can use a regular teapot to drink tea.
- Fun fact: all teas come from parts of the same plant, Camellia sinensis.
Tea in Japan
- Fact: Tea in Japanese is “Ocha” (pronounces o-cha)
Also began with Buddhist monks, they brought back tea from study trips in China but this did not spark the tea culture in Japan. Whereas, when a Zen monk named Eisei introduced not only the planting and processing of the tea but also the expansion of tea drinking. At first, it was a method that was only used by Zen Buddhism but then it slowly integrated into other classes. People would gather and play games while also drinking tea. There were also tea parties that were more sophisticated and more intimate. These gatherings would have fewer people in a small room and the host would serve tea to the guests. Even though teas are from the same plant but the way that the teas were processed makes the teas have different tastes. This also causes the colors to be different too. This is why Japanese tea is usually green because it was steamed to not let it oxidize whereas, Chinese teas are more of a yellow-ish or red-ish color because it was toasted.
Just like in China, Tea is also stable in Japan too. It can be drunk at any time of the day and can be sound easily found in restaurants, vending machines, kiosks, convenience stores, hotels, and supermarkets throughout the country. If you want to sit in nature. You can also have tea in temples and gardens. they usually serve it to tourists in a tranquil room called “Tatami’ with the scenery of the temple or garden. Japanese teas do not only have teas from plants but also from barley which is called “Mugicha” it is usually consumed by kids because it does not have caffeine. There is also “Kombucha” – not the fizzy fermented tea that you are thinking- this tea is made from Kombu seaweed, it is a savory type of tea.
- Fun fact: A tea plant takes at least three years to produce leaves. You can’t rush a good thing: slower-growing plants produce tea with more body and flavor. Plants are often grown at higher elevations to slow growth
Tea in India
- Fact: “Chai” means tea in Hindi, so when people say that they want Chai tea they would be asking for tea-tea
India is another country that undeniably gives significance to tea. This country is one of the largest tea producers in the world. The consumption of tea started when India was still under the colonization of Britain, in the 17th century. Even Though tea seeds from China were sent to India, they could not grow properly due to the heat of the country. The British in India discovered that there are indeed tea plants growing in India, the tea was called “Assam” – the name came from the state that it was from. With this tea plant, the British decided not to plant seeds from China anymore and continue to plant the seeds from the Native plant instead. The first Assam tea was sent to England to be sold at auctions. After the success in the home-state of the tea, the seeds were sent to other states to grow the plant. By 1863, there were 78 plantations all across the country. Until this day, Assam state stands as the largest tea producer in India.
Did you know that over 70-percent of tea that was produced in India is consumed by the citizens? People in India also drink tea every day. The tea that the drink is called “Masala Chai ” is a black tea that is mixed black tea mixed with strong spices like cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. You can find carts that tell Masala chai easily just like Thai street foods.
- Fun fact: The smaller a tea leaf, the more expensive the tea. Workers are typically paid by the kilogram for bags of tea leaves, so they must pick many more leaves for the same payout.
Benefits of Tea
Now that I have told you about the history of tea, let’s talk about how tea has health benefits to you. The newest study has said that Chinese people who drink tea regularly are less likely to develop atherosclerotic heart disease (a disease where the arteries are blocked by plaque). It can also help lower your blood pressure which reduces a person’s risk of having a stroke. It boosts your immune system as well as fight off inflammation. There is also a substance called “polyphenols” which are antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases. When drunk with no added substance like sugar or milk, it can act as a detox drink and help with controlling weight since there are not many calories in it. It can also help you find peace in your mind, it has a soothing property that has helped with mental problems. From my personal experience, drinking tea can help with the calmness in my heart. When I feel overwhelmed I would often just boil some water and steep some tea. The aroma of the tea helps. I am not sure if this would help anyone but it does not hurt to try if this helps.
Tea is good and all but you have to remember that tea has caffeine in it and too much intake of caffeine may lead to nervousness, restlessness and may disturb your sleep. Some people may also experience loose stools and other gastrointestinal issues. Nausea, abdominal pain, heartburn, dizziness, and muscle pain are also possible side effects. I would recommend drinking one to two cups of tea regularly. Also, tea is not medicine so you cannot expect it to cure anything or have strong effects on your health.