Friday, January 08, 2010

Time for Tea.

I'm mostly a coffee-drinker, but I also like tea. Coffee in the morning and when I need some energy, sometimes tea in the afternoon and a mild tea in the evening hours when it's soon go-to-bed time.

Tea is as we all know something special in England, but it seems that some of the English customs are slowly being adapted in Denmark. We have now got some good tea-shops, but not places where you can go and have a good cup of tea, we've still only got coffee-places, lots of Baresso cafés etc. - and the terrible tea bags are what you usually get in cafés and restaurants here. So you can only have a good cup of tea at home, when you brew it yourself - but I'll leave the complicated tea-traditions to be told by an Englishman.

In Chinese the word tea is c'ha, which became te in Malaysian. The European languages all have their tea-word from this. German and Dutch tee; French thè and English tea. People drink it all over the world but have various customs. In Russia tea is still brewed in a samovar - in Australia and Ireland they brew the strongest tea. The Arabs are known for their mint-tea served in glasses. The Dutch usually do not put milk in their tea, in China the second cup is considered the best and in Japan they nearly always serve tea for food. Last but not least the English have their Afternoon Tea.

It is said that the tea-bush was discovered more than 5000 years ago by the Chinese emperor Shen Ning. The legend says that the emperor, who was at war, found shadow under a tree, while he was boiling some water for drinking. A leaf from the tree fell down into the boiling water and a wonderful scent spread. The emperor tasted the drink and was delighted.

The tea plant has been cultivated for thousands of years in the subtropic countries around the Equator, i.e. China, India, Ceylon, Indonesia and East Africa. The tea-drink came to Europe in the middle of 1600s via the Dutch traders and it is today drunk as a common soft drink. But originally tea was considered a medicine. A cup or two was taken on an empty stomach and was said to remove fever, headache, stomach ache and pain in the joints.

Black Tea
The top class of black tea is sorted i.e. in Flowery Orange Pekoe, Orange Pekoe and Pekoe. Flowery means that there are many leaf buds in the tea. Orange is the name of a grading and has nothing to do with oranges. The roughest leaves are sorted i Pekoe Souchong and Souchong. The crushed tea leaves are also being sorted. The finest are Broken Pekoe and Broken Tea. The names varie in the various tea-districts. What is left after the sorting is sold as Fannins or Dust. This is what often is found in the tea-bags! The idea of tea-bags is said to origin from 1904, where an American trader sent his tea-samples out in little silken bags. The customers were too lazy to take the tea out of the bags when they made tea in order to test the samples. They just put the silken bags in hot water.

Green and White Tea.
Green tea is sorted in grades where Gunpowder, small young leaves rolled into little pellets, is the finest and most costy. Green tea has in thousands of years been famous for its healing qualities, which is caused by its content of vitamines, minerals and the calming substance tannin. The tea is also said to prevent holes in the teeth. Green tea is a good tea for beginners, it is mild and very aromatic in a soft way. The last new hit is White tea with a soft and almost fat taste. White tea are young withered "tips", which are being dried in natural sunlight. Like the green tea it is unfermented and has a hight content of antioxidants and a low content of tein.

Earl Grey
The aroma-tea is black tea mixed with dried fruits or spices or tasted with evt. fruit oils. The legend says that when Earl Grey himself once was invited to tea in China, he bit in a bergamot-fruit ( kind of citrus) which his hosts told him to do, and in this way he got the idea to put this bergamot-oil in the tea. Earl Grey tea is extremely popular all over the world .

photos: "History of Tea" at Silkeborg Kunstcenter, Mid Jutland: grethe bachmann

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