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Storm in A Teacup

   
 

Tea Party!

   

 

  

 

"Ecstasy is a glass full of tea and a piece of sugar in the mouth," Pushkin once said.  Tea is that more tranquil sibling of coffee, a drink that can be enjoyed in solitude or with friends, or ritualized into ceremonies that reflect symbolic or philosophical viewpoints.  The history of tea is intimately linked with Asia where it originated.  In Japan, a proverb goes something like this: If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty…  In the West, tea has come to be associated with the idea of getting down to a cosy tête-à-tête with a friend or confidante, the idea of tea and sympathy.

Tea was already a popular drink in the Yangtse-Kiang valley in the 4th century A.D., where it was later called 'froth of the liquid jade.'  The Chinese poet Luwuh codified the world of tea in the Chaking - the Holy Scripture of tea - in the 8th century.  Historically, tea has been presented in at least three ways: in cakes that are boiled, in powder which is whipped, and as leaves which are steeped.  It has been poetically suggested, in The Book of Tea, by Okakura Kakuzo that the three different preparations roughly correspond to the philosophies which prevailed under the succeeding Tang, Sung and Ming dynasties of China and which in turn parallel - in Western terminology - Classic, Romantic and Naturalistic sensibilities.  As early as the 8th century the Japanese also fell under the spell of tea.  They ritualized tea drinking, incorporating Taoist principles of equilibrium as well as an attention to detail and aesthetic beauty.  Everything from the simple construction of the tea house to the economy of gesture employed in serving tea followed philosophical protocol.  Tea also had its practical applications in medieval Japan, where it was sometimes used to keep Buddhist monks from falling asleep while they meditated!

Tea is classified according to categories such as whether it is picked early or late; how long the leaves are; and how many days it has been fermented or oxidized.  As tea spread throughout the world, it continued to reflect cultural mores and regional differences.  In Morocco where the weather can be blisteringly hot, tea is poured over lightly crushed mint leaves - a tantalizing and refreshing brew.  In Russia, where sugar was long a luxury, tea is sweetened with cherry jam: the result is wonderfully tangy and dessert-like.  British high tea, itself a formal process, includes finger sandwiches both sweet and savory and meats such as spiced ham. 

So whether the weather gets abominably cold or hot, or when you simply need to relax and take the measure of things, remember that tea - a drink with jam and bread - is a soothing choice for just about any occasion.  

 

Teatime:  Alice's Tea Cup  

Teatime:  Tea and Sympathy

 

 

       
 

 
       
     

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