Here we have a taste of the history of tea in China
TEA’S GOLDEN AGE IN CHINA
China’s Tang Dynasty (609-907 AD), often called the golden age of Chinese civilisation, flourished alongside a golden age in tea. It was in this epoch that Lu Yu wrote his celebrated The Classic of Tea, which describes the Tang Dynasty’s elaborate tea culture. In his masterpiece, he describes the importance of the terroir where the tea is grown, the ideal water to use, the brewing process and the 24 items of tea paraphernalia required for serving the perfect ‘bowl’ of tea.
In this era and the centuries that followed, tea leaves were not infused but ground into fine particles whisked in hot water in a large vessel before being served in small tea bowls. In the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), this evolved into placing the crushed tea leaves directly into the bowls themselves and using a pot simply to boil the water, much like Matcha tea is served today. A royal pastime called doucha, or tea contests, gained popularity: tea dust was placed into cups and mixed with boiling water with a bamboo brush, this produced a powerful white foam and the tea-drinker with the best looking foam would win.
This tradition of whisking tea can be seen to this day in chanoyu, the elaborate and methodical Japanese Tea Ceremony. Brought to Japan by the Buddhist monk Myoan Eisai (1141-1215 AD), tea was embraced in Japan alongside Zen philosophy and flourished into a nationwide pastime.
Firmly established in the East by the 15th century, tea’s journey further west was just beginning.
With origins shrouded in millennia of
myth and folklore, the first written record of boiling water for tea appears
relatively late, in an anecdotal tale by China’s Wang Piu titled Contract of a Youth in 59 BC. It details a
contract between a servant and the author, who stipulates that the servant buy
tea, boil tea and serve tea.
A legend ascribes
the discovery of tea much earlier to Shen Nung, an emperor whose reign is
traditionally dated some 26 centuries before Wang Piu detailed his tea needs.
According to one version of the legend, Shen Nung (2737-2697 BC) was boiling
water to drink, sheltered in the shade of a majestic tea bush. Whilst the water
came to a boil, a gust of wind disturbed the branches and several tea leaves
fell into the water. He was so enchanted by the infusion that he included it in
his celebrated Pen t’sao, a medical treatise written some time later.
corroborate this period, estimating that tea was consumed for thousands of
years before Wang Piu’s written reference in the 1st century BC, as a snack to
be chewed or a medicine to be ground into a paste as well as an infusion
steeped in boiling water. Whatever its true origins, one thing is certain: tea
has been part of human history for millennia. (Courtesy Newby Teas) Since my last post I have been asked to share how to make a good cup of tea. Since my Grandmother taught me as a child I will share just the way she taught me.
How to Make a good
Cup of Tea
Always use freshly boiled water as re-boiled water will have lost much
of it’s oxygen. It is important to heat the pot first, pouring the water away,
before taking the pot to the kettle, not the kettle to the pot. Use 1 teaspoon
of loose tea per person and 1 extra for the pot. Infuse 3 – 5 minutes or to
Length of infusion
The length of infusion depends on the type of tea and leaf as well as
personal preference. Teabags require less time as the leaves are smaller, and
the increased surface area lends itself to quicker infusions. Loose leaf teas
require slightly more time, with black teas and tisanes requiring the longest length
The perfect cup of tea begins well before the water has been boiled.
Storing tea correctly is essential. Tea leaves are fragile and easily corrupted
by heat, light, moisture and air pollution. Store in a caddy with an
airtight lid.(The last two paragraphs courtesy of Newby Teas)
Many more posts to come on the subject of tea.
For all my tea loving friends across the world I have a treat in store. I will be doing a series of posts over the coming weeks/months. Two things recently got me thinking about posting on the subject of tea again.
The first was the fact that my son recently visited some tea plantations while on holiday in Bangladesh.
He brought back bags of tea direct from the plantations.
Secondly I came across Newby Teas when looking for a good quality Peppermint tea
It certainly was good and tastes more like the fresh tea I make at home during the Summer when my own Mint plants are growing
I am looking forward to trying more of their many teas over time.
For now I will leave you with a taster of interesting facts from Newby website
Victoria and Albert Museum (in London) Tea Gown
The tradition of taking tea in the “afternoon” conjures up images of sophisticated, beautifully-dressed ladies socialising over cups of steaming Assam tea. Tea gowns were invented for such events. Above we have a picture showing a tea gown by the celebrated designer Charles Worth, with luxurious flowing fabrics of pink satin, silk and lace. The tea gown could be worn without a corset and this allowed women to feel relaxed and liberated whilst taking tea with their friends.
The custom for fashionable ladies to take tea in the afternoon existed from the end of the 17th century- Madame de Sévigné (1626-1696) often referred to “five o’clock tea” in her letters. The tradition for Afternoon Tea gained popularity in the Victorian era and such social occasions called for larger and more impressive sets of silver and ceramic tea services.
Hope you enjoyed - do come back there is much more to come.
Land Warfare - see how ground combat has changed over the 20th century
This part of the museum shows what it was like to be involved in land warfare, though I am sure it was a lot more messy than we see here
Field Marshall Montgomery's trailer
Had to look through the windows as not open to the public
Well that's it for now
The boats, submarines and maritime aircraft, operations rooms, memorials etc., we did not do on this visit. The airfield is such a large site and visiting museums interspersed with walking to restaurant and tearooms, by the end of the day I felt I could not take another step. Was a great day for 7 year old Oliver. I think he liked the aircraft best.