Ceremonies And Cultures
Tea Throughout The World
Tea is a customary drink worldwide. In Asian countries, drinking tea is an ancient tradition accompanied by a highly developed tea-based culture which is tied to art and local customs. Among Russians and Eastern Mediterranean inhabitants, tea became a prevalent drink long after the flourishing tea culture developed in China, and yet many years before Europeans tasted it for the first time. The tea ceremonies are the crowning glory of the tea culture.
They set it apart and glorify it and give a symbolic meaning to the importance of tea in society and local culture. Tea ceremonies which have been preserved from ancient times open a window to distant cultures and ancient customs which have assimilated into various traditions and accompanied them up until today.
China - The Original Tea Ceremony
The Chinese tea ceremony is the most ancient ceremony and plays a central role in Chinese culture.
The tea is the heart of the ceremony: the host and ceremony participants smell the tea, taste it and enjoy the many layers of taste discovered with every mouthful.
The tea ceremony reflects the search for beauty in every object of the world, in accordance with the Chinese Tao philosophy. The ceremony must be conducted in a peaceful atmosphere and induce a sense of tranquility and harmony among the participants.
The tea ceremony is conducted for various purposes: anything from expressing appreciation or asking forgiveness, to creating goodwill among the guests of family reunions or wedding celebrations.
Japan - Motifs of Harmony and Aesthetics
According to a common belief, the Buddhist monks brought tea from China to Japan during the sixth century B.C. The Japanese brought the preparation and serving of tea to an aesthetic art and an impressive ceremony in general, with predefined and very strict rules. Every detail of the Japanese tea ceremony demands strict attention and is regarded with much importance and takes a great deal of time. The Japanese tea ceremony was designed in the spirit of the Zen doctrine, according to which spiritual elevation is achieved by engrossing oneself in the small details of daily life. Thus, the attention paid to the minutest details of the tea ceremony is meant to induce a sense of serenity and harmony among the host and guests.
The tea ceremony is conducted in the "tearoom", which every traditional Japanese house has.
The tearoom is considered to be an island of tranquility and purity, allowing the guests to leave the outside world behind and relax. Artistic motifs influenced by Japanese architecture, drawing and sculpture, are interwoven into the tea ceremony and influence the design of the tearoom and the ceremonial tea dishes.
The modern Japanese culture considers tea to be a social drink and gives it a central role in their lifestyle, but the traditional tea ceremony is almost never conducted any longer in daily life. The tea ceremony holds a place of honor in Japanese culture as a magnificent trace of the past. There are currently three tea schools in Japan, established 300 years ago, which continue to bequeath the art of tea and Japanese hosting.
Russia - Samovar And Strong Tea
At the beginning of the 17th century, the Chinese Emperor presented the Russian Czar with a gift of tea. Thus, tea became an acceptable drink in Russia about 100 years before arriving in the European countries. The Russian population customarily drinks black tea. Russia was so strongly associated with black tea that during the 19th century certain types of black tea were called "Russian tea", despite the fact that the tea was actually produced in China. Tea culture is an integral part of Russian culture and is referred to in works of art and literature. The samovar, a metal container for heating water, can be found in almost every home and is part of the Russian cultural icons. The Russians tend to prepare a strong, bitter concentrate of black tea which is kept in a small teapot next to the samovar. The concentrate is diluted with boiling water to prepare tea according to the drinker's preferred strength.
India - Mass Production And Tea Stock Markets
The Indian tea industry began flourishing only during the 19th century. At this time, the British trade giant "The East India Trade Company" controlled the importation of tea from the Eastern countries in general and from India in particular. Today, the Indian tea industry is one of the most flourishing and influential branches of the Indian economy. India produces about 900,000 tons of tea per year. In the Indian tea stock market, the tea is traded among the growers, traders and marketers. Among the various types of tea to be found in India are the popular Asam tea as well as the Darjeeling tea which is considered to be one of the best teas in the world.
The Indians customarily drink black tea with milk, an English custom which remained as a testimony to the British colonial rule over India.
Great Britain - Tea With Milk
The British are among the world's most massive tea consumers. Perhaps it is possible to understand the importance of tea in British culture if we recall Sir Winston Churchill's declaration during the Second World War that: "Tea is more important to the soldiers than munitions".
Black tea was very common in Britain during the 18th century and the British founded the tradition of adding milk to black tea.
Afternoon tea – Drinking tea in the afternoon is a custom which began during the 19th century. Its development is attributed to the Duchess of Bedford. Due to the fact that the aristocracy customarily ate only two meals a day being breakfast and dinner, the afternoon tea was meant to abate the hunger between the meals. The afternoon tea was served along with a light meal between the hours 3:00-5:00 p.m.
High tea - A further development and refinement of the afternoon tea; this is actually an early dinner which includes tea. One assumption is it that the name was derived from the late hour in which the meal was taken: 500-7:00 p.m. Another suggestion is that the expression "high tea" originated from the custom of having this meal on high tables, in comparison with the afternoon tea which was eaten on low tables.