Tea – A Personal History

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Tea – the mysterious magical brew that is certain to provide comfort at a moment of distress as well as intensify instants of joy. With every single sip old memories resurface, and with every next sip new memories are made. Can be consumed by oneself or shared with a friend.

Here’s a confession – I drink about six massive cups of tea a day. And when I say tea I mean all of it – herbal, flowering, rooibos, white, green, black, oolong, blended and pure, rarely sweetened and NEVER with milk. I’m drinking tea right now!

My earliest tea memories originate from kindergarten when we were often served ridiculously over infused black tea with about eight spoonfuls of sugar per glass at lunch hour. During flu season, the much hated chamomile was ever-present at home. (Hated not for its healing properties, but the weird flavour for an unsophisticated palate.)
It was when teenagehood came around that I discovered green tea. At a corner shop next to my house they sold cheap boxes of 20 low quality teabags with a “tropical” aroma, and man did I drink a ton of them!
After graduating from high school, one of my very first jobs was at an independent herbalist/natural goods store in Tallinn. That’s where I was introduced to the whole wide wonderful world of tea as I know it now. Out the window went teabags with hints of pineapple and papaya. Instead my tea cupboard at home got a whole lot richer, and next to the newly discovered loose leaf green tea appeared the likes of hibiscus, earl grey, mate, pu’er etc. While I’m still very very far from having tasted every awesome tea there is, I’ve come a long way in the last 10 years on my tea journey.

On a sidenote, I actually have nothing against jazzing up one’s cuppa with an array of curious flavours, tropical or other, as long as it’s done with real ingredients and not aroma enhancing additives (which are frequently used to disguise the taste of poor quality tea).

The tea plant has been around for thousands of years and is believed to have originated from China. Historically the Chinese only ever prepared tea from powder (as in matcha). Brewing the leaf came much later. What many people do not know is that most tea leaves are baked, pan-fried, fermented or in some cases aged from months to years before shipped out to the consumer. The process from shrub to cup is often labour intensive and lengthy, hence the high prices for artisanal teas.

More and more scientific research is carried out to the many medicinal claims surrounding tea, and what we have learned so far is that tea in fact truly is one very healthy beverage, so do drink up!

All tea connoisseurs have a history with tea, often a very personal one. What was your first cup like?

Keen to know more? A few excellent books on the subject of tea:

  • How to Make Tea: The Science Behind the Leaf by Brian R. Keating & Kim Long
  • The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura
  • Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties by Kevin Gascoyne & Francois Marchand

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