"It is better to be three days without salt, than one day without tea". (Chinese popular wisdom).
More than five thousand years ago they discovered a plant dried leaves of which when they were brewed turned plain water into an aromatic refreshing drink. A lot of legends are connected with this wonderful event. Here is one of them.
The Chinese Emperor Shen Hung travelled a lot to visit his subjects. As he was taking care of his people who accompanied him, he ordered to use for drinking only boiled water. After one of the tiresome marches, when they were boiling water for the Emperor himself, some dried small leaves form the bushes growing nearby fell into the pot with the boiling water. The water became of golden colour and got a peculiar taste and aroma. When the Emperor tasted the extract, he felt an unusual cheerfulness. Since then he ordered to serve that divine drink and he did not want to drink anything else. This is how tea began to conquer the world.
A lot of ways of making tea were contrived in China. For example, before 850 they first steamed tea leaves, then mortared them, after that they made them like a flat cake and boiled together with some rice, ginger, salt, orange-peel, spices, milk, and sometimes with onions. It was not only a drink, but also food. In Thibet, for example, even today they make similar tea with butter and milk of a yak. During the reign of the Sang dynasty (960-1278) they grinded green tea leaves in powder in small stone mills, pour onto it boiling water and beat it by a bamboo whisk until the tea became thick.
However, even today a common way of making tea is spread. It was contrived in the times of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), when they began to brew tealeaves in boiled water.
Each stratum of the Chinese society one way or another played its own role in the development of art of consumption of tea. They are emperors and peasants, hermits, who practiced Dao, Buddhist monks, wandering philosophers and officials, craftsmen and poets, singers and painters. Nomads exchanged horses for tea. Statesmen used tea to pay off from their enemies and poets and philosophers praised it in theirs works. It is known that tea associated with Dao’s philosophy, gives energy necessary for meditation, played an important role in the development of Dzen Buddhism.
Unlike Japan, China has never changed tea drinking into sacred ceremony; nevertheless exactly China made a ritual of greeting a guest with a cup of tea. It is considered that this tradition began a Lao Dzy follower, who once proposed the philosopher a bowl with the golden elixir. So by 500 BC tea had become what we have today in many countries of the world, that is a symbol of friendship and hospitality.
Tea had been valued for its medical qualities for a long time. However, beginning from the time of reign of a magnificent Tan dynasty (618-907 AD) tea became not only an object of respect, but an article of trade as well. The tea market was flourishing. Highly appreciated at the court, tea gets tea lovers throughout the Empire. It wins the affection of newly converted from Thibet and nomads living beyond the northern and eastern borderlines of China. They were Mongolians, Turks, and Tatars. The government of the Empire derived huge profits from the weakness for tea and they imposed taxes upon the trade of this article.
At the same time, the poet Lou Iou wrote a paean dedicated to tea. He wrote it in the form of "chaking" and it was the first history of tea. Whole generations of tea merchants worshiped Lou Iou and respected him as their saint and protector. He had a great number of followers including the poet Lou Tan whose nickname was "tea maniac". He was born at the end of the 8th century and had a solitary life in the province of Hou-nan where he became one of the first "tea makers". Respected by his contemporaries, Lou Tan devoted his life to poetry and to making tea. He wrote about it in his famous verse form line, "I am not interested in immortality, I only appreciate the tea taste …"
In the 10th century during the rein of the Song dynasty, the art of tea achieved its fullest flower. Everyone tried to bring to perfection each of the stages of tea making in order to have an excellent tea taste. The quality of water, the quality of tealeaves and especially of the things for making tea, like a small mill, a whisk for stirring, etc. were very important. Wooden bowls that where used in the times of the Tang dynasty, were replaced by larger but not so deep vessels. They were called "shien". Fanatics zealously kept secrets of tea making and were ready to take part in long distance marches seeking especially pure water from mountain springs. Shortly after, contests for making tea came into fashion. They mainly were held among high-ranking state officials.
Tea was brought to Japan from China in the 9th century where it became not only a national drink, but left a mark on all the sides of the spiritual life of the Japanese, from poetry to philosophy.
The tea ceremony introduced to Japan by the monks of the Dzen sect soon began to be called "tianoiu" and started to play an important role in spiritual and social life.
"Tianoiu" is a strictly followed ritual being an original and unique art.
In the 21st century, the tea ceremony in Japan remains unchangeable and to someone may seem that with a cup of tea even the time is going slowly. The ceremony takes place in a teahouse, which is called Sukia and can be translated as "Home of emptiness". Each of the participants knows that the ceremony is something more, than idealization of a tea-drinking act. This is the religion of art of objective reality. That is why all the participants must strictly follow the fixed ritual.
There are a lot of ways of tea ceremony in Japan; however, there are only some of them that are strictly fixed. They are night tea, sunrise tea, evening tea, morning tea, afternoon tea, and special tea.
The night tea begins under the moon. Guests come at about 11.30 and leave not later than at four o’clock in the morning. Usually they brew powder-like tea. Such tea is may be very strong and it is not served when one’s stomach is empty. That is why guests are treated to various snacks at the beginning. They drink sunrise tea at about three or four o’clock in the morning. And the guests stay by six o’clock.
Evening tea begins at about 6 pm. Morning tea is popular when the weather is hot and guests gather by six o’clock in the morning.
Afternoon tea is usually served with cakes after 1 pm. Special tea drinking "rindzitianoiu" they have on joyful events like meeting with friends, holidays, changing of seasons, etc.
The Japanese think that a tea ceremony brings up simplicity, naturalness, neatness and cultivates their national identity.
Europe learned about tea only at the beginning of the 16th century, to be more exact in 1517, when Portuguese seafarers brought it as a gift to their king. However, in the right way the Old World tasted tea almost one hundred years later, when the Dutch ships delivered the first consignments of "the Chinese herb" to Europe.
The conservative England met tea with enthusiasm. In 1664, an East-Indian company sent a valuable present to the king Charles. That was two pounds of tea. Since that, tea once and forever conquered the foggy Albion. Teashops appeared and in 1717 in London a teahouse was opened named "Golden Lion".
At the beginning of the 19th century, the duchess Ann Bedford began to invite her friends for an afternoon cup of tea. That is why the famous English "five o’clock tea" appeared. Since that time all the country, from the queen to an Irish ploughman at 5pm sharp pour hot aromatic drink into cups. In the English traditions of tea drinking so far, one can find "eastern trace". The English add milk to tea, as Mongolian nomads did, and serve up salty biscuits, that reminds of the Japanese tradition to drink salty tea. Nevertheless, The English themselves played an important role in the history of tea. Namely, they spread the tea plant around the world beginning its cultivation in the Indian province Assam, in Ceylon, in Kenya and many other countries. Today tea is grown in almost forty countries. Most of all tea is produced in India, China, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Kenya, Indonesia, Turkey and Vietnam. The main tea consumers are considered to be Russia, Great Britain, Pakistan, the USA, and Japan.
For the English tea is not just a tradition, it is a mode of life. An average Britisher drinks six cups of tea a day. In the 17-18th centuries tea became an essential part of all strata of the British society very quickly and became an evidence of hosts’ good taste and brought home a festive atmosphere. Tea even influenced on the British’s daily routine who began to plan their lives in accordance with "tea time". Tea drinking became a habit with both aristocrats and workers taking most elegant forms. Most likely, the drink did not assume such power over the whole nation as it happened in Great Britain. Perhaps the best illustration of it is that the British, before getting some clothes and washing, still lying in bed, drink a cup of tea. Therefore, every day they start with tea.
It is quite evident, that a morning cup of tea is followed by an English breakfast that includes porridge, fish, fried or scrambled eggs, and bacon and all that is taken with some tea. Such a breakfast differs very much from a sweet continental breakfast that is popular in European and Latin countries.
For the first time they sold tea in England in 1657 when Cromwell was in power. A merchant Thomas Garraway promoted tea for its medical qualities everywhere. The cream of the English society immediately noticed him. After lunch ladies used to go to a drawing room to drink some tea there, whereas gentlemen were drinking their port. Thanks to coffee houses, where they began to serve tea, the lower class people could learn about this drink relatively quickly.
During the 18th century, the consumption of tea rose sharply. Just for the last fifteen years of the 18th century, the consumption of tea was doubled, because the habit of drinking tea had already been spread to middle and lower classes. The fast spreading of tea was connected with the reduction of taxes on tea. It was an attempt to undermine the well-organized black market, which was then prospering because of illegal trade of tea. More than 40.000 people and three hundred ships worked for it.
During the reign of the Queen Victoria, lunch began to take on special significance. Little by little, the lunchtime and the food itself began to change. They began to have dinner at seven or eight o’clock instead of at five or six, that is why supper that they had had earlier at ten o’clock turned out to be unnecessary. Therefore, afternoon tea, that they began to drink at five o’clock, was at the point. So, the British could satisfy hunger between lunch and dinner. This measure became so popular in the high society that became one of the essential traditions of the basis of the British mode of life.
The queen Victoria had nothing against it. More than that, she herself officially fixed the time for tea drinking in Buckingham Palace. When a teenager, Victoria had to bend her governess’s will, Duchess of Northumberland, who was firmly convinced that the two most popular events at that time – reading the Times and tea drinking- were invented by the devil himself. Victoria submitted her mentor without a murmur by 1838, the year of her coronation. However right after the coronation ceremony, the young queen breathed freely and ordered to bring the latest Times and a cup of tea. Dressed in liveries servants immediately carried out her order. After that she pronounced, - "Now I see that I am really ruling." During all her life tea remained one of her most favourite drinks.
During her 64 year reigning Victoria supported having tea drinks named "tea with moral". Charitable companies for supporting such social groups like the unemployed and the homeless organized those events. Besides, a proposed cup of tea blessed by God and the Queen was a remedy for alcoholism flourishing then among the population of England.
North America learned about tea in the 17th century when immigrants from England took with them the habit of tea drinking to the New World. During the next century, the consumption of tee continued to grow, especially among the upper classes who loved tea drinking very much. However, soon they began to drink tea in less influential circles. It became a symbol of a good upbringing and hospitality. In New York, as it was generally agreed, the best water for tea was the pumping station water, located in Chatam Street. Street tea traders with loud voices invited customers to come up. At the beginning of the 18th century, Puritans drank tea with butter and salt while other people of New England preferred drinking green Chinese tea to which they added saffron, roots of iris and petals of gardenia. Some tens of years passed and the tastes had changed, but tea itself still remained the most popular drink. By the end of the 18th century, one third of the population of the colony drank it twice a day.
In Russia tea appeared in the 17th century, when in 1638 a Russian ambassador, a boyar Vasily Starkov brought gifts for the tsar Mikhail Fedorovich from Mongolian khan Altyn. Among famous Mongolian satin fabrics and expensive furs, there were parcels with dry leaves. Starkov had tried to refuse to take that dried herb, but the Mongolian ruler had insisted. This is how for the first time tea appeared in Moscovia. Rough and bitter herb nevertheless was to Mikhail Fedorovich’s taste. It was noticed that "the Chinese herb refreshes and refines blood". However, they ran out of the four poods of tea that had been sent by khan Altyn and soon they began to forget the taste of tea in Moscow. Only thirty years later in the time of the tsar Alexey Mikhailovich the Russian ambassador to China Ivan Perfiliev again brought tea to Russia and in 1769, at last, Russia concluded a contract with China for tea delivery.
At that time tea was quite an expensive pleasure. It cost approximately ten times more than in Europe because trade caravans delivered it to Russia and the way from Beijing to Moscow took more than a year. For a long time it remained to be "an urban drink" and mainly "a Moscow drink". They brought tea to Petersburg from Moscow. By the middle of the last century in the capital city, there was only one shop where they could buy some tea whereas in Moscow there were about a hundred shops like that.
As time goes by, sea shipping was increased. The construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway was coming to an end. At the end of the 19th century, a real triumphal march of tea in Russia began. Tea became cheaper, was sold all around, and became part of allowance of the Russian Army. Everywhere in the country teashops were open and the tea etiquette was worked out. A special way of invitation to come for a cup of tea appeared. Lemon, sugar, dried toasts, biscuits, buns and rolls as well as rum and light wines were served. Tea passes into proverbs, sayings, fairy tales and had an influence on the vocabulary of the Russian language. For example, a reward for any services of a hall porter, carrier or waiter became to be called "for tea" (tips). Something new for Russian tea drinking brought a samovar (a large metal container used to heat water for tea). It had become the main member of the Russian tea drinking and an indispensable article of any family.
Tea did not know social differences; they liked it both in fashionable saloons of Petersburg and in a peasant’s house. They drank it in taverns of the lower middle class and in fashionable restaurants. Tea drinking in Russia is something more, than having tea; this is a mode of life, a feature of the national character, and a symbol of hospitality.
By the middle of the 19th century, tea was spread to all parts of the Russian Empire. It was delivered from one market to another and reached even the farthest small villages.
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