Archives For Tea
Articles about tea in it’s myriad styles. From aged to fresh and new. The beverage which calms and heals.
It is very common to see everyday farmers in well known tea regions growing tea simply for their own supply, with small well tended plots. Often they will grow tiny amounts each year, just enough for themselves and their family and friends. If and when they do produce too much, often they are forced to simply sell it to Japans Agriculture Ministry at a low fixed price. This at least provides a subsidised basic income for that crop, and the tea eventually makes its way into mass blended tea described above. This can make it a challenge to find small scale growers who are happy to sell their precious tea. A challenge we were very happy to take on and it was with this in mind that we visited our favourite tea regions on the island of Kyushu, to procure some wonderful single origin teas direct from small scale farmers.
With a few minor exceptions, there are really only two ways to say “tea” in the world. One is like the English term—té in Spanish and tee in Afrikaans are two examples. The other is some variation of cha, like chay in Hindi.
Both versions come from China. How they spread around the world offers a clear picture of how globalization worked before “globalization” was a term anybody used. The words that sound like “cha” spread across land, along the Silk Road. The “tea”-like phrasings spread over water, by Dut
Travel back in time to 1662, when Catherine of Braganza (daughter of Portugal’s King John IV) won the hand of England’s newly restored monarch, King Charles II, with the help of a very large dowry that included money, spices, treasures and the lucrative ports of Tangiers and Bombay. This hookup made her one very important lady: the Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland.
When she relocated up north to join King Charles, she is said to have packed loose-leaf tea as part of her personal belongings; it would also have likely been part of her dowry. A fun legend has it that the crates were marked Transporte de Ervas Aromaticas (Transport of Aromatic Herbs) – later abbreviated to T.E.A.
That last bit probably isn’t true (etymologists believe the word ‘tea’ came from a transliteration of a Chinese character), but what is for sure is that tea was already popular among the aristocracy of Portugal due to the country’s direct trade line to China via its colony in Macau, first settled in the mid-1500s (visit today to sample the other end of this culinary exchange, the Portuguese pastéis de nata, aka egg custard tarts).
A team in China has decoded the genetic building blocks of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, whose leaves are used for all types of tea, including black, green and oolong.
The research gives an insight into the chemicals that give tea its flavour.
Until now, little has been known about the genetics of the plant, despite its huge economic and cultural importance.
“Duck Shit Aroma (or Ya Shi Xiang) is part of the revered Golden Phoenix family of teas that come from Phoenix Mountain in the Guangdong Province of China,” he begins. “Classically, teas from that mountain are plucked from a single grove or bush, producing hyper-local characteristics. Rumor has it that the farmer behind Duck Shit (which doesn’t truly smell or taste like duck waste) didn’t want anybody to discover the secret to his cultivation so he gave it an unattractive name (indeed, compared to ‘honey orchid,’ ‘orange blossom,’ or ‘almond’) and it stuck.”