- Food and Cooking
All About Tea
'Have A Cuppa, Luv'.
That's my mother-in-law, in old Ireland, who always had a pot hot near the stove. Whatever the weather, it was in the door, sit ye down, and have a cuppa tay. A good bracing cup too, strong, with milk and a teaspoon or two of white sugar. Who cared about calories, or the evils of white sugar? Not then, maybe now. And the tea was not described as 'black, milk, sugar'; it was simply, 'white, sugar'.
Tea For All Occasions
Herbal teas had not come into vogue in the 70's and 80's in Ireland. It was single choice, black tea, so nobody called it 'black tea' because it was the only color available, and is still the tea of choice in many of the British countries. 'British' is loosely applied, since it is not an empire any more. I'm applying 'British' and 'colonies' to mean British-influenced former colonies.
You drink tea when the weather is cold, to get warm; when it's hot,to cool you down; when you're happy, to celebrate, when you're sad, to cheer you up; when the news is good, and when it's bad; at baptisms and Holy Communion celebrations; at weddings and at funerals.
Tea has become an immense business in America, with companies like Teavana Tea
specialising in custom blends and beautiful tea accessories. Teavana was started by a husband and wife team in Atlanta, Georgia. They sank their life savings into inventing the company after observing the trend of interest in specialty wines and coffees in America. They offer every blend of tea and herbal infusions, gorgeous teapots and teacups and every other tea accessory one could desire, helping to popularise this most British of beverages. On any given day, over 160 million Americans are drinking tea, although coffee remains the more popular of the two.
How Was Tea Brought Out of China?
How did this beverage, which was first drunk in China over 5000 years ago, become the chief and most loved drink in the UK and the other colonies? It was first brought to Portugal by Jesuit priests in 1560; they had been merchants and missionaries in China, where containers of tea were found in tombs dating back to the Han Dynasty (200 BC-220 AD). It became firmly established as a national drink by the Tang Dynasty 400 years later. The first book ever written about tea was reputedly by Lu Yu in 800 AD, called the Ch'a Ching, or Tea Classic. Tea was first brought into Japan shortly after this book. It was brought back by Buddhist monks who had gone to China to study.
The tea brought to Portugal in the 16th century was only enjoyed by the Portuguese. It was not till the Dutch won the China trading routes from the Portuguese that tea was commercially brought to Holland, and then Europe, from Java. But it was the drink of the wealthy only, and still not popular in England till the Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza married King Charles II and made tea a fashionable drink at court and in the country. It was her addiction.
How Tea Became Affordable to The Poor.
Tea was heavily taxed and remained the drink of the wealthy for over 150 years till the tax was slashed in 1784 by Prime Minister William Pitt, from 119% to 12.5%. It then became affordable by the less wealthy. The poor never had a chance unless they worked in the rich houses, where they had the third brew of the same leaves; the second brew was for the upper servants. Philanthropists in England realised the value of tea in the temperance movement. It was served at their meetings.
By the mid 18th century, tea had become England's most popular drink, replacing gin and ale. Tea breaks in industries have been around for about 200 years, and the British have been drinking tea for over 350 years. The standard is still the black tea with milk.
The Boston Tea Party
Tea was imported into the colonies of America and became very popular too. However, with the high taxes imposed by the British government, it was too expensive, and this encouraged smugglers, specifically the Dutch. The British East India Company, which up to then had the monopoly of tea sales, had to compete with cheap smuggled Dutch tea in the colonies. The government then, to make things more equitable, removed the 25% tax it had imposed on the Company, and made up for the loss of tax revenues by imposing it on the colonials.
From a lot of convoluted Acts of Parliament which squeezed the colonials and gave them no representation in the government, arose an ever spiralling resentment which eventually resulted in the famous Boston Tea Party of December 16 th 1773, which spearheaded the Revolutionary War in 1775. Directly and indirectly involved were leaders like Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin. It was not just the tax on tea that inflamed the Americans, but that they were taxed without any representation in government.
Benefits of Tea, and A Warning.
Tea has been found to confer direct health benefits. Black, white,green,oolong and pu-erh teas are chockful of antioxidants, called flavonoids, that appear to fight cancer, diabetes and heart disease and clogged arteries. They lower cholesterol and contribute to mental alertness and even have anti-microbial qualities. These teas are the leaves of the camellia sinensis, a bush native to China and India.
Herbal teas, made from herbs, fruits, seeds or roots steeped in hot water, have less antioxidants than the teas from the Camellia plant. They include ginger, ginkgo biloba, hibiscus, jasmine, rosehip, mint, chamomile and echinacea. Some of them have mild curative properties but some claims are not substantiated by scientific studies.
Be aware of some teas that claim to kill pain and cure cancer.They may be downright dangerous. Be careful about taking teas made from comfrey, ephedra, willow bark, and chaparra
From Loose Leaf Tea to Tea Bags
Loose tea, or loose leaf tea, had been the only way tea was used till the tea bag was invented in the US. Hand-sewn silk tea bags were first made in 1903. The next year, Thomas Sullivan of N.Y., a tea and coffee merchant, first sold it on a commercial scale and shipped it around the world. Though the leaves were supposed to be freed from the bags before making the tea, people found it more convenient to pour the water directly over the bags.
Modern teabags are made of paper fiber. The heat-sealed paper fiber tea bag was invented by William Hermanson, who sold his patent in 1930 to the Salada Tea Company.
Tea bags shortened the tea making time, but not the brewing time. Tea should be brewed at least 3 minutes for the full flavor to infuse into the water. The bag removed the need for the leaves to be strained. In many households, traditionalists still prefer the old way of making tea with loose leaf, claiming the flavor is fuller. The recipe is 1 teaspoon per cup and one for the pot, and the pot must be warmed first by swirling hot water in it and then emptied. The leaves are then measured in, and water, brought to a rolling boil, is poured into the pot. Steep for 3-5 minutes. Strain into cups, add milk to taste, and sugar as desired. Enjoy! (Herbal tea does not take boiling water).
Chai Latte. Enjoy!
Chai Latte? Here's a recipe for a homemade one, from Instructables.com, a food and drink site.: Bring to boil: 2 cups water, 2 tea bags, 1/8-1/4 tsp.each ginger and cardamom, 1 whole clove, 1 stick cinnamon. Add 1/4 cup sugar, dissolve. (or 2 packets Stevia.) Add 2 1/2 cups milk of your choice. Stir, serve.
Enjoy your tea break! .