The Teaspoon: A Necessary Part of Having Tea

You get one new thing and bam—you’ve triggered an avalanche of new needs.

  • Play Pokémon GO? Gotta have a portable charger for when that elusive Dragonite actually hits your screen.
  • Found that perfect sofa? Guaranteed—any chair/coffee table/end table/lamp you already own won’t be quite right.
  • Having a baby? Just try to stop the flood of stuff that will enter your home for the next two decades!

So it was when tea hit Europe several centuries ago. People immediately needed all sorts of things they didn’t know they were going to need!

Introducing Tea: A Marketer’s Delight!

Tea instigated a plethora of requirements. Lockable tea caddies to store the pricey product and caddy spoons for measuring it out. Teapots and teacups and tea saucers. New words were necessary (“chinaware,” “porcelain”). Sugar in your tea? Call that spoon the “teaspoon”! And to display all these acquisitions: china cabinets! Not to mention tea carts, spoon holders, tea tables, and on and on.

Let’s Start with the Not-so-lowly Teaspoon

Although spoons have been used since the Paleolithic, the earliest ones were undoubtedly made of natural materials such as pieces of wood or shells—as suggested by our English spoon from Old English spon (from chip, as of wood) or the French cuillère (from Latin coclear, with the same root as cochlea, meaning snail, spiral).

First-century Romans designed two spoon types that they eventually brought northward into Britain. The custom stuck, and subsequent upper classes used precious metals to fashion spoons. For those who could afford it, a silver spoon was given to babies at their baptism (hence “born with a silver spoon”). By the 14th century, however, pewter spoons were commonplace, available more broadly.china teacup and saucer setting

The obvious usefulness of the spoon resulted in quite a variety of types, described by their composition, such as wooden or silver, or by their intended use, as in dessert, salt, sugar—or tea!

The spoon that was designated for stirring tea (sugar was added with the sugar spoon) made its first (known) appearance in print in the London Gazette in 1686—”three small gilt Tea Spoons.” 

Which Became a Unit of Measure

By 1731, a teaspoonful was used as a measurement: “not above a Tea Spoonful of Water” (Phil. Trans.). Robert Griffith’s 1859 A Universal Formulary gives the teaspoon as one fluidrachm, the dessert spoon as two fluidrachms, and a tablespoon as half a fluid ounce. (A fluidrachm or fluidram equals 1/8 of a fluid ounce in the imperial measure of the apothecary system.)

However, Griffith asserts that “the teaspoon is rated too low; they [these estimates] apply very well to the teaspoon formerly used, but not to the much larger kind now in general use, which approaches the dessertspoon in capacity.” 

And indeed, both the size of the teacup and the size of that teaspoon for stirring the tea had increased—concomitant with falling tea prices. By the 1730s, a teaspoon was 1/3 of a tablespoon.

While Still Remaining an Item of Status

spoon holder or spooner (?)Although the price of tea had come down, “tea” and its accouterments were still a way to signal your social position. Early Victorians put their teaspoons in a spoon holder or a spooner—oftentimes similar to a coverless sugar bowl—displaying both their spoons and their status. In the later 1800s, silver commemorative and souvenir spoons became a fad, another indicator of rank.

Social norms were paramount. In his Manual of Social and Business Forms of 1888, Thomas Hill advises that tea be “gently sipped from the spoon or cup, taking cup and spoon in hand . . . when drinking,” and he thoughtfully illustrates proper hand and finger position. In fact, he cautions that “the spoon should never be removed from the cup when the guest is satisfied with its contents” because a spoon that is placed next to a cup that still contains tea means there is a problem!

Today’s Oh-so-lowly Teaspoon

Nowadays, spoons—teaspoons or otherwise—are utilitarian drudges. We carelessly set them anywhere on the saucer or plate or table, ascribing no meaning to their placement. The capacity of a “teaspoon” in a flatware set in the U.S. varies wildly, requiring the use of measuring teaspoons for cooking and baking. And a teaspoon is used only incidentally for actually stirring tea.

In our home, a teaspoon is never used for its original purpose—drinking tea, as we do, without sugar or milk! However, we find our tea measuring spoon to be indispensable! It easily measures out bulky tea, and although it is not called a caddy spoon, it fulfills that same purpose—and does indeed serve as a true TEA spoon.

measuring spoon for tea


COMING UP: A look at some of that other must-have teaware!
Note: tea measuring spoon is pictured with Le Touareg tea, both available at teahaus.com

An Amazing Tea Table, with or without Tea

When you write about tea, it seems you see the word everywhere, even when you are not looking for it. Last week, my family and I were in upstate New York, visiting Letchworth State Park with its many trails and spectacular Genesee River gorge and waterfalls, and really not thinking about tea in the least.

waterfalls

But then, while driving through the park, we spotted this sign. Curious, we stopped to find out what the “tea table” was.

tea table sign with backgd

Not an actual table, it turns out. Nor was any tea available.

Rather, this region was called Tea Table Rock because flat sandstone once overhung the deep river gorge, providing the perfect “table” on which to sit and take in both the view and some refreshments. As the interpretive sign puts it,  this was the place to “picnic or have ‘a spot of tea.'”

Now a “spot of tea” could mean an actual cup of tea, or tea along with sandwiches, or simply the sandwiches—but any excuse to sit and linger in a pretty place works for me!

However, that jutting sandstone slab no longer exists. Today’s visitors stand on more solid ground, delineated by utilitarian fences and by picturesque stone walls built long ago by the CCC.

But picnickers are faced with a dizzying choice of amazing stone picnic (or tea!) tables!

Some, like this table nestled in a stand of mature trees, captivate—inviting a cozy tea break.

table 1 crop bkgdOthers, like this giant slab, stand ready to host an entire party!alissa at table bkgd

So although we were nearly 400 miles from home, we felt welcomed. Yes, parks belong to everyone and, yes, picnic tables everywhere invite us to sit awhile and enjoy a meal. But there is something about “tea table” that feels particularly special—that draws us in, that encourages us to converse and enjoy each other’s company, that begs us to appreciate anew the surrounding loveliness.

We had our spot of tea sans actual tea. But there was lots of conversation and plenty of terrific scenery and an incredible table! Everything that the “Tea Table Area” promises.

Bergamot Oil: The Essence of Earl Grey Tea

Bergamot, of Earl Grey Tea Fame

Citrus_bergamia_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-184
Citrus bergamia, Köhler’s Medicinal Plants

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)—the essence of Earl Grey tea—has been grown in Italy for ages, although the plant may have originated in Berga in Catalonia, northeast Spain, where the Bergistani were an Iberian tribe overtaken by the Romans, and possibly the source of the bergamot name.

We do know that bergamot has been grown in Calabria in southwest Italy for centuries. Although this region was ruled by many powerful peoples in antiquity, such as the Greeks and Arabs, it remained fairly isolated, which allowed its subsistence culture and customs to be maintained and eventually documented.

Thus, we know that bergamot was grown for its wood at first (to make snuff boxes), and then, in the early 1700s, was cultivated for its fruit and peel, used in perfumes.

The Calabrians also used bergamot to heal wounds; to reduce fever; and as an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and anti-parasitic. And many of these traditional medicinal uses have been validated by modern medicine.

Bergamot, of Value beyond Tea

As far as bergamot oil (extracted from the fruit’s peel) and bergamot juice go, they are valuable for myriad reasons, especially because bergamot has both a unique composition of beneficial flavonoids and a lot of them. (Flavonoids are also abundant in tea leaves.) In research studies, bergamot has been shown to:

  • Decrease total cholesterol and triglyceride levels (as statins do) while increasing high-density lipoprotein, a bonus.
  • Play a role in decreasing cancer cell growth, including liver cancer cells.
  • Act as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiseptic.
  • Promote wound healing.
  • Play a part in UVB-induced oxidative stress and photoaging and therefore may be valuable in skin-care products.
  • Protect the function of neurons and reduce damage to neurons.
  • With morphine, work to alleviate chronic pain.
  • Alleviate anxiety and depression.
  • Modulate markers of autophagy and thus may be valuable for drug development.

Earl Grey Is Not Earl Grey without the Bergamot

Bergamot has long been added to tea, with researchers finding that it was added to tea as early as 1824. However, it originally was used to doctor up low-quality tea. But somewhere along the way, the flavor was embraced and the blend of black tea and bergamot oil stood on its own merits.

Today, there are various blends of Earl Grey tea, including the traditional blend, green tea versions, and first-flush Darjeeling-based. TeaHaus offers its unique Haus-blend version that adds lavender, rosemary, and rose blossoms to the mix!

Note, however,  that a high-quality Earl Grey does not taste like orange (the bergamot orange itself has a very bitter taste), nor does it depend on flavor crystals. Rather, an excellent Earl Grey is made with bergamot oil, which is extracted from the fruit’s peel—and this unique combination of tea and oil offers plenty of health benefits!


Sources:
–Di Donna, L. et al. “Hypocholesterolaemic activity of 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl flavanones enriched fraction from bergamot fruit (Citrus bergamia): ‘In vivo’ studies,” Journal of Functional Foods 7:558–68. 2014.
–”Earl Grey tea,” The Foods of England Project.
–”Early Grey: The results of the OED appeal on Earl Grey tea,” OED Appeals, Oxford University Press.
–Filocamo, Angela, et al. “In vitro effect of bergamot (Citrus bergamia) juice against cag A-positive and-negative clinical isolates of Helicobacter pylori,” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 15:256. 2016.
–Filomena, L., et al. “Inhibition of spinal oxidative stress by bergamot polyphenolic fraction attenuates the development of morphine induced tolerance and hyperalgesia in mice,”  PLoS ONE 11(5). 2016.
–”Investigators at University of Messina detail findings in hepatocellular carcinoma (NF-kappa B mediates the antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects of bergamot juice in HepG2 cells),” Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week 5 Mar. 2016:1123. 2016.
–Passalacqua, N. G., De Fine, G., and Guarrera, P. M. “Contribution to the knowledge of the veterinary science and of the ethnobotany in Calabria region (Southern Italy),” Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2:52. 2006.
–”Researchers from University of Catanzaro Magna Graecia describe findings in chromosome structures (Telomere and telomerase modulation by bergamot polyphenolic fraction In experimental photoageing in human keratinocytes),” Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week 7 Nov. 2015:1703. 2016.
–Russo, R., et al. “Role of D-limonene in autophagy induced by bergamot essential oil in SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells,” PLoS ONE 9(11). 2014.

Interpreting Tea History

As a recent report by the BBC illustrates, tea’s history is not nearly as healthy as the drink itself.

Great Britain brought the tea industry to India and changed the world—an accomplishment complicated by the many ways to view the events and the participants. For example:

What’s the Real Aim Here?

Robert Fortune, who, in the 1800s, brought viable, high-quality tea plants—along with Chinese tea implements and manufacturers—to India, has been regarded both as savvy, dedicated botanist and as first-class thief.

Were his motives altruistic—as when he avers that “a boon will have been conferred upon the people of India” if that country’s poor could be provided with an affordable tea, which is healthy and has “great value in the market” (Fortune 1853)?

Or, were these just pretty words, masking Great Britain’s calculated aim to break China’s monopoly of the tea trade, ostensibly to make it affordable for more consumers in Great Britain (aka to make more money?)?

And What’s the Real Aim Here?

In his vivid account of his travels in China, Fortune describes how “coloured green tea” was produced for the Europeans and Americans because they favored “uniform and pretty” leaves (Fortune 1853). Well, and there’s that added benefit—colored tea commanded more money in these markets.

The Incidental Consequences

The recipe for colored tea was troubling: Four parts gypsum powder (think fertilizer, plaster) to three parts Prussian blue (iron ferrocyanide, actually not toxic) powder. This powder mixture was combined with the tea leaves several minutes before the leaves were removed from the roasting pans.

While an 1857 article published in Edinburgh and London (in the magazine Titan) complains about non-tea leaves being mixed in with genuine tea leaves, perhaps they should have instead been concerned with those colorants! Indeed, Fortune (1853) calculates that “in every hundred pounds of coloured green tea consumed in England or America, the consumer actually drinks more than half a pound of Prussian blue and gypsum!”

Still, Tea Confers Many Benefits (Maybe)

Ah well. At least everyone seems to have agreed at this point in history that drinking tea itself was a good thing. Because it “is a great promoter of the amenities and charities of life. Even, commercially, its influence is of this nature, since it brings together distant countries, and unites them, through the fraternal bonds of commerce. This again dispels those prejudices which mock and degrade the human understanding, and gives to millions of people mutual sympathies and interest” (Titan 1857).

Right. . . .

Okay, but there’s this:  “by dispelling dyspeptic clouds and other noxious vapours which ascend to the brain . . . [tea] causes the benignant rays of cheerfulness and good-humour to shed happiness and peace” (Titan 1857).

Alternately, those positive effects could simply result from the “clatter of cups, and the mere occupation of drinking” (Titan 1857). . . .

However, “we leave it with our reader to determine whether it was this merely, or not rather the enlivening influence of the warm liquor, which put every one on good terms with himself, through the mediation of his stomach, by neutralising the acid juices . . . and so induced him to regard his next neighbour as a ‘decidedly more agreeable person’ than had been at first supposed” (Titan 1857). Yes, well. . . .

The Take-Away

Although some things strike us as humorous today, this history interpretation thing is difficult, and it’s far too easy to evaluate past actions solely with twenty-first-century eyes, or to think in simplistic terms.

Yet our history—the shared history of humankind—ought to inform our current thinking and decision-making. So when you next drink a cup of tea, perhaps, as Justin Rowlatt of the BBC suggests, “take a moment to reflect on the momentous global interactions that made the drink you are enjoying possible.”

lung ching  leaves


Sources:
–Fortune, Robert. Tea Countries of China and the British Tea Plantations in the Himalaya, 3rd ed. London: John Murray, 1853.
–”Our tea table,” Titan, A Monthly Magazine, Vol. XXIV. Edinburgh: James Hogg; London: R. Groombridge and Sons, 1857.
–Rowlatt, Justin. “The dark history behind India and the UK’s favourite drink.” BBC News. July 15, 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-36781368.

Stress and Loss—and the Role of Tea

Life . . .

I was going to get caught up, get organized, be in control.

But life intervened, as it so often does. Not a light or joyful moment to bring a smile and generate energy.

No, this was more a derailment. Of plans, of hopes, of optimism.

Interrupted

Death does that. And because we can’t quite comprehend our loss—it comes to us in degrees, often in unexpected ways—societally we have developed rituals to ease our way.

In our case, this involved flowers, as beautiful and ephemeral as life itself. Lovingly provided meals. And cards and texts and phone calls and kind words.

And during the funeral visitation, coffee and tea, available at all times.

Dealing with the pain

Which later, in retrospect—in perhaps an excuse to focus on the mundane and avoid the profound, or just as a way to ponder those things that comfort a bit—made me wonder: why hot coffee and tea? Why have we chosen this avenue to address grief?

Of course, personal interactions are foremost. Nothing replaces caring words, deep sympathy, hugs, genuine concern. But still, coffee and tea are often among the first things we offer to those who sit in a hospital waiting room or to the family that sits around a table and begins to face a deep loss.

It seems that handing a warm drink to someone is more than simply a symbol of our care. Holding a hot beverage seems to have an actual effect on us—we project the warmth of what we are holding to other people and situations, transferring physical sensations to the psychological.

Drinking hot liquids, especially those with caffeine, impacts us on multiple levels. Research has shown that consuming hot beverages—coffee, tea, or just water—makes us happier. Adding caffeine to that beverage lowers our anxiety, also makes us happier, and gives us more energy. Caffeine works immediately, and even small doses can impact us.

If a beverage’s warm temperature and caffeine somehow improve our outlook, does that, perhaps, help assuage our pain just a bit, or at least help us cope?

Tea, a balm for body and soul

 tea in a styrofoam cupTea is a bit more complicated than coffee or hot water, and scientists continue to tease out what does what. We know that the amino acid theanine increases alpha wave brain activity, which relaxes us, and that the main flavanol in tea, epigallocatechin gallate, is sedating. According to one double-blind study (Steptoe 2007), drinking tea for six weeks resulted in less post-stress cortisol (the “stress hormone,” released whenever we experience fear or something stressful), a personal feeling of being more relaxed, and less platelet activation (which is good for cardiac health).

Although drinking tea does not reduce stress, it seems to help us to recover from stress.

Another study (Cross 2009) showed that when people drank tea after completing a stress-inducing activity, their anxiety went down—and, in fact, went lower than what their anxiety level was before the activity. (Conversely, when people drank water instead, their anxiety went up 25%.) When the participants were asked about tea, they reported that tea relaxes them, confirming that psychological benefits accompany the physiological, and that both yield very real results.

Also embedded in the psychological aspect is the cultural meaning. As Cross and Michaels (2009) put it:

The symbolic dimensions of tea materialise in our body, thus enhancing the chemical effects that tea components have on our health. The cultural meanings in which tea is anchored shape our experience of tea, evoke particular feelings, ways of relating to others and mental states and by doing so they come to constitute our physical experience. This means that the psychological affects the physiological, just as the physiological affect [sic] the psychological.

A life continued

A loss is devastating, and our response is intensely individual. Yet, our way through may be eased just a bit by a thoughtfully provided steaming cup of tea.


Sources:
–Cross, M. and R. Michaels. “The social psychological effects of tea consumption on stress.” 2009.
–Quinlan, P., et al. “Effects of hot tea, coffee and water ingestion on physiological responses and mood: The role of caffeine, water and beverage type,” Psychopharmacology 134:164–73. 1997.
–Steptoe, A., et al. “The effects of tea on psychophysiological stress responsivity and post-stress recovery: A randomised double-blind trial,” Psychopharmacology 190(1):81–89. 2007.

H2O on the Rocks

When our daughter was very young, we were at a very nice restaurant, and calamity was very near: we told her she would be drinking water and not a soft drink.

But our server adroitly intervened, asking if she would instead like “H2O on the rocks.”

Would she ever! When it arrived, complete with maraschino cherry on a cocktail sword, she was enchanted.

June is National Iced Tea Month. A marketing ploy by the National Tea Council? Well, sure. But with summer’s heat upon us, anything tastes better on the rocks. And tea is especially refreshing, delicious, and healthy when iced!

But to make iced tea, you gotta have the rocks.

The Natural Stuff

Although natural ice and snow have been used for millennia to cool drinks (mainly wine), people also spent much of that time seeking ways to refine the process, building various types of structures to preserve ice and snow, for example.

And experimenting with how to artificially make ice.

Because, of course, chilled wine is ever so much more desirable when the weather is sweltering.

The Cool Factor of Saltpetre Discovered and then Lost

Enter saltpetre (potassium nitrate). As Kathryn Kane (2013) explains:

Both the ancient Greeks and the ancient Romans, of the upper classes, used this white powder, dissolved in water, to cool their wines. It was an expensive commodity, fairly rare and difficult to find, and its use appears to have been limited only to the cooling of bottles of wine at important dinners. Though they were aware of the refrigerant capabilities of saltpetre, the Romans never seem to have used it to cool any other provisions or food stuffs. There were a number of chilled dishes on the menu at Roman banquets, but stored snow or ice was used to cool them. The knowledge of the cooling properties of saltpetre was lost in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. . . . However, it was known in the Arab world and was recorded in several Arabic manuscripts.

And Then Rediscovered by Europeans

iced tea 2In 1530, Dr. Marcus Antonius Zimara referred to using saltpeter as a cooling agent, and in 1550, physician Blasius Villafranca promoted its use to chill water and wine, “declaring that all the nobility and gentry of Rome now used the method” (David 1994).

Followed by Mechanical Refrigeration

Centuries later (in 1847), with the more altruistic motive of treating yellow fever, Florida physician John Gorrie developed a machine that both made ice and cooled air. Patented in 1851, the device didn’t succeed—especially with the press deriding the invention (create ice? blasphemous!).

However, a scant two decades later, mechanical refrigeration enabled the 1875 and 1876 shipments of frozen meat from America to England, followed by a shipment from Australia in 1880 that used a Bell-Coleman cold-air machine (Wallis-Tayler 1902). And ice harvesting from frozen ponds soon became a thing of the past.

And the Desire for the Perfect Block of Ice, Be It Small or Large

iced tea 1By 1902, Wallis-Taylor wrote an entire book that described the ways in which artificial ice could be commercially manufactured—and opined that the opacity often found in ice was “objectionable by reason of the less pleasing appearance,” with the goal being “clear, transparent, crystal ice.”

Soon after, in 1914, Fred Wolf developed an unsuccessful refrigerator that had an ice cube tray, but in 1933, Guy Tinkham’s ice cube tray for home use finally made it to the market, selling for fifty cents.

Today, with revived interest in classic cocktails, there is a new demand for “clear, transparent” ice, but in sizes to match specific cocktails. Such ice can be made by freezing water slowly; by freezing ice from the top down and using only the clear top layer; or by using a machine such as the Clinebell, which makes 300-pound blocks. The clear ice is then cut into specific sizes and shapes.

Tea on the Rocks

At my home, the opacity or clearness of my ice cubes makes little difference. From classic black to refreshing green to icy mint to tangy fruit blend—any tea is terrific when on the rocks!


Sources:
–Bellis, M. “The history of ice cubes trays,” About, Inc.
–David, E. Harvest of the Cold Months, New York: Viking Penguin, 1995.
–English, C. “Freezer harvest: A history of ice cubes,” Modern Farmer. March 18, 2014.
–Kane, K. “Saltpetre: Regency refrigeration,” The Regency Redingote. August 9, 2013.
–Morse, M. S. “Chilly Reception,” Smithsonian Magazine. July 2002.
–Wallis-Tayler, A. J. Refrigeration, Cold Storage, and Ice-Making, London: Crosby Lockwood and Son. 1902.

Fujian Tea and How Tea Got Its Name

We may be able to readily conceive of a world without silk, and in this electronic age, possibly consider a world without paper—but to do without TEA? Unthinkable!!

And pretty much most of the ancient world agreed, as evidenced by the extensive Silk Roads and the recently confirmed 2,100-year-old tea leaves found at Xi’en in western China (see my previous post). Tea, along with silk and paper, was being transported far distances, both by overland routes and by sea. China’s Fujian Province, with its prime location on the East China Sea, played a leading role in trade.

The Tea Leaves of Fujian, or, The Tea Leaves Fujian

Fujian became part of the Chinese empire during the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC), and the region was trading with Arabs and Persians by 618 CE. During the Song Dynasty (907–1279), tea was being grown and produced in the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian.

By the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), silk, sugar, paper, and tea were all leaving Fujian’s ports as part of the maritime shipping routes into South East Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. Tea was also taking the months-long journey from Fujian into Russia via Mongolia. According to historians (Xinhua News Agency 2015), the largest China-Mongolia trade company at one time employed 7,000 workers and used 20,000 camels. With each camel capable of shouldering over 400 pounds of tea, that amounted to a whole lot of tea!

By this time, Europeans were also coming into the Fujian port of Xiamen.

Its Name Leaves with It, or, “Tea” vs “Cha”

As tea was sent out from China, its Chinese name traveled with it—unlike paper and silk, whose Chinese names did not stick with the items. According to Jerry Norman (2015):

English “tea” comes via Spanish from a Southern Miin form [te.sup.2]. . . . Another form exemplified by Mongolian cai, travelled westward through Inner Asia. Some have surmised that this form comes from Northern Chinese charyeh “tea leaves.” So we have two basic words for “tea,” the first of which spread through maritime trade and the second by overland transmission. Both of these basic terms for “tea” are from the same etymon, being no more than dialectal variants. Forms related to English “tea” are used throughout Western Europe (with the exception of Portuguese cha, which is probably based on a Cantonese original). The Inner Asian term spread far and wide—into Mongolian, Manchu, the Turkic languages, Persian, and the languages of the Indian subcontinent.

Thus, “tea” traveled by sea whereas “cha” traveled by land!

Along with the Idea of Teapots if Not the Teapots Themselves

Some believe that by the time the Europeans began to import tea, teapots were being used in China and so that practice was emulated in Europe. However, there is some disagreement on this point. According to the Hampshire Cultural Trust, at this time period tea was still being brewed in open pans or in cups in China—but since Chinese wine ewers were exported with the tea, the ewers may have been understood as being meant for tea brewing.

Regardless, in 1694, “the British East India Company directed that teapots made for them in China must have ‘a grate . . . before the spout'” (Hampshire Cultural Trust) to catch the tea leaves.

And, Happily, Oolong Arrives on the Scene

Early in the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), Fujian tea producers in Wuyi began a new tea process, resulting in wulong—or oolong—teas. Rather than heating the tea leaves immediately after they were plucked, they were instead allowed to wilt, were partially oxidized, and then were heated. By the mid-1800s, the Anxi area of Fujian was devoted predominately to the oolongs.

And Stays!

milky jade leavesToday, Fujian produces green tea, including exquisite jasmine tea (jasmine blossoms are layered with tea so that the tea leaves pick up the jasmine aroma and flavor); black tea, including the smoky and pungent lapsang souchong; white tea; and of course oolongs.

My personal favorites of the Fujian offerings are the extraordinary China Milky Jade Oolong (pictured here after brewing) and China Royal Jasmine Curls, both available (along with other teas from Fujian Province) at TeaHaus.*

Whether cha or tea, it’s time to brew a cup!


*Because oolongs and the hand-rolled curls are handled so extensively during their labor-intensive production, it is crucial to screen them for purity. TeaHaus’ German suppliers test all the teas, both in the garden and after production, ensuring that they contain NO heavy metals or pesticide residue.


Sources:
–Ceresa, M. “Tea: A very short history,” China Heritage Quarterly 29. March 2012.
–Hampshire Cultural Trust. “A brief history of the teapot.” https://hampshireculturaltrust.org.uk/content/brief-history-teapot.
–Norman, J. “Inner Asian words for paper and silk,”  Journal of the American Oriental Society 135(2):309. April–June 2015.
–Xinhua News Agency. “Ballad sheds light on historical tea trade,” China Economic Information Service. April 8, 2015.