Menu

Tea Culture in Europe

The tea culture in Europe is quite unique and distinct. Not only is it about the way the tea is consumed, but it is also about how it is made as well as the social aspect of it.


In the Czech Republic the tea culture has been evolving and developing for centuries. Recently, the style of tea rooms has been a hot topic in this area as they differ from the more traditional British style tea rooms. The tea rooms in the Czech Republic are very diverse and offer a wide assortment of teas. The most exclusive tea rooms can have up to eighty different types of teas from multiple different countries. The most unique fact is that these different tea rooms have all developed their own style by creating different blends of the teas along with different ways of serving them.


Russia also has a unique tea culture. The method in which the tea is served usually involves an expensive tea glass that is made from silver as well as other alloys- sometimes the tea glasses are even gold plated. Russian tea culture dictates that the tea be brewed separately and then diluted with water that has just been boiled. The tea that is served is usually quite strong. In fact, it is thought that the strength of the tea is an indication of the hospitality of the host. In Russia drinking tea is an event that is traditionally for the whole family. The tea is generally served after a large meal along with things such as jams and pastries. It should be noted that in Russia black tea is the most common and traditional tea bags are not. A traditional Russian tea time consists of loose leaf black tea.


Though not as popular as other parts of Eastern Europe, there is a tea ritual in Slovakia. Interestingly enough, the tea culture in Slovakia is considered somewhat underground by the residents of this region. However, there are numerous tea rooms that have gained popularity in many mid-sized towns. The thing about these tea rooms that have made them popular is the fact that they offer a quiet environment that has relaxing music for the patrons. Of equal importance is the fact that they are almost all non-smoking establishments. This is in sharp contrast to the pubs that are located in the country.
In regard to tea culture in Germany, it is most popular in the eastern part of the country. The eastern region has a very strong to various tea traditions. In fact, tea is so popular hear that it is often drank at all hours of the day. The typical German tea will have three layers to it. The top layer is mostly cream, the middle layer is the tea itself and the bottom layer is a sugary candy that melts slowly. It is against tradition to mix all three of these elements together as it will ruin the ability to savor the tea in general. Tea in Germany is always served with cookies during the week and cakes during the weekend or special events. In addition, the German style tea is thought to cure headaches, upset stomachs as well as relieve stress.


Even though France is better known for its different types of coffee, afternoon tea drinking has long been part of the culture for the wealthy and elite. The most popular tea in France is black tea. However, other types such as green tea and Asian tea are becoming more mainstream.  Afternoon tea in France is usually served with sugar, milk or lemon. Furthermore, when drinking tea it will almost always be accompanied by a pastry. The interesting thing about the pastries is that they are usually of the non-sweet variety.
 Portugal has a growing tea culture that is most dominant on the Azores- a series of islands that are located to the west of the mainland. An interesting fact is that Portugal was the first European country to indulge in tea drinking as well as the being the country responsible for introducing tea to the rest of the continent. The production of tea in Portugal dates back to the mid 1750’s and is still being produced today. The tea production in Portugal is focused on an organic growing process where no pesticides or herbicides are allowed. However, the general production standards for tea in Portugal have not changed for the better part of two and a half centuries- neither has the way in which the population consumes it.

Vietnam Tea Customs

In the Medieval Ages one of the court healers gave his patients the following advice: "Drink one cup of tea in the morning and glass of wine in the evening and you will forget doctors forever." Instructive meaning of this parable is that moderate and timely use of tea and wine are really beneficial.

People have long known that tea is not just a drink to quench their thirst, but rather a magic drink for good health. Therefore, a tea party for most cultures and times is perceived as a ritual of compelling with a vital force of Nature.

Vietnamese tea ceremony is a pleasant sign of hospitality with deep social importance. As in many other traditional tea cultures, Vietnamese tradition suggests that the environment where the ceremony takes place should bring people together, contribute to a relaxed conversation and cultural communication: the recitation of poetry, discussion of literature and art. If the conversation goes on everyday topic or discussion of issues of mutual interest, the guests always leave the last word for the master of the house. The whole idea of Vietnamese ritual of tea drinking is a maximum spiritual rapprochement between the participants of the ceremony combined with the pleasure of drinking tea. In general, Vietnamese tea drinking tradition is a bridge that brings people together and helps to better understand each other.


The traditional Vietnamese tea ceremony is a complex of all the preparations for it. Every element of the ceremony plays its meaningful importance in it:  where to drink tea, when and with whom, what kind of water to use, where in the house set the table for brewing tea, and which tea cups to use.


Tea has been cultivated in Vietnam from immemorial time. One of the most unique and exquisite Vietnamese tea customs is lotus flavored tea. During the Nguyen dynasty, tea drinking ritual was brought to the level of art. King Tu Duc who reigned during the Nguyen dynasty (1848-1883) is known for drinking tea flavored with lotus in a very special way. On moonlit nights, prior to his morning tea, King had his servants set their boats on the lake in the royal garden where the lotus flowers are in bloom and put a handful of tea into each blossom, then close them with ribbon. Tea leaves would absorb the living scent of the lotus petals. Then they will collect the dew from the lotus leaves due to belief that only water born between heaven and earth, can give the king strength for the day. Next morning the tea would be picked from the lotus lake and offered to the king as his morning refreshment. According to tea connoisseurs, tea grown on the hills of Thai Nguyen province is a signature of Vietnamese tea. It’s praised for its very unique taste and distinctive aroma.
Vietnamese custom of drinking tea in different provinces of the country was formed in different ways. For instance, South Vietnam region prefers green ice tea, flavored with flowers. For the population of the South, tea is, above all, a drink of refreshment. In central region of the country, where climate is mostly rainy, the most popular is tea made from fresh tea leaves slightly dried on the sun. This type of fresh brew unfolds a strong, natural taste and aroma. The north population prefers hot tea, brewed strong, natural green or flavored with flowers of jasmine, lotus, or chrysanthemum.

Tea flavored with freshly picked flowers mostly preferred by elderly, preparing such tea is a long process; older folks can always find time for that. Often rainwater gathered in mountain streams and waterfalls is used in this process. For special occasions some dew collected from lotus leaves can be used. Water is boiled in a copper vessel on the coals of palm tree. An earthenware teapot, tea cups and tea box are required for tea course. Fresh jasmine, lotus or rose petals are placed on a saucer and covered with a cup rinsed with hot water. This is a special way of flavoring tea with scent of freshly picked flowers. When tea is ready, it’s poured into a cup that absorbed a subtle fragrance of flowers.  Skillful tea connoisseurs always keep tea as a subject of conversation, comment and compliment it, just like some do at wine tasting.

Tea drinking is a customary signature practice at wedding and engagement ceremonies. Marrying couples use the ritual of drinking tea at the wedding ceremony to express their affection for each other.

Russian Tea Drinking Tradition

Russian tea drinking tradition, along with some other Russian customs, has long been a hallmark of the country. Nevertheless, to describe the attributes of Russian tea drinking: samovar (meaning "self-boiler" in Russian), loose leaf black tea, pancakes, jam, cubed sugar, sliced lemon, cups in cup holders, porcelain set… Unfortunately, very few people drink tea in accordance with this attributes, because almost no one these days uses a samovar.

This old Russian tea drinking tradition becomes history, but still lives and breathes in Russia and around the world where Russian emigrants make their homes. Russian literature often invokes the samovar to symbolize Russian hospitality. Gathering around the table by a samovar with family and friends evokes a sense of cosines and comfort, which is an important element in our busy lives. Let me just try to formulate some of the characteristics of tea drinking, which can be classified as specifically Russian.

A real Russian tea party requires a porcelain tea set; a classical Russian tea set is "Cobalt net" of the Imperial Lomonosov’s Porcelain Manufactory. These sets are often sold in duty free shops at the international airports of Russia and in numerous souvenir shops. Contrary to popular opinion, tea glasses even in the most exclusive holders are not the most accurate representation of the Russian tea drinking tradition. Since the 18th century, people who understood the sense in life and in tea-drinking, tried to get the porcelain set.

A very specific feature of Russian tea-drinking is samovar, a vessel with boiling water. In Russian tradition, tea leaves brewed in the porcelain pot, which is placed on the top of the samovar keeping the brew hot. In most major tea drinking cultures, Chinese, Japanese and English, tea leaves steep, a brew is poured in a cup and drunk. In Russia, a brew is diluted with hot water directly in a cup, that’s why besides the standard tea set, tea party in Russia involves a samovar with boiling water.

Another important part of Russian tea-drinking tradition is a simple and obvious lemon, cut in thin slices, not wedges, since circles look beautiful on a plate and in a cup. In fact, the whole world believes that tea with lemon is a Russian invention, often called "Russian tea". 

However, the most important feature of a Russian tea party is tea itself. Of course, it should be black tea. Historically, it was Chinese tea, such as Keemun or a blend based on it "Russian Caravan" or “Russian Samovar”. Chinese tea was drunk in Russia for three centuries, and only in the 20th century adjusted traditionally established tea preferences. Nowadays, most Russians prefer a rich aroma and strong taste of Ceylon tea over subtle taste of Chinese teas. Often, both teas are served at the party, Chinese in respect to century’s old tradition and Ceylon in respect to modern tea taste.

When at the table served with samovar full of boiling water, porcelain tea set, two teapots (with Chinese and Ceylon tea), a plate with a stack of pancakes, a few fresh baked pies (with apples, cherries, cheese, cabbage and all sorts of fillings…), several kinds of jam (strawberry, cherry, blueberry, lingoberry, cloudberry, raspberry…), honey, condensed sweet milk, sliced lemon and cubed sugar, one will understand what is a true Russian made happiness. Laughing

Tea Production

Within all tea growing regions, merely a top leaf bud and the next two leaves, the youngest ones of a spout are picked. More mature leaves have an undesirable impact on the quality of the processed teas. In the mountains, therefore cooler regions, tea naturally matures slower. This lets the especially high-quality, aromatic characteristics to envelop. The actual cropping period also has a tremendous influence on the quality of the tea. The plucking necessitates a lot of proper care along with skills set and is commonly performed by women. The standard plucking volumes are roughly 35 to 53 lb of green leaves a day which produces 9 to 13 lb of processed tea. A few times per day, the green leaves are delivered to the manufacturing facility in the tea garden. The green leaves are still absolutely neutral in fragrance and initially will be handled in the tea production line, going through numerous production procedures, in order to generate a savory final product.


Processing


Tea gets processed on the plantations in the country of origin and after that, exports in its finished form. The most essential steps of the procedure with respect to orthodox tea production (which may be utilized for the manufacturing of any kind of tea desired in contrast to the subsequently described CTC production) are: withering, rolling, fermenting, drying and sorting into leaf and broken grades of different sizes.


Withering


When the freshly picked leaves arrive at the manufacturing facility, they are weighed and the quantity is documented. After that, the withering process is initiated where the moisture content of the leaves is diminished by approximately 30% in order to make them tender and workable for the following step - rolling. The withering takes place in a specific withering troughs 80 to 100 feet long that are usually stringed with a wire grid and ventilated by big fans. The leaves are distributed out on the grid. The air flow that moves through the ventilators can easily be heated up when needed due to greater moisture content of the leaves. The withering process requires 12 to 18 hours.


Rolling


Hereafter, the withered green leaves are thrown in the rolling equipment, which commonly consists of a pair of big, hefty metal plates that are spinning in opposition direction to each other and are bruising the leaves, opening their cells, providing the cellular juice into contact with the oxygen in the air flow. This process begins the fermentation step as well as the occurrence of the essential oils that then establish the aroma and the flavor of the teas. Now rolled tea will begin fermentation in a dedicated fermentation room. A lot of tea production facilities use so-called "rotor vane" equipment, a sort of shredder that further processes the leaves. The leaves move throughout a slowly spinning screw conveyor via a tube where presence of oxygen speeds up the fermentation process.


Fermentation


The fermentation is an oxidation and tanning process of the cellular essential oils, which are produced during the rolling process. Intended for the fermentation, the leaves are spread out on workstations in 4 inches layers. Advanced tea producing factories humidify the area where the fermentation takes place. During the fermentation, which usually takes 2 - 3 hours, tea leaves alter their color that progressively turns into a copper-red. This color is observed in infused tea leaves. The "tea maker" is required constantly measure the degree of oxidation, especially with regard to the aroma of the wet leaves. The superior quality of the end product depends on the accurate fermentation.


Drying


The fermentation is completed when the ideal grade of fermented product is achieved. In other words as soon as tea develops its typical fragrance and the copper-red color, the drying process begins. So-called tiered dryers are used. They are powered with wood or oil. Tea moves through the dryer on a conveyor belt. The beginning temperature is about 190 degrees that helps to bind the cellular oils solidly to the leaves. Towards the end of the 20 minutes long drying procedure, the temperature decreases to 100 degrees and the humidity content to approximately 6%. Later on, whenever tea is brewed, the essential oils that stuck to the dried leaves are dissolved in the hot water and produce the aromatic and stimulating beverage.


Sorting


The black tea produced via the drying process or the so-called raw tea, now will be sieved by a variety of shaking mechanical sieves with different sieve sizes, in which the typical leaf grades are separated  from each other.
Based on the sieve sizes, sorting typically yields the following grades: leaf tea, broken tea, fannings and dust. Typically, the smaller the leaf, the stronger the infusion.
Tea is a natural product, which is created by reducing its moisture content. It should be stored in a cool and dry area. Tea maintains its original flavor when kept in a tightly sealed container, away from powerfully smelling food items such as spices.


Green Tea Production


Green Tea differs from black tea merely by not being fermented, other words not altered by oxidation. The manufacturing process is generally the same until the end of the withering process. Throughout green tea production, tea tannins and enzymes are destroyed by steaming or roasting after the withering. Before the rolling starts, tea is "steamed” or "pan-fried" and then rolled and dried. This guarantees that the leaves will not change their color, they will remain olive-green. The color of infusion varies depending on the kind of green tea, cultivation region, and plucking period and can be anything from light yellow to dark green.


CTC-Production


This term means: crushing, tearing, curling.

This technique starts by withering the green leaves, then rolling them once before they are torn in the CTC machines in between thrones rollers. This method makes sure that the cells are broken up more extensively and rapidly compared to the orthodox tea production. CTC tea has the most intensive color and greater yielding. The stems and leaf ribs are removed, only the cut "flesh" of the green leaves is processed further. After this process, tea is delivered into the fermentation area. Depending on the preferred leaf size, this procedure is repeated numerous times.
During the CTC-Production, primarily fanning is made, no leaf teas and only very few broken teas. Therefore, CTC teas are very appropriate for tea bags. In the present day, 50% of tea produced in India and almost 100% in Kenya by using the CTC technique. In Darjeeling, however, only orthodox tea is manufactured.

The most essential grades are:
BP = Broken Pekoe
PF= Pekoe Fannings
PD = Pekoe Dust

What Is The Difference Between Tea In The Bag And Loose Leaf Tea

While we all find ourselves cornered by stresses of daily life, we do find time to enjoy subtle little pleasures, and that’s how you find yourself at the loose leaf tea blog. However, you ask yourself what’s the big difference between tea in the bag and loose teas; while both have their drawbacks they both have their benefits. The difference is convenience and tasteful experience.


When it comes to drinking tea, it is important to keep in mind that tea bags are recent invention compared to tea itself. While teabags went commercially around 1904, tea became a common drink during Qin Dynasty (around 200 BC). However, both teabags and tea have evolved since their origin.


Teabags


Teabags main advantage is their convenience compared to the loose leaf tea; the brewing, clean-up, and storage are all the highlights of teabags. And with today’s innovations teabags are made of different materials and come in different shapes allowing different properties to the brewing process. The reason for improvement in the design is due to flaws that teabags bring to the table and that is: due to size of the teabag only lower grade teas can be packed in them, flavor cannot flow evenly, and overall benefits of the loose leaf tea are lost in the tightly packed confines of a teabag.


Loose leaf teas


As the name suggests loose leaf tea has no confines. It gives the entire flavor of the tea leaf into the cup of delicious tea you are brewing. Loose leaf tea at this point is a tradition, and the flavor it brings to the table is unparalleled. While the tending to loose leaf tea might be seem difficult, it is what preserves its flavor and health benefits. It is important to understand that the loose leaf tea is minimally processed and preserves stronger/better aroma and taste unlike its tea bag counterpart.

Conclusion


While it might seem tough to decide between teabag and loose leaf teas, it is no brainer if you really want to submerge yourself in the world of teas; loose leaf teas all the way. While brewing process might expose few hurdles, it also allows greater control over quantity, aroma, color, and taste of the tea. Lastly today’s innovation make drinking loose leaf tea much easier than you might think there are plenty of devices such as Magic Tea Filter, and many others that allow you the benefit of loose leaf tea with easy clean up.