Japanese Tea Culture

by ESP Tea Lover 2. April 2012 11:01

Believe it or not, most of the tea traditions and rituals that are practiced by the Japanese people today originated in China many, many years ago. These rituals and customs were brought to Japan by monks that were in China studying. Fast forward to modern day and you will see that the main type of tea that is consumed by the Japanese public is green tea in a powder form or oolong tea that originated in China.


It was way back in the ninth century when the first monk returned from China with knowledge of tea. However, it was not until the twelfth century when tea really became somewhat popular in this part of the world. The powdered green tea was placed into a bowl that had hot water added to it. Next, it was mixed together to produce the earliest form of green tea. In addition to that, some of the monks that introduced tea to Japan also brought tea seeds back with them from China. These seeds were responsible for producing some of the best quality Japanese teas of this period.


At first, the powdered green tea that the monks brought back with them was used mainly for religious rituals or medicinal purposes. However, before long it was determined that tea drinking was to become a status symbol amongst the upper class citizens of Japan. Because of this early tea tasting parties developed where the participants could win big prizes just by guessing what the best quality tea was.


The basic Japanese tea ceremony began to evolve and develop hundreds of years ago. Specifically, wabi-sabi is a Japanese tea ritual that is somewhat sacred. The wabi is thought to represent the spiritual experiences of the human life whereas the sabi is thought to represent the outside experiences of life. When you put these two things together you are to have a nice experience that is sacred. Wabi-sabi is supposed to be experienced when drinking tea in Japan as there should be a subdued state of mind along with a spiritual awakening. The whole Japanese tea ceremony is a spiritual practice that is thought to help cleanse the mind, body and soul.


By the 1500’s the ritual of drinking tea had spread all over Japan. It was a ritual that was not only for the rich but also for anyone that had the means to partake. This meant that more and more families were getting involved with tea customs and tea culture. The end result of this involvement was the further development and enhancement of some popular traditions that are still being observed to date. Without the popularity of tea culture during this time period there is a chance that Japanese tea rituals would not be what they are today. For many people this may be hard to imagine as tea is such a large part of the lives of many people in this area of the world.


Since tea culture is so popular in Japan there are actually groups of people that get together in order to study it. These groups meet on a regular basis to talk about the different traditions and rituals that are present. The traditions and rituals are discussed and interpreted with an open mind at these meetings. Believe it or not there are dedicated tea schools in Japan that focus on the study of local tea traditions. Students that attend these schools usually pay a monthly fee that covers the cost of the tea as well as any complimentary equipment or books. The teachers at the schools will always be dressed in traditional Japanese outfits that fit the era being discussed. While most schools allow the students to be dressed casually, in some cases they will allow a student to wear the schools mark. Being granted permission to wear this mark means that you are a high level student that has a deep understanding and regard for the local tea traditions. In general, the newer students start out by observing the practices of the older students. In fact, the newer students may be taught much of what they know by the more advanced students instead of the teacher. These advanced students are the ones that are taught directly by the teacher. New students will learn about tea but they will also be taught about things such as how to enter a tea room in Japan, how to correctly open and close sliding doors and even who to bow to when they enter a room filled with people.

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Tea Culture in Taiwan

by ESP Tea Lover 21. February 2012 21:52

In Taiwan, loose leaf tea was first used as a medicinal plant. However, over the years it has developed into much more than that. The main reasons why tea has developed into something meant for relaxation is mainly because of who inhabited Taiwan in its early days. The Taiwanese tea culture can be traced back hundreds of years and has similarities to Dutch, Chinese and Japanese tea cultures.


The Dutch occupied Taiwan for about forty years in the 1600’s. They used the area as a trade post between China and Europe. Importantly, tea was introduced to Europeans by the Dutch and simultaneously left an impression on the people of Taiwan. Tea was grown by the Dutch on a very small scale in Taiwan during the time that they occupied the area but most of the tea that the Dutch consumed in the area was imported to them. At the time of the Dutch occupation, it is thought that there were a large number of Chinese immigrants that began to move into the area. These immigrants were believed to bring with them a good supply of tea seedlings in addition to their unique tea culture. Mass production of tea did not begin in Taiwan until the mid to late 1800’s. The local Chinese farmers began to grow the tea in large volumes and even established a tea factory in 1868. Believe it or not, shortly thereafter tea was exported to New York in the United States. Because of this, tea was one of the most important export commodities for the people of Taiwan. Tea simply became a daily beverage and way of life to the people. Like in other cultures, it is always offered on special occasions such as family gatherings or birthdays.


Much of the current tea culture in Taiwan comes from Japanese influence. The Japanese occupied the area from around 1900 to the end of World War II. While there, the Japanese organized the production of tea as well as the industry as a while. They were responsible for the promotion of Taiwanese tea to the world and expanding its market. At this time the Japanese inhabitants developed testing facilities for tea that were responsible for developing some of the world’s most popular flavors. To this day many of them are still very popular all around the globe. At the end of the war the Japanese had to give control of Taiwan back to the people of China. The Chinese further developed the tea culture from that point in time until present day. This unique culture is what has helped to make Taiwanese tea as popular as it is today.


In Taiwan, the typical family owns a minimum of one set of teaware that is used at home. In fact, many families own more than one set for use depending on the occasion. The teapots are used to brew tea until the surface area of the pot becomes a bright color. This is raising the teapot, which is all part of the culture. Raising the pot is a tradition that is believed to add beauty to the process. A nice collection of teaware can generally be found at any store in Taiwan. It is important to note that there are many other pieces of teaware that are important in addition to the pot.


Things such as a decanting vessel are necessary and used to make sure that the tea has the proper flavor as well as level of consistency. Other things such as a tray should be present in order to hold spills should there be an accident. All of these items are necessary in order for tea to be served properly. Since the tea culture is so important it is necessary to get the process of making and serving tea correct. In fact, serving tea in Taiwan is thought to be something that is done to show respect to your guests. That said, getting the process correct is of the utmost importance. Depending on who your guests are it may even be necessary to serve the tea with your finest teaware as you want to make a good impression on them.


Tea culture in Taiwan is something that has been influenced by other cultures all across the world. These influences have helped create a totally unique culture that is valued by the people that live in this country. The culture of tea in Taiwan is ever developing and will remain strong for years to come.

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Moroccan Tea Culture

by Elena Popec 31. January 2012 23:47

Moroccan tea culture can be defined as the way loose leaf tea is prepared and consumed in Morocco itself. In many cases the tea that is used is green tea as opposed to another form of tea that can be found somewhere else in the region. Moroccan tea culture has become so popular that it has spread through other parts of North Africa as well as parts of Southern Spain.


In Morocco tea is thought to be a very important part of society and culture. Because of this the tea culture is generally described as an art form. The popularity of tea in this area is one of the major reasons why Morocco is one of the biggest importers of tea in the world. Considering the fact that tea is relatively new in Morocco it is hard to believe that it is so well respected. Tea was not introduced to the area until the 1700’s. By this time people were already developing tea traditions and culture in different countries all over the world. However, it was not until this time when trade really began to become popular between Morocco and Europe. By the mid 1800’s the tea industry in Morocco was really growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, there is even a story that royalty from Morocco was bribed with tea in sugar in exchange for releasing European prisoners. This shows just how sought after tea was in Moroccan culture in the early days.


To date, the main provider of tea to Morocco is still China. The fact of the matter is that it has been estimated that Morocco usually imports over 50-million dollars’ worth of Chinese tea every six months or so. This number is astronomical when you consider that the population of Morocco is much smaller than the population of other countries that the Chinese export tea to. Even though the population is small, Morocco is thought to be the first and best importer of Chinese green tea in the world.


One of the things that makes tea so unique in Morocco is that it is really rather difficult to prepare. The method of preparation is much more involved than in other parts of the world. For starters, there is generally a large lump of hard sugar used along with fresh mint. These are actually two of the most important ingredients there are. The tea itself is cleansed with boiling water that is thought to remove any imperfections from the tea as well as help it taste more pure. The tea leaves and the boiling water are combined together and boiled for a few more minutes in order to prepare for the sugar. The sugar and even the mint are now added and mixed together in a teapot with a long spout. Using a teapot with a long spout will allow the tea to be poured into multiple small glasses for consumption.


If you are interested in learning more about tea culture in Morocco then you can visit one of the tea houses that are indigenous to the area. Most large cities will have several tea houses that will serve you the best local teas as well as the most popular teas from around the world- including China. The tea houses in Morocco are general known for having a relaxing atmosphere where you can sit quietly and be alone with your thoughts. While you are there you may want to sample one of the local pastries or cookies that are baked to go along with the tea itself. These pastries are specially made to compliment the taste and aroma of some of the best tea in Morocco.


Tea in Morocco is also used as a way to get families to spend more time together. Tea will be served at most important family functions such as weddings and birthday parties. The fact that tea is present will signify that the event taking place is important. The host of the event will be responsible for making sure that everyone in attendance gets to enjoy the tea. Making sure that each person has tea is a way to show respect to your guests. This is a very important part of Moroccan tea culture. If you do not make sure that everyone is taken care of there is a chance that they will become insulted with you. In Morocco you have to make sure that you are observing tea traditions in order to guarantee you are well received and respected by your guests.

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Korea And Its Way Of Tea

by ESP Tea Lover 28. December 2011 19:45

Believe it or not, the first documented tea ritual in Korea was recorded in the year 661. Loose leaf tea was used as an offering to the spirits in hopes that they would provide protection even in the afterlife. These types of rituals were also common with the spirits of well thought of monks all the way into the fourteenth century. The rituals would take place in temples and could last several hours or even days! In addition, most of these rituals were overseen by high ranking officials to ensure that they were executed properly. Over the last several hundred years the Korean tea drinking rituals have been developed and evolving to the point where they are typically used just for special occasions. In fact, the rite to have tea was made a national rite that was made available to all residents of the country. This type of rite is not present in other countries that do not take tea drinking as seriously. Over history there have been periods of decline in the ceremonial tea rituals of Korea. However, each time there was a decline it was followed up with a period of great interest. This fact alone shows how serious the people of Korea are in regard to the tea rituals that they hold so dear. No matter what the circumstances surrounding the decline in tea drinking it has always seemed to make a comeback is it is central to the core values of the people.


The interesting thing about Korean tea ceremonies is that they seem to follow along with the seasons.  Because of this, the way in which the tea is served varies greatly depending on what time of year it is. However, for the most part tea is always served with the assistance of bowls and cups. Much of the time the bowls and cups are green with images and designs on them for decoration. There are, however, instances where the cups and bowls are different colors. For example, special situations may call for a bronze or white cups and bowls. In the summer months the bowls that are used are about 5-centimeters high and 12-centimeters wide. These dimensions are important because it allows for quick cooling of boiling water as there is more surface area that is exposed. The boiling water is cooled in the bowl and then emptied into a teapot. In Korea, the water is cooled because pouring water that is too hot over the tea will make the product taste bitter. In the fall and winter the bowls are taller and narrower so that they could maintain the internal heat without cooling too much. The tea would be made the same way that is made in the summer- the water is poured into a teapot making sure that it is not too hot so the taste does not become bitter.


It should be noted that the way in which the tea is consumed is unique and unlike most other tea cultures. In short, the approach to tea is less ritualistic than other places. The emphasis is on relaxing and enjoying the tea. In other cultures the emphasis may be on the technique that was used in making it and even the way in which it is to be consumed.  Because of this, the Korean teahouses are all a bit different in design and styles. For example, some will offer food along with the tea while others will not. The teaware that is used can also vary from teahouse to teahouse as there is not strict guidelines that must be adhered to. The thing that is common in all the teahouses in Korea is that the best local water is used to brew the tea. Some teahouses in Korea even go as far as to develop their own springs where they can harvest high quality water. The water is taken from the spring, boiled and then immediately used in the tea making process. This ensures that the taste of the tea is natural and that it is unique to the area that the tea is being consumed in.


Tea has always been served in Korea on special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. The tea signifies the importance of the event as well as makes it memorable. Most often the tea will be served with some other type of cake or pastry for the guests to enjoy. At the party the host or hostess is in charge of making sure that all the guests have the tea just how they want it. This is a sign of showing respect to the guests that you have invited to the party.

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Tea Culture in China

by ESP Tea Lover 30. November 2011 11:56

Tea culture in China is completely unique in the way that it is prepared, consumed as well as presented. The fact of the matter is that tea is consumed on a regular basis in China regardless of if the occasion is formal or not. The Chinese view tea as a major part of their way of life as well as their history. Chinese tea culture has developed over centuries to the point where it is very refined. In today’s day and age there are many customs that are practiced in regard to tea drinking in China.


One of the biggest reasons why tea is consumed in China is as a sign of respect. It is a common practice for a young person to offer tea to an older person in Chinese society. This is done out of respect for the older generation. In a formal occasion a younger person should never expect an older person to pour them a cup of tea. For example, a mother may pour her children tea at home but when out in public the children would pour the tea for the mother. This ritual is well regarded in Chinese society and is always practiced in formal situations. Even though china is becoming more liberal, this is till practiced all across the country.


Another time when tea is served in China is at a family gathering. The tea is the center point of the gathering as it gives families a reason to get together. In china, parents rarely see their children after they grow up and move away. That said, emphasizing tea gives them a reason to get back together. On Sundays most family restaurants in china are crowded as there are families drinking tea together. The tea drinking is a reflection of the Chinese emphasis in regard to family values.


If you have done something wrong that you wish to apologize for it would also be appropriate to pour tea for that person. Tea is seen as a way to apologize for a serious offense. You would want to include tea if you are sincerely apologizing to a sibling or spouse for a misfortune. An example of this is if a child pours tea for the parent. The child is showing that they are regretful of their actions and that they wish to apologize. Without the use of tea the apology can be considered insincere by the person receiving it.


If you are getting married in China tea is used to express thanks on the day of the marriage. In a Chinese wedding the bride and the groom will actually kneel down before their parents and serve tea to them. This is the Chinese way of showing your parents how thankful you are for everything that they have done for you in the past. After the tea is served the bride and groom will say a few kind words and the parents will drink the tea. After the tea is consumed the parents will give the bride and groom a red envelope which symbolizes good luck in the future. In a later tea ceremony you may see the bride serving tea to the groom’s parents. This symbolizes that she has become part of the family. In addition, tea at weddings in china can be used as a way for people to introduce themselves. The bride and groom may serve tea to everyone in attendance in order to get to know them a little bit better. If a family member does not drink the tea that you serve it shows that they do not want you in the family. On the other hand, if they do drink the tea it shows the highest level of acceptance.


A final tea ritual performed in China is the folding of a napkin when drinking the tea. It is believed that folding the napkin is a way to keep bad energy away from the married couple. Since tea was regarded as a daily necessity it was important to do this as bad energy would interfere with it. The other daily necessities that the Chinese observe is firewood, oil, rice, soy sauce, salt, medicine and cuisine.

The use of tea in Chinese society is very important to all. It is consumed whenever and wherever it can be. The bottom line is that the Chinese rely on tea as a way of life- without it there would be a major loss in terms of tradition and culture that has been observed in China for many generations.

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Tea Culture in Europe

by ESP Tea Lover 23. November 2011 10:14

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.

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