Little-Known Form of Tea Dying Out in Hong Kong

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Hakka Tea, as it is called, is a dying form of tea in Hong Kong. The tea consists of pounded tea leaves and a variety of other ingredients, such as peanuts, salt, puffed rice and sesame seeds. Other ingredients are also often added to give the tea different nutrients and flavours. By consuming Hakka tea, a person is able to both drink and eat at the same time, making it ideal for snacks.

Despite the tea having been around for centuries, it is currently in a slump. Only some members of the older generation continue to make it, and many of the Hong Kong locals do not know of its existence.

You can read more about Hakka tea here: http://rachanahkbu.wordpress.com/2014/05/18/hakka-tea-in-hong-kong-fades-into-oblivoi/comment-page-1/#comment-7

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The French and Their Tea

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An interesting article appeared on the BBC’s website in April; it was about France and French teas in comparison with Britain and their treatment of tea. As it turns out, France is reentering the tea market and is quickly becoming famous for their unique and beautiful blends.

The strange thing is, France once upon a time had a tea habit that seriously rivaled the English tea consumption rate. However, as time went on it eventually extinguished to the point where it was very difficult to find a good-quality cup. Only aristocrats and very unwell people drank it on any sort of regular basis, and good tea had to be almost exclusively self-imported.

You can read all about France’s tea story in the BBC article, here: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26962095

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Steeping in Egypt

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Although one might first overlook tea having any importance in Egypt at all, when one actually looks at the facts, there is something very interesting indeed. Tea is Egypt’s national drink.

But when do you ever hear about Egyptian tea? Not much; most know that tea is celebrated all throughout South East Asia as well as certain parts of the Middle East, although the continent of Africa is rarely mentioned. The key, of course, lies in Egypt’s relative proximity to the Middle East; a near direct line of contact can be made between the Egyptian edge of Africa and the Asian mainland.

Known as “shai”, tea is considered in Egypt to be even greater than coffee. However, in spite of this much of the country’s tea intake is made up of imports; although it may be packed and sold in Egypt, often times it is grown in other countries, such as Sri Lanka and Kenya. Now, however, it is recognised as somewhat of a “cash crop”, and is being grown in larger batches around the country.

Aside from actual tea, Egypt has also shown to be particularly fond of mint teas, along with much of the Middle East.

A Pot Full of Memories

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Made from a special clay found only in the city of Yixing, China, this extraordinary teapot possesses the ability to absorb the flavours of the teas inside it over a number of years.

Those who have the privilege of owning and using one over many years are said to be able to brew tea simply by adding plain, boiling water to the pot.

Before the teapot is made, the mined-out clay is left in the sun in the form of large rocks after extraction to weather. This process will take in excess of a year before the clay is ready to be pounded into a powder and sieved to remove impurities. The clay is then placed in a large fresh water tank for three days, and is then allowed to dry out under sunlight. Finally, before it is ready to be sold, excess moisture is drawn out of the product using a vacuum processor.

Such preparation seems excessive, but it doesn’t end there. The potter artisan must make time for a further two days of processing, which involves pounding the clay with a wooden mallet while every so often adding some water, until there are no air pockets to be seen.

With such a lengthy process and renowned tea-brewing capabilities, Yixing teapots are not nearly as expensive as they might sound at first glance. The unfortunate truth, however, is that while commonplace in China, much of the Western World is unfamiliar with them.

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A History of Tea Drinking in Russia, Part 2

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Traditional Russian tea caravans began to die out in the 1880’s, after work on the Trans-Siberian Railway had begun and the first leg was complete. The Trans-Siberian Railway was a great asset to the ongoing tea trade between Russia and China, in which merchants would have to suffer through long treks that could take up to a year and a half. This reduced the overall importation time to under a fortnight in length, making it the prime method of transport.

Russian tea caravans were made completely defunct by the railway by 1925, and during Chinese tea’s decline in the 1900’s, alternate sources were sought out, including those from London and Odessa.

Much like in the British Isles, Russia gained a taste for drinking its tea with milk and sugar. A trend in the 1900’s was to hold a cube of sugar between one’s teeth and to drink the tea through it. Lemon is also commonly served with tea.

Despite centuries of traditionally using only black tea, recent statistics in Russia are showing an increase in the consumption of green tea, whilst black tea consumption remains stable.

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A History of Tea Drinking in Russia, Part 1

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With the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games under way, there is much to be said about Russia. Many don’t realise, however, that Russia has a long history of drinking tea – even longer than Britain, believe it or not – and the country itself still greatly appreciates a good cup of tea to this very day.

A good 100 years before Britain got its first taste of steeped heaven, Russia was importing tea from China. The rest of Europe would have to wait as Russia developed a bustling and thriving culture of serving tea.

During the 19th century, tea had become so strongly associated with the people of Russia that despite the fact tea was produced in China, certain types of black tea were known as “Russian” teas anyway. Russian Caravan is a traditional black tea and is known for its smoky character. It received its name due to its method of importation; generally via caravans led by camels. Black tea is still the most popular tea in Russia, however many residents are now drinking green tea as well.

Perhaps the biggest reason for Russia’s rich culture in tea is its climate; cold days high up in the Northern Hemisphere chill to the bone, but tea is one of the best and tastiest ways to warm up from the inside. Tea has had a profound affect on the Russian way of life since it was introduced in 1638; the Chinese Emperor from West Mongolia first presented the Russian Czar with tea as a gift, however it was refused. The Czar saw no apparent use for “a load of dead leaves”, however eventually accepted upon the Emperor’s insistence. And thus Russia’s tea culture began.

Getting to Russia from China, however, was no simple matter. It was a difficult slog from start to finish, and the harsh conditions importers faced meant that many turned down the offer despite demand. Russian aristocrats were therefore the first to serve the drink and make it acceptable within Russian culture, as its limited supply resulted in skyrocketing prices that few could afford.

When Russia marked sovereignty over Siberia in 1689, however, a tea trade route was created which made it easier for traders. Catherine the Great was the real pioneer in tea importation, however; by the time she had died in 1796, she had ordered the importation of so much tea that class and expense was no longer an issue. Even low-class workers could afford and enjoy the serenity that came with a good cup of loose-leaf tea.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this post on tea in Russia! Throughout the Olympic Games we will be creating a number of other Russia-themed posts, including more Russian tea history and all about the samovar.

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The Story of Jhentea and its Family History

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Jhentea is a teashop in Taiwan that has a fascinating history, with four generations of tea experts and production in Taiwan, after their ancestors, Hon Chen’s offspring, escaped from Communist China. It began as a small family business cultivating tea in the Fujian Province, with great-great-grandfather Hon Chen – a very well-known and respected tea master within the local community. Chen’s offspring had already expanded small parts of this business in Taiwan when communist rule overcame China, and were fortunate enough to be able to escape there. Their main trade was Wu-Yi tea plants that grew to create beautiful oolong teas. This business grew such that it was able to trade with global customers.

The first tea garden to be owned in Taiwan by the family was bought by Li Chen, Hon Chen’s son. It cost 2 Dragon Dollars (a currency used in China long ago) and was on Taipei’s mountainside. Taiwan’s beautiful climate had made it renowned as a land of new opportunity, and its weather complimented the art of growing tea beautifully. In this tea garden, Wu-Yi and Oolong was cultivated, despite not being native to the region – the climate was still ideal.

Japanese rule became a big problem for many residents in Taiwan, bringing with it waves of hardship and fear. As a result, the family, led by Li’s son, Jeder Chen, moved their production of tea to a different side of Taipei Mountain. They settled in a mountainous region of Yi Lan, and began to plant. A small community had formed in an effort to hide out here, and much effort and community spirit went into helping each other through the hardship.

Jeder had fled to the mountainous region of Yi Lan with Dong Lai Chen, his second wife. It was there they raised 7 children together, however after the true hardship of Japanese rule was over, Jeder Chen returned with his first wife. Dong Lai Chen was left on the plantation and raised her children alone, each learning and doing what they could manage on the plantation. Through her experience and knowledge, Dong Lai became the first female tea master in the region – however as a female, she was forced to work hard to gain a reputation among other tea masters.

Full-production of tea was reassumed after 1942, when the Japanese occupation was nearly over and Chiang Kai-Shek assumed power. Tea had become a valuable trade commodity, and Taiwan’s oolong teas became some of the most highly-regarded all over the world.

Fu Chen, Dong Lai’s eldest daughter, became the major cultivator in the Chen family tea garden, while 4 out of the other 6 siblings became involved in the family’s legacy as well. Fu Chen became the second female tea master in the family, and opened the Chen family’s first shop. She married SeHo Fang, who had a vision for a retail store, as well as the branding of their crop. It was named Long Yuan, similar to “dragon dollar” in Chinese.

Fu Chen’s beautiful teas won many competitions, and was a regular entrant. Her daughter, Ai Fang, was brought up in the way of tea and became the family’s third female tea master, continuing four generations of valuable tea knowledge and exceptional cultivation.

Ai Fang is particularly concerned with educating her customers about everything related to tea, and has a modern view of the world. Her daughter, Kuei Fang, became an artist and travelled to New York – however she discovered that what her family created was quite rare, and so much effort was rarely put into a good cup of tea as her family had done. In response to this, she and Ai entered a rebranding project of Long Yuan into Jhentea, to bring the shop into the modern age. It is their wish for this to help bring Ai Chen’s story and knowledge of tea onto a worldwide platform, so that even more people can appreciate tea.

You can find out more about Jhentea at http://www.jhentea.com/our-story/

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