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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Tea Service Upgrades for Marriott Guests

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One of the largest hotel chains in America, Marriott, recently celebrated opening their 4,000 hotel with an acknowledgement to the quickly growing number of international guests from China.

In an effort to better accommodate the Chinese people, Marriott is now also employing Chinese-speaking staff and offering Chinese-style tea service, along with several other upgrades to make them feel right at home.

You can read more about this story at http://www.worldteanews.com/news/marriott-upgrades-tea-service-chinese#sthash.UW2OzV1y.

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Selling Tea to China – No, Really

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It is no secret that China has market dominance when it comes to tea, followed closely by India and Japan. China produces so much tea, and in so many different varieties, that it caters for palettes the world over. In addition to that, it has generations of tea farmers who have passed down ancient and heavily-refined tea processing techniques to their children, thus giving their tea an edge that very few other countries could ever hope to match. With access to the wondrous, mountainous areas of the Himalaya, to ideal soils and large amounts of land from which to harvest, China truly understands the importance of its thriving tea export market.

So, the question is begged: Is it actually possible – under any circumstances – to sell tea to China?

This phrase tends to be thrown around when someone is seen as an exceptionally good salesperson. Compare and contrast “Selling ice to the Eskimos”, which I can guarantee is going to be harder still than selling tea to China. And yet, the question still hangs in the air.

This may surprise you to know, but one clever British woman is doing exactly that. And she is doing it by selling Chinese tea connoisseurs experiences that may only be seen outside of the Chinese market. It seems a little silly, really, that with China’s love affair with tea that very few are exporting more exotic teas into the country. In fact, it seems, selling tea to China is shockingly easy, with China on average spending even more on tea than we Westerners manage to spend on alcohol.

Let that statistic sink in for a moment. Think about the sort of drinking cultures we have here, especially in the UK and Australia: Binge drinking is common among youth, and people who choose not to drink at all are apparently “strange”, for some reason. Alcohol has pervaded our society with unimaginable breadth – and it definitely isn’t cheap. Despite this, despite the fact that you could probably die from over-consumption of tea if you spent (and proceeded to consume) the same amount as you would for scotch, China still makes more money per capita on tea than we do on alcohol.
That’s staggering.
Now we’re starting to see the bigger picture, but this doesn’t include incredibly rare and special teas, which can become very expensive indeed. However, these aren’t for the average consumer – these teas are in limited supply and do not make up a large market share. Many average Chinese consumers still crave for a taste of the exotic – even if less expensive varieties of exotic would be favoured.
I will leave this analysis with one final question, one that you may be asking yourself right now:
Why aren’t more people selling tea to China?
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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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An Exciting Offer in Tea Education

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An exciting opportunity has come about in the tea world recently, thanks to the hard efforts of the ITEI, or Internation Tea Education Institute. Hosted by four tea experts – Sylvana Levesque, Brigitte Horrenberger, Susan Peters and Sandy Li – a 10 day intensive is being held in Zhejiang Province, China, where you can learn about Chinese teas in a way that no other educational experience could hope to provide.

Students will take part in a large variety of educational tea activities from renowned local producers, growers, and experts. Focused on will be the famous Chinese green tea Dragon Well, or Long Jing.

The tour begins on September 15, 2014, and continues for a total of 10 days and 9 nights.

Included in the cost of the tour:

  • 10 days and 9 nights in the Hangzhou region of Zhejiang Province. Beautiful five-star hotel accommodations are provided throughout the tour
  • Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner are all provided daily
  • Transport to all locations in the tour, including to and from Hangzhou Airport
  • A professional photographer to document your learning experience, as well as four tea experts to guide and educate you
  • All activities, entrance fees, etc. are included
  • An “Advanced Certificate for Education in Chinese Tea Study & Travel” will be awarded to each student upon their completion of the tour

Not included:

  • Airfares (this allows students to extend their trip beyond the tour dates).
  • Travel insurance

A tuition fee of $4,250 for ITEI and CTMA (Canadian Tea Masters Association) members, or $4,475 for non-members. Further details will be announced soon and displayed on the ITEI website in the tea tours section. For bookings and more information, please feel free to contact Sylvana P. Levesque, at info@i-tei.org.

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The History of Afternoon Tea

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Afternoon tea has its roots going back to the 1800s, where it is thought to have been invented by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford. Since during that time there were only two generally accepted meals throughout the day (one at the beginning and the other at the end), the Duchess found that a “sinking feeling” would become apparent, from hunger and fatigue. To combat this feeling, she decided that she’d invite some of her friends over for a light meal of tea and snacks. This began afternoon tea as a very exclusive meal to high society.

Afternoon tea was also enjoyed by the lower-middle class, but not nearly as often as people belonging to higher classes; long working schedules and a lack of money often prevented this meal from taking place.

After Duchess Anna began holding her afternoon tea and snacks as a daily ritual, the upper-class of Britain took hold and began offering their own afternoon teas. They would invite their friends to lounge around their gardens during the summer and drink tea, eat tiny cakes, enjoy finger sandwiches, and slather scones in cream and jam. The ritual was a slice of decadence, but was treated as more of a snack than a meal; it was only ever meant to fill the gap between lunch and dinner.

Britain during the 1800s was a place where women were expected to have rule of the house, while men were expected to work. Women would usually leave the house with a male escort, as they were considered far too delicate to be out on their own. Teahouses would serve tea to those with their escorts, but a woman without a man by her side would not be served. Therefore, many women decided to play out the ritual of afternoon tea within their own homes, still avoiding much contact with the outside world but still able to meet with her friends. Afternoon tea would often be served at 3:30pm.

Afternoon tea had very strict rules of etiquette, to the point where many people nowadays would question the need for them. However, they were followed near-religiously by the British, and a violation of etiquette during afternoon tea would be considered quite rude, indeed (see Afternoon Tea Etiquette).

Today, afternoon tea has taken quite a fall from where it previously stood. In Britain it is rarely served every day, even by the economic elite. This is due at least partially to the fact that women are no longer considered as delicate, and are allowed to go out and work without being subjected to social ridicule. Many women simply aren’t home during the time afternoon tea is served, and the rush of life itself often robs people of the time to conduct it even when not at work. Thus, it has become a tradition that is rarely practiced except on weekends, and even then only by the especially eager. Special occasions, however, will often still involve an afternoon tea.

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Other Theories on the Origin of Tea

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Similar stories to the tale of Shen-Nung have cropped up from within Chinese tradition; while it is unknown if any of these legends have a true basis in fact, their effect upon Chinese culture and the origins of tea itself remains worthy of remark.

Another tea origin tale about Shen-Nung also sprung forth into legend, this time particularly due to his qualities as a herbalist. It is told that he wished to unlock any medical properties and applications particular herbs would offer, and so he would, almost without discrimination, pick the leaves, roots and stems from plants and chew them. Tea was among the herbs found, however the curious emperor would sometimes chew upon a poisonous plant variety. He soon found that, apparently, tea worked as a good remedy for the poison he had consumed.

Similar legend – originally found in Cha Jing, a very early manuscript by Lu Yu – has recorded the above myth but with the God of Agriculture in place of Shen-Nung.

The only other well-known myth that does not depict Shen-Nung (or what could very well be a form of him, as with the fabled God of Agriculture described by Lu Yu) is a rather irksome myth that appears to have first been told from within the Tang Dynasty. This dynasty stretched from the years 618 to 907 AD. In this legend, the founder of Chan Buddhism, Bodhidharma, was under a very strict meditation regime that had lasted for nine years in front of a wall. He ended this session when he accidentally fell asleep, and when he woke up again he became ashamed by his weakness. He then made the assertion that if he couldn’t close his eyes, then he wouldn’t have nearly as much of an issue with accidentally falling asleep again, and so cut off his very own eyelids as a preventative measure. These eyelids were then left abandoned on the ground, where they grew roots and became the first seeds of tea bushes. Two tea plants then grew where Bodhidharma’s eyelids once lay.

Much in the same manner that the God of Agriculture took the place of Shen-Nung during his medical-property testing myth, the Guatama Buddha sometimes takes the place of Bodhidharma in the previous myth.

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