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The transformation of Chinese tea from a local produce to a modern luxury

buy Chinese teaWe have witnessed the traditional Chinese tea, green tea, white tea, Oolong tea, Pu-erh tea and all others transforming from a country folk’s staple food to a luxury item today during our life time from aspects more than one.

A bit of history

My grandmother was a classic villager resided in a small country village in the Fu-Jian Province, the tea country of China. Following are some of my memories of the tea consumption when I was growing up in her village.

My grandfather died when my grandmother was in her late 20’s. For a woman like her of that time in China without a husband, the alternative name was extreme poverty as women simply did not have ‘jobs’. For rich for poor, teas however companied her for all her life.

Like many other villagers of her time, the first thing she would do when she got up in the morning was to get ready for a pot of tea for after breakfast. The teas were mostly locally produced, in her case mostly green tea and Oolong tea, and purchased from the local market with all other local produces. Tea was a must have every day. When visitors dropped in without any warning (phones were not available), the first thing she did was to put the kettle on and get the teapot ready for a pot of tea to share. Tea was a way of everyday life, not just for the rich.
The costs of teas have sky rocketed since largely due to the increased demand, in China and worldwide. This increase of prices affects categories of all Chinese teas: green tea, white tea, yellow tea, Oolong tea, black tea and Pu-erh tea.

A Luxury for aspects more than one

Apart from the price increase, the is also another element of ‘out of reach’ that is much ignored, which is TIME. I have had so many inquiries for methods to: brew teas while customers are waiting; reduce tea temperature quickly so that the customer can consume immediately; tea bags suitable for those who are on the go and the list goes on. A crucial aspect of tea enjoyment with is sitting down, take time to share a pot of tea with families and friends over a chat, unnoticeably disappears into the history.

As a Chinese decedent who is proud of my inheritance, tea, not as a product but a culture, is one of the few that I wish we could turn the clock back a few decades. Off the treadmill of the modern life style and take time to enjoy a humble pot of tea like my grandmother’s generation did.

Additional note

Ironically, one of the reasons that the popularity of tea is rapidly increasing worldwide is their potential to combat ‘modern life style related health conditions’, such as cancers, cardio-vascular-diseases, overweight and diabetes etc. How much weight can the humble teas pull remains to be determined. This reminds me of a Chinese humour regarding our current lifestyle: the companies pay with money and we pay with our lives.

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Tea and mediation

I grew up in China with tea being a food and a way of life. There is even a term for it: 口粮茶 – staple tea.

I have however often wondered as why tea is associated with meditation and other spiritual practices, in the past and today, China and abroad. After some reading recently, the connection is clear.

Tea and Buddhist diet

tea and buddha monkBuddhism was first introduced to China during the Han Dynasty and meditation was part of the core practice. Buddhist monks mediated for long periods day and night. Their diet was constituted of vegetarian and none-alcoholic ingredients. Tea was considered to be an essential for the purpose of enhancing the alertness during the meditation, health and well being and even long longevity by many Buddhist monks.

High mountain green teas

After the Buddhism was first introduced to China, the religion was flourishing and many temples were built on remote high mountains as a way of 'entering' an elevated spiritual space. The monks would immediately clear the land around the temples and start cultivating to generate the means for survival in such remote places. Tea was one of the essentials.

For example:

Lu Shan (Mt Lu) of the Jiang-Xi Province was once a major Buddhist centre. The famous Chinese green tea Lu Shan Yun Wu (Mt Lu misty green) is believed to be a speciality of a temple in Mt Lu, where the famous Buddhist monk Hui-Yuan lived for 30 years.

Tea’s other connections to Buddhism and Buddhist activities

  1. The most known tea legend Lu Yu was raised in a temple as an orphan since he was 3 years old
  2. The green tea seeds were first brought to Japan in 805 AD by a Japanese monk Zui-Cheng upon his return from a visit to the Chinese tramples. This marked the beginning of the Japanese green teas

Tea is truly a fascinating product. Its historical significance is far beyond a merely daily beverage.

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A cup of black tea for morning kick start

Coffee consumption has been such a phenomenonChinese black tea in the world that many are now depending on it for a morning ‘kick start’ of the day.

For health concerns, some are now trying to switch to a cup of black tea. Questions like ‘I am looking for a good strong black tea to replace my morning coffee’ have been asked repeatedly.

I was a morning coffee drinker like the rest of population until one day not long ago I discovered not only I was not getting the expected ‘kick start’ effect due to long term consumption and desensitisation, I actually acquired a secondary condition called ‘coffee headache’ when I missed a ‘dose’. (I dropped the cup and joined some friends for a bush walk one day and had a throbbing headache all day as there was not coffee available in the bush.)

I decided to give up coffee completely and started drinking black tea in the morning. The black I have enjoyed most for the purpose is the Organic Souchong. It has a full body flavour, fragrant and yet gentle on stomach.

Many of our customers have tried out other black teas. In summary, it is quite possible to replace your morning coffee with a strong cup of black tea

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