If centuries ago a dried tea leaf had not fallen accidentally in a cup of hot water meant for Chinese emperor Shen Nong, the world would not have discovered its most favourite beverage. To keep up the spirit of tea high we jet around the world to explore the different legends and rituals of tea making in the world.
Cha-no-yu is an illustrious tea making ceremony practised in Japan. If you are wondering what’s so special about making a steaming cuppa of your favourite drink then visit one of the ceremonies that take up to four hours and more. For the Japanese, tea is much more than a beverage and the main aim of the ceremony is to cleanse one’s body and soul through the art of drinking tea.
An art that evolved under the influence of Zen Buddhism, every little step that goes into making of this tea is unique. From how one sits during the ceremony to the atmosphere where it is held, the event goes through several processes. Months before the day formal invitations are sent to the guests by the host and those attending the event are expected to maintain modesty and respect as they gather in a room.
As part of the cleansing ritual the guests are asked to wash their hands and mouths before the ceremony begins. After the purification the guests are greeted with a silent bow and while they are served little sweets, the host starts preparing the tea. They first clean the utensils and add scoops of Matcha tea powder in the bowl along with little hot water. The mixture is stirred with a bamboo whisk and then more hot water is poured. Serving Japanese tea or Matcha also has few processes, just like its making. So once the tea is ready the host passes it to the main guest who sips and passes it on to the next person after wiping the rim till it reaches the last guest and back to the host. To end the ceremony, the host cleans the bowl once the guests leave.
Gong Fu in China is a popular tea ceremony which is very similar to the Japanese style of tea making. In this, the tea master arranges the teapot and cups in a circle and hot water is poured to keep the tea cups warm. The water is later discarded and tea leaves are added with some water which later is allowed to steep. There are several rituals that are followed in this ceremony. While in one tradition hot water is poured outside the teapot, in another the tea master counts a full 4 deep breaths before beginning to pour in a circular motion. Normally the tea is steeped for 30 seconds in the first round. It is steeped again for the next round by pouring hot water. For this ceremony oolong tea is mostly used. Sometimes the rows of cups are neatly arranged and the guests have to pick them up themselves along with snacks. The ceremony comes to an end and the used tea leaves are put into a clean bowl for the guests to appreciate the tea. Cleaning up is also an important ritual. Pots are thoroughly cleaned with linen cloth and no soaps or detergents are ever used.
You must have heard the song ‘at half past three, everything stops for tea’. It’s the perfect example of afternoon tea that started in England way back in the early 19th century when Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford suddenly fell ill one day during late afternoon and a pot of tea made her feel better. Some say she would often get hungry between lunch and dinner and hence this arrangement. Nevertheless, drinking tea in the afternoon soon became a regular practice and in due course she invited her friends to join her, turning this into a social event. Women from high society would often join for the tea gathering that was served with accompaniments like finger sandwiches, scones, sweet pastries, and cakes placed on tiered plates. Afternoon tea was earlier known as low tea as during the olden days women used to sit in low arm chairs while sipping their cuppa.
Today the concept of afternoon tea has become more elaborate. Normally served at around 3-4pm, people are treated to other delights too apart from tea. The flavours include the strong Assam tea from India, mild and aromatic tea from Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Chinese tea, and more. Today the concept of afternoon tea has evolved from just a ritual to an occasion to celebrate a special event. Several etiquettes are also maintained while having afternoon tea which includes placing the napkin rightly, stirring the tea gently, and avoiding hasty mistakes like splashing while making it. For high tea the etiquettes are more relaxed.
If you want to have a cup of tea in Morocco get ready for some regality as ornate teapots that are engraved in silver are used to prepare the beverage. A variety of powdered green tea is used which is later sweetened with sugar and flavoured with mint and then served in crystal glasses.
Tea is a significant part of Russian culture and has several traditions attached to it. Though the most favoured tea there, is black tea, people also drink green, and herbal ones. While nowadays teabags are mostly used, the true connoisseurs of Russian tea brew the tea leaves in a small teapot. Called zavarka it is poured into large cups. While the tea is served hot and is mostly preferred as black some people also add sugar and milk to it. The tea water is boiled in a copper vessel called Samovar and traditionally people pour the tea in a saucer and sip. Russians never serve tea without any accompaniments like cookies and candies.
While Omanis traditionally love drinking Kahwa or coffee, there are some people in this country who are tea lovers too. People here love to have milk tea with sugar. For flavours they add spices like clove, ginger, and cardamom. — [email protected]