Tea Knowledge

Origins of Tea?
The history of tea in China is long and complex. The Chinese have enjoyed tea for millennia. Scholars hailed the brew as a cure for a variety of ailments; the nobility considered the consumption of good tea as a mark of their status, and the common people simply enjoyed its flavor.

Tea was first discovered by the Chinese Emperor Shennong in 2737 BC. It is said that the emperor liked his drinking water boiled before he drank it so it would be clean, so that is what his servants did. One day, on a trip to a distant region, he and his army stopped to rest. A servant began boiling water for him to drink, and a dead leaf from the wild tea bush fell into the water. It turned a brownish color, but it was unnoticed and presented to the emperor anyways. The emperor drank it and found it very refreshing, and cha (tea) was born.

While historically the origin of tea as a medicinal herb useful for staying awake is unclear, China is considered to have the earliest records of tea drinking, with recorded tea use in its history dating back to the first millennium BC. The Han Dynasty used tea as medicine. The use of tea as a beverage drunk for pleasure on social occasions dates from the Tang Dynasty or earlier.Lu Yu’s statue inXi’an.

The Tang Dynasty writer Lu Yu’s 陸羽 (729-804) Cha Jing 茶經 is an early work on the subject. According to Cha Jing writing, around AD 760, tea drinking was widespread. The book describes how tea plants were grown, the leaves processed, and tea prepared as a beverage. It also describes how tea was evaluated. The book also discusses where the best tea leaves were produced.

At this time in tea’s history, the nature of the beverage and style of tea preparation were quite different from the way we experience tea today. Tea leaves were processed into compressed cakes form. The dried teacake, generally called brick tea was ground in a stone mortar. Hot water was added to the powdered teacake, or the powdered teacake was boiled in earthenware kettles then consumed as a hot beverage.

A form of compressed tea referred to as white tea was being produced as far back as the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.). This special white tea of Tang was picked in early spring, when the tea bushes had abundant growths which resembled silver needles. These “first flushes” were used as the raw material to make the compressed tea. >>more

What is Chai?
A cup of masala chai.
Chai (Arabic: شَاي, Hindi: Urdu/Persian: چاى, Russian: чай, Turkish: çay, ultimately from the Chinese word chá (茶) is the word for tea generally in Asia, North andEast Africa and Eastern Europe. Cognates in other languages include the Bengali chā, the Marathi chahā and the Tamil thaeneer.

In a typical South Asian household, chai is prepared by boiling loose leaf tea in a pot with milk and water. Depending on personal preference, various spices and/or sweetener may also be added at this stage. What many English speakers tend to think of as chai is, therefore, more strictly known as masala chai, (Hindi [masālā chāy], “spiced tea”). Indian markets all over the world sell various brands of “chai masala,” (Hindi [masālā chāy], “tea spice”), though many households blend their own.

In India, chai is more popular than coffee, and “chai wallahs,” (or chaiwala) or street vendors, are a common sight in many Indian neighborhoods. >>more