Making Tea

Almost every culture drinks tea as a sign of being “civilized”. Why is that? What makes drinking tea a sign of being a cultured, “civilized” person? The British drink tea at 4PM every day. Whenever I traveled in the UK, at 4pm, someone would come up and down the aisles with a tea cart selling tea and snacks. Whenever I traveled in Asia, everyone was welcomed with a small cup of tea when entering a person’s house.

Where does tea come from? Who came up with the idea that dropping certain types of leaves in water made the “water” suddenly taste better? Or in some cases, worse? Some teas are more bitter and have more bite, like an Earl Grey Tea with bergamot oil. We reach back in hallowed antiquity to find that answer.

And where does the word come from? I was in this museum in Macau which showed the etymology of the word “tea.” Like the word coffee, every culture has its own pronunciation. For the French and Vietnamese, the derivative word is “the” with an accent on the e. For others, it’s cha/chai. In English, we have “tea” (no aspiration).

When I lived in China, during the first month, my aunt took me to a tea plantation. I took some pictures, but these are probably the best:

A cup of tea in welcome Sorting leaves Incubating and sealing tea

Apparently, you have to seal the tea to keep the aromas and taste (third picture).

tea plantation

I think this is a tea plantation.

Thus, the next time you open a can of Lipton ice tea or brew from tea bags, you’ll have an image of where those leaves come from.

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