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Crossing one’s Tea

I don`t know what you are addicted to…but I am addicted to tea. Any kind of tea will do for me – be it Green Tea, White Tea, Black Tea, Herbal Tea or my favourite Japanese Tea. It is funny how an Indian sitting in Gurgaon is writing about something that the Chinese discovered and the Japanese added flavour to – Japanese tea.

Discovering Tea

It is believed that the Chinese discovered tea when some tea leaves accidentally fell into a pot of boiling water. Now my question is – who threw in the milk and sugar?

I am not the only one who is addicted to tea of any kind. Over the years, Indian culture & customs have been influenced by tea. Customs were influenced less by tea and more by tea smugglers.

Americans & Tea

It is said that an American improvised on tea and came up with the concept of “Iced Tea.” What beats me is that they did it in 1904 (at the 1904 World Fair St. Louis) when refrigerators were not available in a normal household. And even if refrigerators were available ….how did some random tea leaves fly into a refrigerator? Wasn`t the refrigerator door closed?

Americans live by improvising. Besides the telephone, I know of nothing that has been invented (or discovered) by the Americans. Why…they needed Christopher Colombus, an Italian sailor working for a Spanish queen, to discover their own country – the Americas!

American improvisation didn`t end there. Four years later, Thomas Sullivan of New York developed the concept of tea in a bag. I don`t understand the concept of tea bags…why have tea in a bag when one can have it in a tea cup?

Maybe you aren`t aware of this….in the United States of America, 90% of the tea consumed is black. And here in India 90% of the tea consumed is white (with milk that is). Ironic isn`t it – white men having black tea and black men having white tea?

Tea in Europe & how it lost to wine

According to the tea historian, whose article I have been reading, after becoming popular in China, Japan and America….tea started filtering into Europe in the 17th century. Now, my question is….if tea was all filtered…how did the Europeans ever get the tea leaves? And what a big filter it should have been. The one that I use in my house to filter tea into the tea cup has a diameter of ten centimeters.

In Europe, tea first filtered into Holland and France. In Holland it is popular to this day, but in France wine has taken over. There were a few benefits that wine offered over and above tea, and we are not talking about the alcohol content. 😉

Some of the differences that the French saw before they shifted away from tea are:

• Wine didn`t need a heating unit
• Wine didn`t need to be filtered
• Wine didn`t need milk to be added

High Tea vs Low Tea

That we know the French have ceased to be tea drinkers, let us quit talking about them and move on to something higher in the hierarchy – High Tea.

Many a times, we have received mails from our office Admin guy saying: “The CEO`s speech will be followed by ‘High Tea`.”

“Why ‘High Tea` and what does it mean,” I always wondered.

Apparently, there is a ‘Low Tea` as well, but it is reserved for the aristocrats. When tea is accompanied by only light snacks it is known as ‘Low Tea.` In sharp contrast ‘High Tea` is accompanied by heavy snacks and is a prerogative of the poor. Now that you know ‘High Tea` is a humiliating suggestion, I expect you to ignore the next ‘High Tea` invite you get.

This doesn`t mean you don`t visit the Coffee houses (The favorite beverage asked for in Coffee Houses was tea but since Coffee had been around long before tea arrived, the name stayed). It is only now that the Coffee Houses have items in menu that start at Rs 100/cup. There was a time in history when one could visit a Coffee House, and get a pot of tea and a newspaper for just a penny. What you did with the newspaper was nobody`s problem.

After such a long, boring article….if only someone can make me a cup of tea.

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