Culture

Popular Tea Culture

May 13, 2015

A recent article in The New York Times calls attention to the growing popularity of tea in North America: “Online tea purveyors and tea salons offer a dazzling range of loose leaf teas from around the world, sponsor tea preparation classes and sell artisan teaware.”

The article points out how high-end New York restaurants have extensive tea lists, a big leap forward from the tea-bag culture that many grew up on.

Ito En, one of Japan’s leading tea purveyors, lists the major varieties of tea and what makes each unique. Its website also has extensive explanations of the health benefits of tea, ranging from the antioxidant qualities found in Catechin and Vitamins C & E in Green Tea to the digestive aid provided by Pu-Erh Tea, which is sometimes considered a “slimming” tea.

Popular legend has it that Emperor Shennong discovered tea in ancient China (2737 BC). But, of course when one thinks of Black Tea, the UK comes to mind first. The UK Tea & Infusions Association states that the first dated reference to tea in Great Britain “came from an advert in a London newspaper, Mercurius Politicus, from September 1658. It announced that ‘China Drink, called by the Chinese, Tcha, by other Nations Tay alias Tee’ was on sale at a coffee house in Sweeting’s Rents in the City.”

The Association continues: “It was the marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza that would prove to be a turning point in the history of tea in Britain. She was a Portuguese princess, and a tea addict, and it was her love of the drink that established tea as a fashionable beverage first at court, and then among the wealthy classes as a whole. Capitalising on this, the East India Company began to import tea into Britain, its first order being placed in 1664.” The rest, as they say, is history, as “the British took to tea with an enthusiasm that continues to the present day”.

Considering that people first drank tea for its herbal medicinal properties, it is no surprise that, in beauty circles, tea is cited for detoxing and losing weight. But before you “teatox”, be careful! As this article in Shape magazine points out, it’s “important to make sure the products’ ingredients are safe”.

Meanwhile, media coverage points to Matcha as today’s most trendy tea. Kyoto tea company Ippodo, which has been selling quality Japanese green tea for nearly three centuries, opened its first international store in New York in 2013. Where can you get the best Matcha in your city?