Saturday, January 12, 2013


Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the ma
n who takes refuge in him.”

Psalm 34:8


Tea customs are defined by three things: the way tea is brewed and consumed, the way people interact with tea and the aesthetics surrounding tea drinking.  This week I had the opportunity to share “Tea Traditions” – A tour of tea customs in a dozen countries around the world – with a group of ladies at Our Lady Star of the Sea.  In addition to sharing customs in the countries, tea samples representing each country were shared with several of those present.


The home of all tea types where a cup is the customary way to welcome guests and their tea ceremony emphasizes the tea, China is the 2nd largest producer worldwide.   It produces the largest variety of leaf styles and more specialty types than any other country.



Blooming Tea
Also known as display, artesian or flowering teas, these teas are an age-old Chinese art form originally made only for the Emperor’s entertainment.  The tea leaves are hand sewn and formed into various shapes which slowly and delicately unfurl revealing a delicate flower.  These specialty teas are meant not only to delight your eyes but also your taste buds.  The tea liquor releases a myriad of flavors from the tea leaves combined with the unique taste of the bouquet of edible flowers



Produces and exports fine green teas which are also a drink for special guests and special occasions and the most popular beverage to drink with traditional Japanese cuisine.  Although the Japanese tea ceremony is focused on specific guidelines for every aspect such as choice of food, utensils, topics of conversation, and selection of guests, it also focuses on the preparation and serving of a bowl of a powdered green tea, "Matcha," using a bamboo whisk to whip it into a green froth.



Gen Mai Cha
According to ancient Japanese legend,  a servant named Genmai was serving his master some tea when a few grains of rice accidently fell out of his pocket and into the pot. The master was so infuriated that he chopped off his head.  He decided to drink it anyway and discovered that he enjoyed the distinct flavor. In honor of his poor servant, he insisted that this combination of tea and rice be served every morning and named it 'Genmaicha' (as cha is the name of 'tea' in Japanese).



Along with being the producer of the world's finest oolong teas, it is also known as the country of origin for Bubble Tea - a cold tea beverage mixture with milk which includes balls of tapioca.  In addition, its tea feasts include a wide variety of delicious delicacies designed to be served with tea & many dishes use tea as the primary ingredient.






Formosa Oolong

Also spelled wulong or wu long, oolong teas are produced by tea masters who are trained by apprenticeships passed down from one generation to the next and grown on Taiwan tea estates at very low altitudes of less than 1,000 feet which are harvested up to six times a year.  Most Formosa Oolong tea is produced for local consumption.



Nearly 1/10 of the world’s tea is consumed in Russia as the national drink, along with vodka!  Tea is usually served after each meal.  The Russians developed their own way of brewing - a samovar, which involves the combination of a large boiler and a small teapot filled with a tea concentrate. They also use tea glass holders instead of traditional cups.





Lapsang Souchong

Since tea was brought from China to Russia by the caravan and the trip was 11,000 miles long and took over sixteen months to complete, the tea arrived with a smoky, tarry aroma and flavor from the nightly campfires.  This tea is produced by smoking over pine fires to reproduce the flavor the Russians have become accustomed to.



The second largest per capita tea consumer in the world, with Ireland number one, various types of tea breaks are an essential part of any day and have become a popular tradition as a pick-me-up, respite, and time for family and friends whether served with just a scone, a full afternoon event or part of a working class dinner.






Earl Grey

This British favorite is actually named after a person, the 2nd Earl Grey, who was a British Prime Minister in the 1830s.  He reputedly received a gift, probably a diplomatic perquisite, of tea flavored with bergamot oil and later asked that the blend be replicated.



Known for its black teas, especially Darjeeling and Assam, India is the largest producer with close to two billion pounds of annual production, much of which is consumed domestically.   Chai is a spiced beverage that is more popular in India than coffee is in the US.  Available from street vendors called chaiwallahs which carry pots of chai and serve it in freshly fired earthen cups that are discarded after use, it is also a family tradition in India to welcome your guests and each family has their own recipe and preparation method





Masala Chai
The word ‘chai’ means tea and ‘masala’ is the word for the mixture of the various spices used to make this tea blend.  The most commonly used whole spices include cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and always fresh ground pepper.



Almost all of the tea grown in Sri Lanka, over 300,000 tons annually, is processed black and is used for export although it is served in the English style, with milk and sugar, as part of emulating the habits and fashions of the British so one could gain favor.






Ceylon Tea

The classic black teas of this island nation are well-known as Ceylon teas.  Ceylon tea leaves are generally long and twisted and are almost wiry in appearance.  They produce excellent flavor on their own, but Ceylon teas are also very popular for blending.


In the only country that is also a continent, tea usually means the evening meal, some describe the three main meals as breakfast, lunch, and tea.  A unique approach to brewing resulting from a blend of Aboriginal and European customs is Billy Tea.  Europeans brought the tea and the Aborigines took a very straightforward approach to steeping it - tea brewed in a billy can (pot with a handle) on a campfire by boiling the water, adding tea then stirring with a clean stick and letting the leaves settle to the bottom.  Therefore, the term "billy up to the fire" basically means, "put the kettle on".









Aussie Tea

A hearty black tea produced from a combination of tea produced by the twelve commercial tea growing operations in Australia.



Considered the first importer of green tea, the offering of a glass of green tea with mint is a symbol of friendship, welcome and hospitality from shopkeepers to home.  The preparation and serving of tea is considered an art in Morocco, and chief to both are the proper pot with a long, curved pouring spout, small glasses, and the special 3-legged tray. Tea is almost always made in front of the guests by the eldest man of the household so that the tea set and service can be admired.






Moroccan Mint
A blend of Chinese gunpowder green tea with spearmint and other popular herbs such as lemongrass, it is served with ample amounts of sugar to create a delightfully sweet and refreshing beverage which can either be served hot or cold.




Known for its alternatives to tea produced from the Camellia sinensis plant, its herbals were used originally as remedies for a wide range of ailments but were re-discovered as a beverage and are often served cold at social gatherings either mixed with fruit juice, champagne or red wine in a punch bowl.







Also called Red Bush or Bush Tea, it is known for its cool, sweet, refreshing flavor and is compared to a fine Ceylon tea in body.  In addition to the natural lack of caffeine, it is low in tannins but rich in naturally-occurring nutrients.


The use of Yerba Mate is not only a social ritual, but it is an integral part of everyday life in Argentina where passing the mate around can be experienced in the countryside, the city or even while traveling.  Traditional drinking of yerba mate requires the herb, a hollow gourd, a metal filter-straw called a bombilla and hot water. The gourd is filled 2/3 of the way with the moistened herb, then a minimal amount of hot water is added and the resulting tea is sucked through the strainer.  When the tea is gone, the gourd is refilled with hot water and passed onto the next person!!









Yerba Mate
An herbal tea which contains a form of caffeine called matteine which rejuvenates, reduces fatigue, increases strength, energy and endurance.   The first taste may be an unusual flavor, but it is a haunting taste that brings you back for more as if your body knows it is good for you



Tea is the 6th most popular beverage in the U.S. after water, coffee, soft drinks, beer and bottled water - 85% in U.S. consumption is iced and 65% of tea is brewed through the bag.  We have our own tea garden in Charleston, South Carolina – the Charleston Tea Plantation - and it is the only place in North America with the right conditions for growth. 









American Classic Tea
Grown in the USA, it is described as “a high-quality black tea with a mild tone and sweet flavor” and in 1987 became the official White House tea.


See these links for more information on available free presentations and demonstrations for your groups!




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