I have been based in Singapore for over five years now. When I first moved to Asia, I had prior knowledge on teas as I had read many good quality books about tea. Hence I thought that I knew the whole deal. What I have very quickly realised is that I have only learnt about Japanese style of teas. Thus the drive to dig in to discover more and over time I’ve found myself falling more in love with tea.
What is your preferred style of tea? Black or green? With lemon or milk? Chai or fruit infusions? All of the concoctions are made using cured leaves of several different species of plant called “Camellia sinensis” or other fruits and herbs.
Tea plants are native to East Asia and mostly originate in the border between north Burma & southwest China (the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces). Chinese legends state that the tradition of drinking tea dates back to almost 2700 years.
Tea-drinking then spread around the region (Korea, Japan and Vietnam) before the 8th century, which was typically a southern Chinese practice. That said tea was also drunk for medicinal purpose for extended, uncertain period in the Indian part of the Himalayan region.
Tea was first introduced to Portuguese merchants in China during the 16th century. The Dutch East India Company brought it to Java from Macau and two years later from Japan to the Netherlands, where it became very quickly fashionable. From there it was introduced to Germany, France and across the Atlantic.
Tea has been trendy amongst the British & Irish court since the 16th century. However, it gathered vast popularity and consumption of tea in the late 18th century when the tax on tea was removed. British drinkers prefered to add sugar and milk to black tea, and it overtook the popularity of green tea in the mid-1720s. The British introduced tea to India, the Darjeeling region, mainly to break the Chinese monopoly on tea. Indian tea also became widely popular in the 1950’s.
The popularity of tea has shaped some historical events such as the Tea Act of 1733 which escalated into the American Revolution. The Opium Wars also took place between British and Chinese. Eventually, the Chinese had to open borders and had to trade with the rest of the world.
Today the most common and widespread teas are white, green, oolong, black tea and tisanes, which has influenced many cultures all around the world.
Bartender’s note: “Tea is one of the richest culinary ingredient.”