来，喝茶吧！LET’S HAVE TEA!
Tea and home cooked bread – My fondest memories.
In a traditional Tibetan home (and in quite a few Chinese homes too), greetings are often followed by “Come, let’s have a cup of a warm tea”… The cosy and fragrant tea plays a very unique role in our culture – be it for self-cultivation, to show respect or gratitude, to apologise, to bridge generation gap, to comfort wounded hearts, to mend ties or to just gossip…Tea and the tea ceremony have since time immemorial played a vital role in Chinese hospitality.
“The first cup moistens my lips and throat. The second shatters my loneliness. The third causes the wrongs of life to fade gently from my recollection. The fourth purifies my soul. The fifth lifts me to the realms of the unwinking gods.”– Chinese Mystic, Tang Dynasty
The birth of tea has been credited to the Chinese Emperor and scientist, ‘Shennong’. A popular version of the story is as follows:
One day as the Emperor was boiling water for preparing a new medicinal syrup, a sudden gush of wind brought with it a few tea leaves. As the leaves fell into the simmering water, the emperor noticed that the colour changed into a dark yellow shade accompanied with a beautiful aroma. Pleasantly surprised by the flavour of the water the Emperor was immediately motivated to conduct a little more research on this plant. Ans since then it is popularly believed, that it was this research that led to the discovery of the medicinal benefits of tea leaves.
Since then, Chinese tea has come a long way. Carving a niche for itself in the World’s Tea Industry – as the largest producer as well as the largest exporter, China has put extraordinary efforts to ensure that Green Tea, White Tea, Black Tea, Pu’er Tea, Oolong Tea etc.. become common household varieties.
While the Chinese have extensively used TEA for its medicinal and therapeutic value, they have also been successful in projecting it as a symbol of Chinese trade and diplomacy – Be it the Tang dynasty emperors who bartered a few kgs of tea for good Mongolian horses or be it the present government of Xi, who has successfully presented tea as a symbol of economic and cultural friendship with countries like Kenya, Sri Lanka, Morocco etc….The role of Chinese tea and the traditional tea ceremony is no longer confined to being a symbol of Chinese culture, but it has now, become an integral part of Chinese diplomacy…quite like the ‘Panda’.
“Tea is the answer to most of the problems”
Amidst the dullness and lethargy set by the pandemic, the celebration of the first ever International Tea Day this year on 21 May, although virtual (and debated to be strategically timed by the permanent mission of the PRC to UN), still managed to infuse within me and all I’m sure all my fellow tea lovers too, a sense of excitement and energy.
So, marking this special event I too joined in the subtle online festivities – holding my choice of tea for that day, a nicely brewed tumbler of Long Jing, in one hand…and my copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams in the other – waiting and wishing for these words of his to quickly turn into reality,
“A cup of tea would restore my normality”