Thinking of blog post ideas can be a bit of mind-squeeze at the best of times, even for a topic as broad as food. As I sat at my dining room table, laptop open, hands hovering over the keypad wondering what to write about, an idea came to me like the steam rising from a kettle. TEA.
No matter what anyone says, one thing that comforts as good as a hug would definitely be a cup of tea.
Whether you´ve had a long day and need a pick-me-up, are a little under the weather or are suffering from the symptoms of heartbreak, tea does not ask questions, tea simply warms you up with understanding. I have decided to dedicate this blog post to the genius that is tea.
My family are tea people. A family get-together is simply not complete without ¨´n lekker koppie tee¨ (good cup of tea) and a slice of cake. And hey, if there´s no cake, whip out the SaltyCrax and grated cheese. This history of tea in my family, spreads down from generations and is a big part of our culture and dynamic. On a broader note, tea also forms a big part of the lives of South Africans across the board.
I have tried many flavour teas, from my Dad´s orange-infused tea; ´normal tea´ or Ceylon blends; rooibos; chamomile; English Breakfast Tea; green tea and ginseng; to a taste-adventure-filled, unlabelled variety from Turkey we received as a gift one time.
Blushing pink Turkish tea (Photography my own)
Peg the world´s love of tea to the colonial influence or trade, tea found its leafy way around the world and has influenced the lives of millions ever since.
Many may or may not know that tea´s origins started out in….yes, you guessed it right, China. According to the legend , whilst his servants were boiling water for Emperor Shen Nung, a stray leaf from the Camellia sinensis tree they sat beneath, drifted into the water. The Emperor ¨found the taste refreshing, and little did he know, invented the first cup of tea.¨
Emperor Shen Nung drinking the first ever cup of tea, as the legend goes.
Image source: Chinese Tea
Tea spread to Europe and the West through trade. History tells of Portuguese tradesmen and missionaries bringing tea to Europe from the East, as part of their gift-giving. Dutchmen introduced tea to Europe as an expensive commodity, which was only drunk by the wealthy. Tea is often thought of as a specifically British drink, but the drink was only fully adopted by the British when King Charles II married Portuguese avid, tea-drinker, Catherine of Braganza.
Because of the high tax-levels on tea, people started to smuggle the popular drink, therefore aiding in its availability for the masses who could otherwise not afford it. Teabags were only introduced much later, when Thomas Sullivan, a New York merchant, ¨sent samples of tea to his customers in silk bags.¨ His customers, being none the wiser, thought that ¨both the tea and bag should be put in the pot and it worked surprisingly well.¨ And so, the teabag was born.
Learn more about tea´s history here.
Tea is not only good for warming you up, but also has some surprising health benefits from weight-loss to immune-boosting factors. Pros to drinking tea also include aiding the body in hydrating itself and ¨green tea has been found to improve bone mineral density and strength.¨
Tea may have been an accidental moment of genius, but I am sure I speak for the masses when I say that everything happens for a reason and the birth of tea was just that reason.
Look here to see the tea-drinking statistics for the UK today.