Or better said what more do we need to learn about the mystery of tea for our enjoyment as well as for its positive side effects on our health?
Let’s be honest before I travelled to China I did not really think much about tea, being a Central European I have learned that we drink tea when we are sick at the winter time with tons of honey and lemon. There is absolutely nothing spiritual about it.
My travel to China was a great opportunity to learn more about tea directly from its actual birth place. Besides many things the tea was also invented in China sometime B.C. It served as a medicinal drink and was mainly consumed by monks and the emperor at the early days. Even today there is a huge cultural aspect drinking tea in China which is also a way to show appreciation and respect for each other.
But how do you taste tea in China? Not having much of experience and wanting to avoid the typical tourist traps offering tea ceremonies for foreigners, I hit the road to look for the “real thing”. After arriving to Beijing I got myself into the middle of the Hutong district at the east side of the Forbidden City as I heard that this place is the most ancient part of the city and in some of the traditional alleyways the old communities remained intact despite of the best effort of the city for rapid transformation. It is amazing what a different world opens up for you as you enter; tiny little neat streets with small stores and tea places hosted in those typical Hutong style houses some of them dating back to the Yuan Dynasty. Each gate to the grand country yard tells you a genuine story of who lived behind the gate, which social class the family belonged to and some other family characteristics, just like medieval time Facebook.
After I got the right setting it was only a matter of time finding the perfect place. Walking into a little store I asked the shop assistant if we could taste tea. Slightly embarrassed about my little knowledge I let myself guide through the whole assortment. Despite of some language difficulty I have learned a whole lot of what it really means drinking tea in China. We were served organic green, black and oolong tea in a traditional way, everything was prepared on a meticulous order like it would be something more sacred. Teeny tiny cups were filled with this delicious liquid, just enough to savor every bit before a new and fresh portion was served in a perfect temperature and taste combination (that is right Starbucks, smaller is better). For my surprise green tea was not at all bitter but refreshing and extremely smooth and black tea (which I normally dislike) was slightly sweet with an amazing flavour, so this is like drinking a good tea. The time was passing by and we were sipping our tea in a little quiet corner in the big and crazy city of Beijing.
- Quality of the tea does matter.
- Smaller is better, you can easier control the temperature and taste if you use small cups and pitchers to pour water. It should be an enjoyment rather than dipping your tea bag into a half litre mug.
- You do not need to soak your tea in the water for 5-10 minutes, for green tea only 3-10 seconds is enough to enjoy the smooth comforting taste of the tea leaves.
- Do not use boiling water as it spoils the delicious aroma and turns the tea bitter. Best temperature is between 60 – 80ºC, which is the easiest to achieve by boiling the water and pouring it into a pitcher to sit for about 5 minutes.
- You can reuse your tea leaves several times (approximately up to 8 times). Every time you pour water over the tea, soak them a little longer (approx. 10 more seconds each time).
- Tea tasting takes time so lay back, relax and enjoy.
And know about the health benefits:
- Green tea being one of the least processed tea is full of antioxidant which promotes lower cholesterol, better mental health and some say also helps in weight loss.
- Oolong tea is coming from the same plant than green tea however it is partially fermented. Studies say that it can be used to control the metabolism of fat and reduce obesity.
- Black tea is fully fermented which can help to lose fat, protect heart and bones.
Like everything else, moderation is a key to enjoy all the benefits the tea can offer and I’m happy to be able to share with you this first-hand experience right from the source.