''Arthur blinked at the screens and felt he was missing something important. Suddenly he realized what it was. "Is there any tea on this spaceship?" he asked.'
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
It seems as though drinking a cup of tea is so much a part of our planet's culture that our best SciFi writers can't imagine anyone doing without it even after the end of the world!
It is something almost everyone has done and indeed something that at least 2 billion people do every day. It's no stretch so say it is one of the world's favourite drinks. Tea appears to be the most popular of the hot beverages in Eastern Europe, Asia, Australasia and of course Britain (source). The country that consumes the most is, not surprisingly, China at 1.16 billion kilos per year. However the country that consumes the most per person is Turkey at just over 5 kilos per person per year. That's an average of roughly 4.6 cups for every person, every day of the year! In the UK we consume over 3 kilos per person, per year or roughly 2.8 cups per day on average (source).
According to legend, the brewing of leaves into a delicious hot drink was invented by the mythical Chinese Emperor Shennong well over 4000 years ago. He is considered the father of Traditional Chinese Medicine and, the story goes, tasted plants to discern their medicinal properties. Of course brewing teas is by no means limited to far eastern culture and making brews is an important part of indigenous medicine in other parts of Asia, the Ayurvedic tradition and European and Amerindian traditions. Reliable historical evidence for tea brewing is much more recent but alludes to a long history of the art. Indeed it is likely that tea brewing originated well into prehistory.
So tea is not limited to just the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant (which gives us black, green, white and oolong teas) but extends to a huge range of herbal teas as well.
But neither is tea drinking limited to being just a refreshment. Teas (including Camellia sinensis) have beneficial nutritional and often health properties.
And it doesn't stop there. There is something transcendental about tea. From parents to pop-stars everyone can feel the centering, down to earth effect of a nice cuppa as it's hot steamy loveliness lifts you above the distractions of the mind and into the nirvana of the here and now.
In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh ... “I don’t think of the past anymore, I don’t think of the future anymore, I’m free from the past, from the future, and there is a real encounter between me and the tea.”
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