Tea Rituals: Are they your thing?
As much as I live and breathe all things tea, this is something I dont do often. Give me a regular teapot, my favourite blend and a quiet place and I am content. Most people I meet are the same but there is still something to be respected about the history and rituals that each country has for the discovery of tea and fine brewing.
China: Gongfu Cha
China is the birthplace of tea and perhaps this is the oldest form of ritual around it. This ceremony pays respect to the process as much as the final product. It pays homage to the time and effort required to prepare a good cup of tea and uses 'tea pets' (Google them - its a thing!) for good luck blessings. The traditional teapots used are made from clay and is most often performed using oolong tea.
Under British guidance, tea began to be produced in India in 1835. British plantation owners introduced tea with milk and sugar to the masses and it soon became popular. Chai was originally made with buffalo milk and 'masalas' (aromatic spices). Chai wallahs, or tea vendors, can found on every street in India and make masala chai from scratch. It's sold in 'kullarhs' or small, degradable clay cups.
Germany: East Frisia Blend
East Frisia is on the northern coast of Germany and they have their own distinct blend cultivated in the region. It's a closely guarded recipe mix of what's thought to be assam, ceylon and darjeeling. What's so special about this blend is the way it is prepared. Lumps of kluntjes, a type of rock sugar, are placed in porcelain cups before the tea is poured over. Double cream is added and the cup is not to be stirred. The sugar slowly melts while the cream floats to the top making a 'tea cloud'. In the colder months they add a dash of rum. What a combo!
Mongolia: Suutei Tsai
Fancy your black tea with milk, salt and occasionally fried millet/grains? The Mongolians do! As water was scarce in Mongolia, rather than drink it on its own, they used it to make suutei tsai and it's still an essential part of society consumed several times a day. Milk was traditionally sourced from the family's herds of cows, yaks, goats, sheep and camels.
Much like Gongfu Cha, this ritual is meditative and it's believed through the motions of tea preparation it's possible to reach enlightenment. There a two types of Chanoyo rituals - one that lasts just under an hour and the other a very formal ceremony lasting four hours served with a meal. The ritual is slow and purposeful using powdered green tea (matcha) and the guest plays an important part.
Come to think of it... I do have my own ritual of needing to have my evening tea in a particular cup because I feel like it helps to signal my brain it's time to unwind. I can't use it at any other time of day and I feel out of sorts if I have to use another cup! Do you have your own special ritual?