by Oana Harrison (as seen in Cityview Magazine)
Legend says tea was invented accidentally by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong in 2737 B.C. Emperor Shen Nong was a scholar and herbalist, as well as a creative scientist and patron of the arts. Among other things, the emperor believed that drinking boiled water contributed to good health. By his decree, his subjects and servants had to boil their water before drinking it as a hygiene precaution. One summer day, while visiting a distant region, he and his entourage stopped to rest. The servants began to boil water. Dried leaves from a nearby camellia bush fell into the boiling water and infused it with their aroma. The emperor drank the infusion and enjoyed its refreshing and delightful flavor. He then declared that tea gives vigor to the body and from then forward tea has been regarded as a medicinal beverage. By 300 A.D. tea became a daily drink. Eventually, this magical drink made its way around the globe and today it is praised for its healing properties not only on the body but also for the mind and soul.
According to Chinese tradition, there are several things one should keep in mind when it comes to tea etiquette:
- In Chinese culture, the ritual of pouring tea for someone is part of many social interactions. Visitors into one’s home are served tea as a sign of welcome. When getting married, a couple kneels on the floor and passes the tea to their parents as an expression of their gratitude. When apologizing, one stands up, bows and pours tea for the person accepting the apology. Pouring tea for someone is a sign of politeness.
Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one. – Ancient Chinese Proverb
- Having the spout of the teapot facing anyone may be regarded as a bad manner in a proper tea ceremony.
- When someone pours tea for you, lightly knock two fingers on the table and say “thank you.”
- For real Chinese tea, adding sugar is like pouring soda into your red wine.
- In any setting, formal or informal, you should always tend to anyone whose cup is not full before filling your own. It’s regarded as being “selfish” or “impolite” to do otherwise.
Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things. – Okakura Kakuzo
Food for thought: Studies show that green tea drinkers are less likely to display signs of cognitive impairment as they age. Some of this effect is attributed to green tea’s caffeine content, which increases blood flow to the brain.
Tea vs. Cancer: Green tea packs a powerful punch with more than 30 antioxidants, called polyphenols. One of these antioxidants in particular, called catechin or EGCg (short for epigallocatechin gallate) is exclusively found in green tea. Antioxidants scavenge for free radicals that can damage DNA and contribute to cancer, blood clots, and arteriosclerosis. The jury is still out, but some research shows that if consumed over a long period of time, green tea can inhibit cancer cells growth and kills cells that are growing inappropriately.
It just warms your heart… Green tea’s antioxidants are dilators, thus improving the flexibility of blood vessels and making them less vulnerable to clogging. Researchers found that drinking at least four cups of green tea every day may be related to the reduced severity of coronary heart disease.
Slimming down: Some research shows that green tea helps reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Green tea has been the star of several movie star diets. Among the “celebri-teas” are Oprah, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston and Christina Aguilera. Guys like to tea it up too. Robert Pattinson of Twilight drinks tea while filming on set. Elton John enjoys tea regularly and he also collects antique tea sets. Simon Baker from The Mentalist says he loves “a good cuppa tea”, just like his character, Patrick Jane. Of course, the stars’ silhouettes might have had some additional help from personal dietitians and trainers…
Bottom line: Research suggests that incorporating at least a few cups of green tea into the daily diet will positively affect your health. Keep in mind though that however mighty the leaf can be, it still needs its friends: diet and exercise. For more information about green tea and health visit http://nccam.nih.gov/health/greentea.
How to brew the perfect cup:
- Add a handful of leaves into a pot. For best results, always use loose leaves.
- Pour almost boiling water (160-170 F) over the leaves. Pouring boiled water will cause the immediate release of tannins, resulting in a bitter brew.
- Steep for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Pour out the water but keep the leaves in the pot.
- Add more almost boiling water into the pot.
- Steep for another 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Pour and enjoy!
The warmth of a cup of tea alone has an immediate relaxing and comforting effect. One cannot think about tea without thinking yoga or meditation. But you don’t have to be striving to achieve enlightenment. There is intrinsic power in the ritual of brewing a pot of tea, in the act of creating and in the slow and thorough enjoyment of every sip. The tea ritual provides the grounding necessary to get through the day-to-day happenings. Enjoy a new morning ritual of your own, creating a “me” moment that we all so desperately need before another hectic day. You can use “tea time” for reconnecting with family and catching up with friends. Involve your significant other or friends into the quest for the perfect new blend: create your favorites by combining different tea flavors.
Don’t limit your green tea experience to the brew alone. There are many other ways to enjoy its qualities by including it in your home. Green tea candles, home fragrance oils, or incense can give your living space a refreshing vibe. A lemon and green tea scented candle can energize your work space and give it a clean smell.
There is more to tea than…well, tea. The best tea leaves can be eaten. Leaves left over from steeping can even be used in salads. Green tea can be an ingredient in a variety of foods ranging from seasoning for meats to ice cream. See the next page for a couple of favorite recipes.
Like The Minister of Leaves (The Republic of Tea company) writes on one of their green tea bags: “Nature insists that green is the color of awakening.” Come to think of it, green signals the beginning of spring, a time of rejuvenation and growth. So let your home decor be inspired by green tea. Use hues of green with blue or lavender accents to create a peaceful retreat. Add a pop of color like orange, orange-red or yellow to liven things up (Find more inspiration).
Cocktail recipes Courtesy of Amie Snyder, Mixologist/ Bar Manager at Sapphire, Knoxville
2 ounces of fresh brewed green tea
1.5 ounces of 360 peach vodka
spoon full of powdered sugar
3 frozen peaches (thawed)
splash of soda water
shake well and strain over frozen peaches in a rocks glass
2 ounces of fresh brewed green tea
1.5 ounces of bacardi rum
muddle 2 cucumbers and 5 sprigs of mint
splash of simple syrup
splash of soda water
served in high ball with ice
Japanese Tea with Genmaicha and Konacha
Courtesy of Patrick Rathida of TOMO Knoxville
Patrick has been a chef for 13 years. Originally from Laos, he came to the US in 1998.
- Genmaicha – Japanese mix of green tea leaves and rice, roasted together. The rice will pop, resembling pop corn, thus the mixture’s colloquial name “popcorn tea”.
- Konacha – Green tea leaves and buds, powdered.
- Genmaicha will provide the taste, while Konacha provides the deep green coloring of the tea.
Mix 1 tbps. of Konacha with 2 tbps of Genmaicha into a tea strainer. Pour almost boiling water over the mixture and allow the water to collect into a tea cup/mug. Enjoy!
Find green tea in Knoxville:
- Teavana (at West Town Mall) teavana.com
- Tea at the Gallery (in Bearden)
- World Market (Turkey Creek)
- The Fresh Market
- The Market (Downtown)
- Trader Joe’s (West Hills)
- Sunrise Supermarket
Find green tea online: