Teas and herbal infusions have been consumed through the ages and across the continents to soothe, heal, sustain and bring people together.
Across the world, tea has been prepared since time immemorial and it is reasonable conjecture that the drinking of teas and herbal infusions across the world is near to as old as mankind’s harnessing of fire and water.
Tea in China
In China, they say, once upon a time, five thousand years before your great-grandmother was born, a gust of wind blew some tea leaves into a pot of boiling water before the Emperor Shen-nung, and tea drinking began.
And for three thousands years the secret of tea stayed in China, when, at last, tea drinking began to trickle through the known world, taking its pace as the center of culture in many corners of the world where the tea plant cannot grow.
Tea in India
In India, fourth generation chai wallahs (stall owners who prepare India’s spiced chai tea) form the bedrock of society, providing solace to the homeless for a few paise, soothing the mourners beside the banks of the Ganges and Varanasi, grounding the corporate office workers who prefer the fresh ginger and thick milk to the bitter, dull teabags in their staff kitchens.
Tea in Japan
In Japan, exquisite geishas kneel with infinite serenity and grace, their pale necks exposed, their narrow fingers preparing the fragrant green tea in an extended ceremony that spread through Japan by the Buddhist monks nearly three thousand years ago.
They say that in order to stay awake during meditation, the founder of a Japanese branch of Buddhism tore off his eyelids, and tea plants sprouted where they fell.
Tea in Brazil
In corners of Brazil and Bolivia and sweeping through the young generation the length of Argentina, the dried Yerba Mate herb is sold by the sackful and drunk hot through a worked metal straw from a small gourd bound in leather.
Tea in South Africa
In southern Africa bush tea, or rooibos tea, fermented from the Red Bush which grows only in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, is sipped in the shade throughout southern Africa, and grows increasingly more trendy across the world for its rich and nutty flavour and pivotal part in the Mma Ramotswe No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books and series. Red bush tea’s origins lie centuries back with the San Bushmen who used it for medicine.
Through the Ages…
Herbal infusions have their place through India, Egypt and Europe since ancient times. In France, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany women used herbal infusions to control their own fertility and childbearing. Bishops of the Christian church deemed this to be dark sexual magic and enacted canons stating that “no woman may drink a potion that makes her incapable of conceiving”.
Today in England and throughout the Western world tea has its place in our lives, from surfy builders to the Queen, tea is the daily solace and problem solver; the immediate answer to struggle, grief, exhaustion, cold bones and boredom; the satisfying cupful for anticipating and savouring, timeless and universal.
Featured image via simply turquoise