Serendipitea: A Guide To The Varieties, Origins, And Rituals Of Tea

Serendipitea: A Guide To The Varieties, Origins, And Rituals Of Tea

by Tomislav Podreka

Hardcover(1 ED)

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The pleasures and benefits of tea have been known and enjoyed for close to five thousand years — after water, it is the most consumed beverage in the world. Yet only in recent years has tea come into its own in the United States; since 1990, tea consumption has doubled.

In Serendipitea, Tomislav Podreka, a tea specialist, explores the history and philosophy of tea and shares little-known anecdotes and myths. He takes us on a fascinating journey through the many tea-producing countries, looking at all the various types of tea, their origins and lore, and the distinctive taste, aroma, and leaf of each region. Serendipitea focuses on tea rituals from around the world, and looks at how the ceremony of taking tea is integral to so many cultures — from the revered Japanese "Cha-no-yu" to the classic British "cuppa." Also included are a few recipes of chosen food offerings from each of the countries covered.

The author discusses the important difference in quality between bagged varieties and premium loose leaf teas, advising on the best steeping techniques. He also includes chapters evaluating the latest health benefits associated with tea, as well as herbal infusions and tisanes.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780688158088
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/16/1998
Edition description: 1 ED
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.81(w) x 7.89(h) x 0.63(d)

About the Author

Tomislav Podreka is the founder of serendipitea, one of the largest independent importers of fine and specialty teas in the United States. He is a popular speaker on the history of tea and travels across the country lecturing and giving tea tastings. He lives in Connecticut.

Read an Excerpt

The History of Tea

Shrouded in myth and hazy facts, the origins of tea remain elusive. The lore invites us on a journey to exotic lands and ancient times, offering more romance than cold, clear proof. But this is how it should be: much of the appeal of tea stems from our curiosity of how mankind first brought the remarkable beverage to his lips.

It is difficult to ascribe dates to ancient events, particularly to those surrounding something so widely enjoyed as tea. Most experts accept the year when tea was first drunk, probably in what is now the Chinese province of Szechwan. As the story goes, the legendary emperor Shen Nung was strolling through his garden, drinking his customary cup of boiled water when a leaf from a nearby bush drifted into his cup. Rather than fish it out, the emperor let the leaf remain, watching with fascination as it tinted the clear water. He tried a sip — and declared it a refreshing drink, indeed. After experimenting with the tea, Shen Nung also declared tea a medicinal drink. He was a productive man who is credited with writing the Pen ts'ao, an early text on herbal medicine, among other intellectual pursuits. In reality this text was most likely written much later during the Han Dynasty, A.D. 25 to 220. (In addition, the emperor is credited with inventing the plow and introducing animal husbandry to his people; his name translates literally as divine husbandman.") Whether Shen Nung is more than a legend is debatable, but there is evidence of an ancient hill tribe called Shennung, which is credited with advances in agriculture.

Later, Taoist philosopher Lao-tzu, while on his Great Western Journey through Szechwanin the sixth century B.C., was offered a bowl of tea by a student. This small story is significant only because it indicates further evidence of the province's place as the cradle of tea. But more important, it establishes an early standard of etiquette, that of presenting tea as a gesture of hospitality.

Another legend tells of India's Prince Siddhartha "discovering" tea in that country at the same approximate time that Lao-tzu was living. While attempting to meditate, the story goes, the young prince instead fell asleep. Upon waking, he was so disgusted by his weakness that he tore off his eyelids in frustration, tossing them angrily to the ground. Amazingly, from these grew a shrub with leaves that, when infused as tea, held great properties of mental clarity. Without doubt, this is the stuff of legends. In Japan a similar story exists, but in that island nation it is said that it was Daruma (Bodhidharma) whose eyelids became the tea shrub. Despite the different versions of the tale, the message remains the same: Tea has long been considered a beverage that sharpens the mind's eye. To this day, there is a Chinese tea called "eyelid tea."

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