Tea Culture

Eastern philosophy practices many ritualistic ceremonies in which tea is made or drunk. Western cultures are not as strict concerning tea, yet there are some situations that qualify as tea culture. In some situations hot teas are made using certain steps that the servers performed repeatedly and diligently from generation to generation. For example, the English have a snack in the late afternoon called 'tea' and there are many rules giving it a ritualistic nature. Also, the making of sun tea or southern sweet tea has certain steps that are always followed to the letter making it another culture.

Western tea culture includes the practice of afternoon tea and etiquette during tea parties or tea gatherings. When tea was brought to the west from China, the British adopted it as their own. Britain consumes the second largest amount of tea in the world. Some individuals in the United Kingdom may consume five to ten cups of tea in a day. The love of tea dates back to the reign of Charles II in the late 1600's. The queen consort was from Portugal where they had open trading with Asia, and thanks to her introducing tea to Britain daily meals would never be the same.

The most common tea used in Britain black tea and it is served plain, but more often with milk and sometimes sugar. In the United States workers get a coffee break but in the United Kingdom they may get a tea break served with biscuits or small cookies.

Many upper class British perform the ritual formal tea. It begins around three to five o'clock in the afternoon for individuals or groups and consists of tea with small sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, and sweets. China cups are used and must be held a certain way to conform with patterned etiquette. Lower class British may have their tea at six or seven, or when the return home from work. Their tea has a little more substance since it is often a substitute for what most people think is dinner. Here, tea accompanies meats, cheeses, sandwiches, and sweets.

One important part of tea culture in Britain is how to make this drink. Water is boiled in a kettle then a portion is poured into the china teapot and swirled about to warm the pot. The hostess pours out the water. British like strong tea, so adding at least one teabag or one tablespoon of loose tea per to the pot isn't unusual. A fabric covering is fitted over the teapot while it is steeping to keep everything warm. Once steeping is complete after five to ten minutes the hostess removes the tea cozy. Milk is poured into the cup if needed and the tea strainer is placed over the mouth of the cup. This catches the tealeaves for discarding or recycling. Each step of the way has purposeful results, and meaningful conversation to accompany it.

Now this type of culture has spread into the health field, particularly in the United States. Rather than just a social contrivance, people are rediscovering this drink and its benefits in all spectrum of society. You need not be English to host a formal tea, nor do you need to come from Japan to learn about the tea ceremony. No matter the culture, you're likely to find some old and new features of the tea culture that linger in daily activities.


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