As a child, Melissa Choi, founder of specialist tea company Choi Time, watched her grandmother lay out the family tea set that belonged to her great grandmother. Sat around the old blackwood table, she and her sisters would watch, entranced, as Jasmine bulbs slowly unfurled as the boiling water was poured over them, ‘blooming like an underwater garden’.
The traditional of tea-drinking goes back to ancient times; China has tea-shrubs that go back five or six thousand years and the cultivation of such plants dates back over two thousand years. The importance of tea in China, where it is drunk daily, has seen ceremonies and techniques develop over the years, and the art of tea-drinking – Cha Dao – has developed with every successive Chinese dynasty.
Different techniques have emerged for the different teas, of which there are five:
Green – keeping the original colour of the tea leaves
Black – fermented before baking
Wulong – halfway between green and black
Scented – mixed with fragrant flowers such as magnolia and, particularly, Jasmine
Along with silk and porcelain, China’s tea has been famous outside China for more than one thousand years and the benefits are well-known, explaining why the name for tea in many countries derives from the Chinese ‘cha’ (tea). Russians call it ‘cha’i’, Indians, ‘chai’, and even the English word ‘tea’ sounds like the pronunciation of its counterpart in Xiamen (Amoy). The Japanese character for tea is written in exactly the same way, though pronounced slightly differently.
Tea arrived in Japan in the 6th century but didn’t reach Europe until the 17th and American until the 18thcenturies, but the number of tea-drinkers continues to rise, perhaps because of its health-giving properties. Melissa Choi’s grandmother told her and her sisters that tea would ward off illnesses and ‘keep us young, beautiful and always slim’.
The ‘secret’ to tea’s importance is its innumerable properties. Tea contains 20-30% tannic acid, which is known for its anti-inflammatory and germicidal properties. It contains 5% of an alkaloid (mainly caffeine), which stimulates the nervous and metabolic systems. The aromatic properties can help to promote digestion, and tea is also rich is vitamins. For smokers especially, it can help clean nicotine out of the system. And for wine drinkers too it’s a great pick-you-up.
Feng Sushi is absolutely delighted to be collaborating with Choi Time to bring its delicious luxury teas to you. For more on Choi Time and the history of Chinese tea-drinking click here.