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Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Culture of Tea



Bodhidharma, the Indian monk who, according to Buddhist tradition, brought both Zen and tea to China.

Tea is civilization. Tea is art. It is one of the most cultured things there is. Entire aesthetics, entire cultural complexes have been built on it, in countries as diverse as China, India, Japan, Russia, Korea, Sri Lanka, and England. Foods, gardens, ceremonies, poems, philosophies, music. There is a reason for this. Tea puts you in a meditative mood. Both Buddhist monks and sympathetic grandmothers have always understood this. And the growing and preparation of tea, too, is an art, every bit as much and more than is wine making.

Unfortunately, in most places in the North America, we get only the faintest idea of real tea.

Most of us have grown up and grown old on good old Ceylon “orange pekoe” black fermented tea. Nothing wrong with it. But it is far from a quality tea. It was simply the cheapest variety of tea available for export at the end of the nineteenth century, from the large, low-quality estates owned by supermarket magnate Sir Thomas Lipton. There is so much more.

I have lived in a few places now: China, Korea, the Middle East. I have visited others: India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and so forth. I have discovered that real, fresh tea from the best plantations can be a revelation. And, in the general run of things, it is a terribly cheap luxury.

Why do we so rarely find it in Canada or the US?

Sure, we can sometimes find something different. But it is rarely high quality, and invariably pretty stale.

Happily, I have discovered the solution. I have found an Indian online source, Teabox, that deals directly with the best plantations and air ships anywhere. Having tried their stuff, I can recommend it unreservedly. Their shipping seems to be free if you buy above a certain amount—only thirty bucks for me here in the Gulf-- their customer service is fantastic, their prices are only about what you pay for the old orange pekoe at Loblaw’s, and they really know their tea.

Convinced? If so, please take the trouble to use this link to have a look for yourself. No, I will not make any money from it, but they will give me a discount on my own next order. Besides one tea connoisseur helping another, it would be a nice, painless way of showing your appreciation for this blog.



(Send me a comment if the link does not work.)

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