Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.
I am loosing my habit of drinking tea at work. And I don’t like it. Coffee is taking over, and while I have nothing against coffee – Sunday/Saturday mornings are all about my milk&cinnamon South American or African coffee – I long for the times when brewing loose leaf tea at work was guilt free.
Why do we let stress and routine and a million other priorities dominate our minds? They will never ever end, I tell myself, and yet, still rush about for every free second I have to push along this machinery of life, and every Sunday afternoon, before the week starts, try to remind myself about the sweet comfort that tea brings.
Upon discovering the whimsical illustrations of Staffan Larsson, I could not stop myself from dedicating a whole page to him in my “Diary of Inspiration” notebook where art clips, museum tickets, old magazine headlines and other bits and bobs come together to incite and provoke the mind and spirit on a creative journey. The tea leaves me wanting more though, the jasmine flavour is quiet, the notes weak…just like the last days of summer.
Yesterday I was browsing the book section of a discount high-end retailer and I stumbled upon a curious find – a sort of culture diary to record your cultural escapades while refreshing your knowledge of arts, theatre, literature. I love it! It’s like a scrapbook to be filled with meaningful cultural memories but one that also inspires to travel even if you think that if you saw Paris, you’ve seen it all. The Orange marzipan chocolate fitted well with the cover but turned out to be so much more. I am now a fan!
Tea, though ridiculed by those who are naturally coarse in their nervous sensibilities…will always be the favored beverage of the intellectual.
– Thomas DeQuincy (1875-1959) Confession of an English Opium Eater –
… and what is intelligence without a dose of madness? – ‘Take some more tea,’ the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.’I’ve had nothing yet,’ Alice replied in an offended tone, ‘so I can’t take more.”You mean you can’t take LESS,’ said the Hatter: ‘it’s very easy to take MORE than nothing.’….
Today’s rainy morning demands a strong kick to wash away this feeling of drowsiness. Assam tea it is. With its malty, yet sweet notes, reminding me of honey and cocoa beans, the Assam tea is definitely among my favourite ones. I let the water heat to 90 degrees and I steep the leaves for a good 3 minutes. I prefer my Assam quite strong so I pour less water in the cup than usual.
A short history of the Assam tea
The origin of this tea lies in the Assam province, on the banks of the Brahmaputra river. It is also here that the commercial production of tea in India originated, pioneered by the East India Company in the early 19th century. The truth is that a variety of the tea plant already grew locally and the indigenous people were using its leaves in cooking and by brewing, in drinking. The East India Company though still sourced the Chinese variety and introduced it in the hot, steamy climate of the Brahmaputra valley with little success. In the end, they settled on the native specimens which flourished well at the sea level altitude. Surprisingly, the Chinese tea plants did well in the Darjeeling region, at high altitudes where conditions resembled those of the Chinese hills soaked in mists and rain.
Although the locals were enjoying tea long before the British trading company switched to India to grow tea on a large scale, it was the demand of the markets at home and in Europe that drove commercial tea production here.
Today, countries like Kenya, Argentina, Iran and Turkey are big exporters of wonderfully tasting tea. And England. Not an exporter, but a pioneer in growing tea in the temperate, often capricious climate of Great Britain.
The Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall began research in 1999 and now produces small quantities of locally grown English tea. You can even buy your own tea bush to plant in your conservatory. If you happen to be in Cornwall, do pay it a visit as I certainly will on m next passage there.