Everything Foodie

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Tea - Legendary Origins?

- By V Neale

We take it for granted and reach for a cuppa at any time of the day or night. It has certainly come a long way since it was first drunk. Apparently Catherine of Braganza a Portuguese princess brought the ritual to the English court from Portugal after she demanded a cup and was met with total incomprehension in the seventeenth century. Imagine, having travelled all that way and no one thinking to offer a welcoming brew!

Tea drinking actually has a much longer history and stretches way back in time. Its origins appear in legend. It took several thousand years before the plant called Camellia sinensis washed up on other shores. I especially like the Chinese story of Shen Nung, emperor and herbalist who found leaves from a nearby tea bush had dropped into his boiling water and liked the result. Happy accidents are one of the wonderful aspects of living in an imperfect world it appears!

Certainly tea developed a definite personality by 55BC and the Han dynasty promoted its popularity. Since then it was discovered that tea was enjoyed in Japan, where it attained cultural significance, India, Nepal, Argentina, Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Indonesia and in Africa and then out into Europe. But its travels around the world, its place in commodity trading, smuggling, tea parties and colonialism makes this humble leaf a significant player on the world stage.

Nowadays interest in this popular beverage extends to tea tastings and personal blendings; experiments with Rooibos (we can thank the Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall for its worldwide rise in popularity); green and white teas all mean there is a flavour for every taste and every occasion. Whether you like to stand a spoon up in a strong combination of milk and sugar, with a tea bag mashed at the bottom or you prefer a delicate fragrant moment with a Jasmine or Lapsang Souchong leaf tea in a delicate bone china cup, Australasia Food Services can source the finest teas for any discerning palette. There are actually 1,500 tea varieties and all subtly different.

I can hear the kettle boiling now, you must excuse me. Next time we will take about brewing the perfect cup.

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