Helen Saberi takes us on a world tour with a delightful difference in Tea Times, as she invites us into the genteel pastime associated with not just supping a delicate brew of tea in a fine china cup, but the more basic and down to earth desire to eat something warm and delicious on a cold winters day, a delicate pastry or two with friends and the many, many layers that have traditionally gone to create the enjoyable and pleasant pastime of, taking Tea.
Every culture, every country has its own version of Tea Time which stretches back to the Chinese, a race who had long cultivated and enjoyed tea. It came to British shores in 1650 via Dutch trading companies, but due to the high cost was only enjoyed by the wealthy. Eventually the cost decreased but not before much political debate had ensued. John Wesley in 1748 argued that it gave rise to ‘numerous disorders, particularly those of a nervous kind’, whereas Dr Johnson of Dictionary of the English Language fame celebrated drinking tea, by doing so, 25 times per day. The Scots declared it a greater evil than Whisky!
Tea came to Russia in 1689 when the Treaty of Nerchinsk was signed between Russia and China; the Tea Road, or Great Tea Route was established and from there the custom spread into Iran, the Middle East and Turkey, countries that had long been accustomed to drinking coffee.
As the drinking of tea became more popular and affordable, so too did the range of traditions and rituals associated with the ‘taking of tea’, each particular to the country and the culture. China, with a long history of taking tea, traced back to the Tang Dynasty (AD618-906), developed the custom of Dim Sum or Yum Cha. Japan refined the art to an elaborate tea ceremony with the associated meal known as cha kaiseki. The Koreans and Taiwanese developed their own specific ceremonies, which in the modern world of fast food, has led to the quirky Bubble Tea trend!
The British took their tea culture on the road as far afield as Australia and New Zealand and into such far flung regions as Patagonia, courtesy of group of persecuted Welsh people who were looking for a country where they could practice their religion and speak their language. They founded a colony in the Chubut Valley with now more than 50,000 people claiming Welsh decent.
But let us not forget India, where green tea had been well known since the early 17th century for its medicinal properties, a country which was eventually to become established as a tea growing nation, in an attempt to break the Chinese monopoly and lower the high cost of this popular drink.
For purist who enjoy serving Tea in style there are a collection of some of the traditional recipes that were often served with the hosts choice of brews such as Tea a la Russe (Russian Style),Masala Chai ( Indian) or if you like Qymaq Chai served in Afghanistan for very special occasions. A selection of sandwiches, cakes and pastries with delicious names such as Petticoat tails, Fat rascals, Tea Kisses and such like which can be served with plain black tea, tea with milk and sugar, tea with a slice of lemon or simply green tea, as you desire.
Helen Saberi has created a wonderful collection of facts and fancies, as well as a few fantasies, covering all aspects of Tea and tea drinking that will be treasured by, not just lovers of tea, but anyone who has an interest in history and all the quirky bits and pieces that somehow end up becoming a tradition.
TeaTimes is jammed packed full of the most fascinating and enjoyable facts about the what is today considered as a ‘humble brew’, so readily available to all and available to be consumed by lovers of tea on a daily basis, which make this a most enjoyable book to savour while enjoying a ‘cuppa’.
|Distributor||New South Books|