As worldly travelers know, tea service is a gesture of hospitality around the globe. In many countries, tea is an almost ceremonial aspect of lifestyle. Sipping tea is a wonderful way for tourists to experience local culture.
Tea service is distinct in different places, but it’s always meant to honor the guest and the moment. Whether offered casually with the welcoming words “Would you like a cup of tea?” when you enter a home or presented formally in a pre-arranged ritual at a tea house, tea drinking is a pleasing shared experience.
Of course, tea culture is more prominent and accessible in some countries than others.
For example, most people know about Britain’s “high tea.”
The high tea habit may have been adopted in other places around the world, but it began in England. Stopping for high tea at a fancy hotel or shop is almost requisite on the tourist agenda for Britain.
Brtain’s high tea originated during the early 1800s when, as the story goes, Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford, felt peckish between noon lunch and late night dinner. Anna arranged for service of a light meal in the late afternoon. The light meal soon became a popular aristocratic social venue.
Although the custom began with high society, the term "high tea" is actually working class. "High" is actually a reference to the tall tables used by the working class, which were sturdier than the low, delicate tables at which the gentry took their lighter, more formal tea. Workers chose to eat their evening meal earlier rather than later, and added meat, pies, cakes and bread to the menu.
High tea is a daily event in former British colonies, too, especially Hong Kong, which is geographically closer to where tea was first cultivated, brewed and imbibed.
That, of course, is in China. Tea drinking dates back to around 200 AD, and was used for medicinal purposes. Medicinal applications are still prescribed in Chinese apothecaries
But special tea shops and cultural venues also entertain tourists with China’s traditional formal tea ceremony, a meditative practice known as Gong Fu Cha, developed during the Ming dynasty (1368 to 1644 AD). The art of preparation and pouring is mastered through years of practice. Seamless elegance and a subtle personal style are the trademarks of an accomplished Gong Fu Cha server.
Copyright 2013 Jennifer Merin