December â€“ the last month of the year – is filled with activities and preparations for the holidays. It is the time to enjoy get-togethers with family and friends, for festivities, shopping as well as for stillness, peace, harmony and reflection.
Harmony, reflection, peace, wellness and respect are characteristics I associate with tea.
Tea has much more to offer than the obvious flavor and it requires your attention and care if you want to enjoy a perfect cup. This attentiveness stretches from the cultivation of the tea bushes to the harvest of the tender shoots and leaves to the carefully monitored processing steps which transform the fresh leaves into a wide variety of white, green, oolong and black teas. The tea master, who watches over this process meticulously, is said to add the spirit to the tea that will take us on an imaginary journey from the first sip to the last.
Since its discovery about 5000 years ago in China, tea has journeyed around the globe and each culture that came to experience its effect on body and mind, seems to have created a special way to prepare, serve and enjoy it.
China is said to be the birthplace of tea and it is still an integral part of its culture. It is the drink the bride has to prepare for her mother-in-law on her wedding day to demonstrate that she is worthy of her son; it accompanies the dead to the afterlife so that they may not go thirsty; it is the first thing a guest or customer is offered upon entering a home or store and it is used as a mean to apologize and to reconcile differences. (Be sure to know your tea so that you can tell by the quality of the tea served how sincere the apology truly is!). A very popular way to serve tea is called â€œGong Fuâ€. Â Gong Fu means skill derived through practice and experience. Using special tea pots and tiny cups, this kind of tea preparation focuses on the quality of the tea itself, the labor it took to create it and the enjoyment that is shared with a friend.
Japan was first introduced to tea by Buddhist monks who traveled from China and who appreciated teaâ€™s invigorating effect that kept them from falling asleep during hours of meditation. The Japanese made tea the center of an aesthetic ritual featuring the serving and drinking of matcha, a powdered tea. This very detailed ceremony was developed under the influence of Zen Buddhism and has its focus on the appreciation of simplicity, beauty and harmony.
Turkey, Russia, Morocco, has their own ways of preparing and serving tea. Instead of cups, tea is served in glasses with loads of sugar or marmalade as is the custom in Russia. Tea is an important part in the social life of these countries and the beautiful silver tea pots and samovars used to prepare and serve it to friends and guests are a reflection of its status within the culture.
England and the rest of Western Europe had to wait until the mid 1600 before they had their first encounter with tea. However once discovered, it quickly becomes a staple in every household and today it is unthinkable to talk about England without mentioning the age-old tradition of afternoon tea most of us are familiar with.
Whether it is served in fine china, ceramic bowls or painted glasses, all over the world, tea is the symbol of hospitality â€“ the ultimate gesture to demonstrate respect, honor and friendship. It may be served in a store to welcome a customer or to seal a business transaction; it may be served in a social setting to enjoy the company of friends. Where ever you find a group of people gathered around a pot of tea, you may also find spirited conversation, laughter and harmony. Tea turns strangers into friends and it gives as a reprieve, a pause to reflect and to celebrate lifeâ€™s gifts.
â€œTo the Chinese, tea is like a free spirit. When it enters the body, one is immediately filled with the nutrition of the sunshine, the bright moon, the richness of the land and the wonderment of the universe.â€
This holiday season, take time to enjoy a cup of tea with friends and take in the spirit of peace, friendship and communi-tea
A big Thank You to all our wonderful customers, who over the years, have become more like family to us. We appreciate your loyalty and we look forward to seeing all of you throughout the holiday season and in the next year!
Happy Holidays from the Souvia team: Bret, Kerstin, Nombi, Rachel, Zoe S., Zoe D, Alex and Robin
Kerstin Wingert, President of Souvia Tea and passionate chai-wallah!