Xiaoyan (Little Sparrow), a Sichuan girl originally from Chongqing, now residing and working Guandong Province, cultivating some of the most beautiful orchids one has ever seen, is a friend of mine. We talk about all things culturally related, and especially love to converse on the similarities and differences in Eastern and Western culture and tastes. We love to talk about books, ancient stories, art, history, precious objects, unique places to visit and the histories behind them, and a whole host of cultural topics. Our discussions are quite interesting and stimulating, and often we talk hours without realizing how much time has passed.
Recently the topic of tea was brought up in one of our conversations. It happens to be one of Xiaoyan’s passions, and from the sense I get, a passion of China and the East in general. The West though, sans Great Britain, is Coffee passionate. I know that I am, and so every time before that we spoke about the subject, I always wondered why Coffee wasn’t as appealing to Eastern Culture as it was to ours.
I’ve come to believe that it has to do with the matter of intricacy. I know that many a Brasilian will take issue with this statement but, in general coffee is coffee. Sure you can flavor it, dress it up in all sorts of toppings and such, but basically the bean is the bean. I know that some beans are better than others, depending on the climate, the roasting, and many other factors, but these are varying degrees of differences concerning the same thing, whereas tea, especially Oriental tea, as a plant, like the grape, has a number of different varieties of the plant itself and not just where it’s grown or how its processed.
Note the differences in types of tea and coffee consumption from diffen.com:
- Drip Coffee
- Decaf Brewed
- Decaf Instant
- White Tea
- Green Tea
- Oolong Tea
- Black/Red Tea
- Post Fermented Tea
- Yellow Tea
Note the coffee consumption differences are based on ways of processing, whereas the teas’ are based on varieties of the plant itself. So with tea, one has a variety of different palettes and experiences based on the herb itself, rather than, basically, the one experience of Coffee: the extreme caffeine high. So this leads to a more genteel sense of the tea culture versus that of the Coffee. This intricacy of experience is symbolic of the Oriental inclination towards finding its bliss in relationships and engagement with life, rather than the end product of relationships, and in all the various textures, colors, and contours found in the many different relationships one finds in daily life. “Being” for them is found through the relationship, engagement with relationships, rather than the benefits gained from them.
Well, I won’t go on about philosophy. Let me instead introduce you to some of Xiaoyan’s thoughts and preferences in tea itself. This is a good introduction to start me on my tea adventure, and maybe, if you’ve come upon this interest, a good one for you too. I’ve begun to notice more and more interest in tea in America lately, whether in be in the media, the internet, or friends and family, so this seems to be a timely topic.
Here are the words and Chinese tea preferences of my friend, Xiaoyan, a genteel, refined China Girl:
Do you know Chinese tea , the tea culture has been took long history in Chinese culture. there are many kinds of tea in each area of China , there are some famous teas in china , such like “Xihu Long Jing”,”HuangShan MaoFeng” “Jun Shan Yin Zhen”,”Tie Guan Yin”……
Generally, tea is classified in to two sorts , red tea and green tea , red tea is fermented tea , green tea is unfermented tea. My favorite tea is Ur long Tea, Which is a kind of tea between unfermented tea and fermented tea , it is half ferment tea .
Ur-Long Tea is light green brown colour on apparent, taste sweet like liquorices, no bitter taste like green tea , no acerbity taste like red tea, its fragrance can keep long time .
I like have a cup of Ur-long tea after my hard work when take break in my yard .or meeting friends when we chat. It is really a good drink for healthy and get energy.
Sounds like a good starting place for me, and a happy one. Also I found from here, that indeed the health benefits of tea are substantiated, while that of coffee are not and may even be, if anything, more harmful than good for the body. “Tea contains Tannin and Catechin have been associated with preventing cancer and heart diseases,” to quote this article from Diffen.com.
So there you have it. I hope you may find this little refined insight from my Chinese friend interesting, intriguing, and possibly valuable, if you have an interest in exploring the benefits, pleasures, and culture surrounding tea. I’ve got my tea press ready. Time to go search for some Oolong Tea today!
Photo: Emily Chang 2009. EmilyChang.com
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