A sippa or a cuppa –it’s all zen to me

Ah… tea and wine. Two drinks that make you surprisingly jolly and one can get you into more trouble than the other. I am talking about tea of course 😉

Historically, both tea and wine have been used as a stimulant and intoxicant. The caffeine is tea, though mild, is still addictive. This is why the Mormons don’t drink either. After all there is always a temptation to sit God down in the back porch and say “Hang on, I’ll be right back after that cuppa”. I plead guilty of such transgressions.

Yet both tea and wine are indelibly woven into history and deeply embedded into the ritual, religion and customs of the world. And the similarities do not end there:

A tea plantation in Assam. Learn more about Assam Tea Here.

Tea & wine both capture a sense of place: Terroir’ is a French word that means the combined effects of geography and climate on wine. In other words the soil, climate topography and seasons all play a role in determining the quality of grapes that go to make the wine. And every batch is different even though the wine may come from the same vineyard. Tea follows the same logic. The leading tea regions of India can be broadly compared to the French wine growing regions of Burgundy, Bordeaux and Languedoc. Also like wine, Indian teas are named after the place where they are grown– each tea carrying the distinct aroma of its region. Darjeeling, “the champagne” of teas” is pale in colour and has a natural delicate, muscatel-like flavour. Assam plays “burgundy” to Darjeeling’s “champagne”. The best Assam teas, particularly the 2nd flush teas, have a robust flavor and depth of color that is unmatched anywhere in the world.

Like wine, tea flavor involves both taste and aroma. Many teas and wines have their own intrinsic flavor with fruity, floral or woody notes. This should not be  confused  with herbal teas which have artificial or natural flavors added to a tea base. For example, the litchi flavour of the Gewurztraminer comes from the grapes grown in the Alsace region of northeast France.  Assam Teas have a deep woody note to them. Woody teas are a great after-dinner drink, and aid in digestion.

Fresh grapes, hand-picked makes the best wine

Hand picking ensures premium quality: Good wine and tea are never made from mechanically harvested crop: they are very carefully hand-picked. Exclusive wines are made from hand-selected grapes just as GFOP (Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) the top grade Orthodox Assam Tea is made from hand-plucking only the pubescent tips of a tea bush. The fresh picked harvest has to be processed immediately while the leaves are still fresh to ensure optimum quality. The same goes with wine.

Tea leaves hand-plucked have to be processed within 24 hours otherwise it will spoil

Expertise and know-how are critical in tea and wine making. The decision of when exactly to finish the fermentation of rack a wine is as crucial as that of when to start or stop hand-firing a tea. That can only be learned by experience and determined by experts because wine and tea, are both living, artisanal product where top quality depends on instinct and knowhow.

Bacchus: The Roman God of Wine. To read more about the ceremonial uses of wine CLICK HERE.

Ceremonial & social uses:  In ancient Greece and Rome the mild intoxication offered by wine was valued as a means of

Click here to read an excellent article in Fresh Cup Magazine on the "Rituals, Rites and the Religion of Tea."

entering the irrational realm of Greek divinities. Buddhist monks use tea to help enter a meditative state. Rikyu, an influential historical figure who studied tea coined a phrase that roughly translates to, ‘You can either sit on a cushion to gain enlightenment or you can make a bowl of tea.”

So here I am sitting on a cushion AND drinking tea– that should qualify me for double enlightenment, don’t you think? So whether it’s a sippa or a cuppa, share one with me, will you? And cheers to you, my dear friends!:)

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Since the Book of Grapes (and DANG, it’s a good one!) has  already been written by Johnny Come-First, Shona Patel decided to write a story set in a tea plantation in Assam. You can read more about Teatime for the Firefly HERE.  Shona Patel is represented by April Eberhardt Literary

TEA TRIVIA: talking about the “Earl” in Grey and the “High in Tea

Tea is the second most widely consumed beverage in the world after water. Half of the world’s population drinks it either hot or cold.

  • Tea was accidentally discovered in 2737 BC when Chinese Emperor Shen Nung found  tea leaves that had blown into a pot of boiling water that produced a pleasing aroma.
  • Tea was introduced to England in 1669. At that time, the drink was enjoyed only by the aristocracy because a pound of tea cost an average British laborer the equivalent of nine months in wages.
English high tea.
  • Afternoon Tea was invented by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford (1783-1857), one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting. She drank tea as a picker-upper to tide over what she  described as a “sinking feeling” in the afternoon.
  • The “High” in High Tea does not imply fancy, high class or expensive. The word actually refers to the time of day in which tea is served (evening) and that it is served at  a dining room table (high table). High Tea is an evening tea generally served at 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm and features sandwiches, scones, heavy cakes, biscuits and, of course, plenty of tea.

(Please check out Lorna’a Tearoom Delights: an excellent blog about Scottish Tea Houses to whet your appetite about tea traditions still going strong in Scotland today.) 

  • The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor, by Nathaniel Currier: In 1773, colonists dressed as Mohawk Indians threw 342 chests of tea belonging to the British East India Company into Boston harbor. They were protesting a tax on tea and a perceived British monopoly. (Photo Credit: Bettmann/CORBIS)

    The Boston Tea Party ended America’s liking for both the British and their tea, marked the beginning of the War of Independence, and started America’s coffee-drinking tradition.

  •  It wasn’t until 1905 that the tea plant received its official Latin name, Camellia sinensis.This single plant can be harvested and processed to produce green, white and  black teas.
The 2nd Earl Grey, British Prime Minister of 1830 (read more about him on Wikipedia HERE)
  • Bergemont Orange (Citrus Bergamia) grown in Southern Italy.

    Earl Grey Tea is flavored with the rind of the bergamot orange, a fragrant citrus fruit. It was named after the second Earl Grey, British Prime Minister 1830-34. Jacksons of Piccadilly claim Lord Grey handed them his recipe, based on an old Chinese version.

Iced Tea was discovered in 1904, at the St. Louis World’s Fair, by a British tea merchant named Richard Blechynden. To boost tea sales in the hot weather he placed iced cubes into his tea and found the beginning of iced tea!  Today 80% of the tea served in the United States is some form of iced tea.

  • New York City tea importer named Thomas Sullivan invented the Tea Bag. He became annoyed at the high cost of the tin boxes he used to send tea samples to customers. So in 1904 (or by some accounts, 1908) he switched to small cloth bags. One of the New York City restaurants that received his “bagged tea” began brewing pots of tea by simply pouring hot water over the bag, and the rest is history.
  •  The UK consumes 165 million cups of tea daily. The average person in the UK will consume around 80,000 cups of tea during their life. The Irish drink more tea per head than any nation in the world. 5 out of 6 North Americans drink tea. Americans prefer black tea over green and oolong and drink over 50 billion cups of tea each year (mostly iced tea-80%).

    More interesting tea facts: courtesy Holland & Barrett
  •  The two most hummed tea songs are “Tea for Two,” from the 1924 Broadway musical No, No, Nanette and “When I Take My Sugar to Tea,” written in 1931 by Sammy Fain  Irving Kahal, and Pierre Norman. (If you want to waste more time than you are doing so already, click on the links to listen to them on YouTube).
  • In Tibet tea is served mixed with salt and rancid yak butter. In Burma (now Myanmar) pickled tea known as Lahpet is eaten.
Vanity license plates on our cars!

You can tell how much I love tea by the vanity license plates on both our cars. The ERL GREY on hubby’s car (left) is a joke. Hubby grew up in England and when he gets hoity-toity I tell him, “Just, who do you do you think you are – Earl Grey?”. He is a coffee drinker! 

Teatime for the Firefly is Shona Patel’s debut novel. It is a love story set in a remote tea plantation in Assam, India. You can read the SYNOPSIS and the FIRST CHAPTER by clicking on the red links. She is represented by April Eberhardt Literary.