Early on in my romance with tea, or looking at it now it was probably an inseparable facet of that budding love-story, it occurred to me that tea was one of those rare "universals" in our world. One that, with regard to the place of importance it holds across cultures, sits in the company of those other great tenets of humankind- love, anger, sorrow, birth, death... Wait, come again? How is it that tea might be equated to the strongest and most translatable of human experiences? Well, that's what this post is about.
As I've gathered little bits of tea knowledge here and there, I've really come to see how this universal beverage is connected to our human experience. First and foremost is that "universality" I keep referring to. There are not many things that are regularly enjoyed throughout the world, from the farthest reaches of Tibet to the inner cities of the U.S., but tea is one of them. Yet, tea isn't just something merely consumed throughout the world--it's something that is revered. It seems that every culture that enjoys tea, enjoys a culture, or many, surrounding tea. And often, within those cultures are links that connect tea to our most pivotal life experiences.
For example, in Persian culture a traditional way for a young woman to indicate her response to a marriage proposal is through tea. A cup of sweet tea indicates a yes, and the bitter taste of a cup of strong and unsweetened tea is a visceral, but subtle, refusal. Traveling halfway around the world to Japan and their famed tea ceremony, one might be inspired by their gorgeous and intent-filled enacting of the prescribed event, without knowing that the ceremony originated as a peaceful escape and a lightening of the soul for samurai warriors struggling to escape their bloody and dangerous way of life. The Boston tea party showed American's rejecting the cultural tenets of their British roots and embracing their unique Americanness (among other things... lol!), but even then, it didn't take too long for us Yanks to return to the tea fold in our own way through the invention and the wholehearted embracing of iced tea (and if you think that simple iced tea is not connected to our important moments, take a trip to the American south and try to find an important event without sweet tea!). In another place and era, were the "Tea Revives You" posters, which although perhaps not quite so famous as the ubiquitous "Keep calm..." Advertisements of WWII era Britain, reminded the war fatigued and struggling English citizens that there was at least a reprieve from their daily bombardment and terror.
I've only touched on a few of the multitude of examples of the connections between tea and our human realities from around the world and already I've written waaayy too much! I wish I had more space, because I could write an entire encyclopedia on tea traditions and cultures! From Russia to Chile, tea is everywhere where there are people experiencing life. What are some of your favorite examples?