Tea Culture

Tea Culture

3 people sitting in an outdoor venue drinking tea

One of the categories for entering a photography contest was titled “Culture.”

A Word 

a little girl helping her family prepare tea for withering

Words can have incredible power to conjure up thoughts, ideas, memories, and images in our minds. The Oxford Languages definition of culture includes: “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarding collectivity, and the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.” Another definition applied as well: “maintain tissue cells, bacteria, etc...in conditions suitable for growth.” While I believed the first two definitions applied to several of my photographs, the last definition was not a point I could illustrate for a photography contest. 

An Exciting and Delightful Culture 

An overhead view of patrons in a fine restaurant being served tea

The beverage tea has its own culture. It is an international collective group of people enveloped in the world of tea. It may be artists writing poems related to tea, painters painting a picture of tea pots, or botanists drawing a Camellia sinensis plant. The tea culture is further represented by the tea pluckers, tea growers, tea blenders, and tea tasters. Students and lovers of all things tea are encompassed into the culture of tea as well. 

An elderly woman serving her husband tea outdoors

Tea culture has been in existence for over five thousand years. The first probable documented tea culture began when Emperor Shen Nung may have been the first scientist and tea lover to identify the leaves of a Camellia sinensis plant and thus, producing a wonderful beverage. It has been widely stated and written that tea is the second consumed beverage globally, next to water. 

A tea house with two patrons sitting in the corner. A sign reads 'Dedicated just for tea' with additional writing in Mandarin.

Due to its ranking as a globally consumed beverage, it is no surprise that a majority of cultures around the world have their own subset of a tea culture within their society. Within the five countries of origin alone; China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan, a tea culture is predominant and prevalent within these countries. For example, Japan’s tea culture has the centuries old codified Japanese Tea Ceremony incorporating specific tea ware, decor and implements. China has the less formal Gong Fu tea service that has its own sequence of steps and unique tea ware. Select tea growing regions of India culturally celebrate the first plucking of tea leaves of the season. The tea culture of Sri Lanka has created an elaborate system for categorizing tea leaves and Taiwan’s tea culture embraces the prominence of producing Oolong teas. Here in the United States our tea culture in the southern region has laid claim to making a great cup of iced tea. 

Personal Tea Culture

A young woman drinking a cup of tea while using a laptop in a well-lit room

No matter where someone hails from, chances are each individual has their own distinctive personal tea culture. It could be the use of a favorite mug for early morning tea. Or perhaps the addition of cucumber sandwiches with an afternoon Cuppa. Maybe it is the addition of honey instead of sugar to a late night cup of calming herbal tea. I am guessing that there are numerous individual and personal tea cultures that are a reflective microcosm of the sheer volume of countries with their own tea culture. Whatever your own personal tea culture may be, the key seems to me to keep enjoying a cup of tea. 

Here’s to the all-encompassing global tea culture. May you find and have the benefit of sharing your tea culture with others. 

Leslie 

Postscript: Alas, the photos I would have submitted for the entrance of culture were already published and invalid for entry. Until the next photography contest.

About The Author

A photo of Leslie on the patio wearing a pink cardiganLeslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Level IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea.  No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!

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