Thursday, May 31, 2018

When Tea Bowls Became Tea Cups

A Family of Three at Tea (in the collection of the V&A Museum, London)

Throughout the long history of tea drinking in China, small bowls were used as the vessel of choice for holding this hot beverage.  When tea was first brought to the West in the 17th century these tea bowls were introduced to the Western world.  Such bowls were used for drinking tea at that time. Since the tea bowls were hot, various hand positions were used to hold the bowls comfortably.  These hand positions are shown in various paintings of the era.

It was not until the mid 18th century that European porcelain manufacturers began producing some of their tea bowls with handles attached. According to Jane Pettigrew in her book, Design for Tea: Tea Wares from the Dragon Court to Afternoon Tea (2004), the addition of a handle to tea bowls was inspired by the handles of the English "posset cup," a double handled cup used for hot beverages in 17th and 18th century England.

The European-made tea cups were also larger than their Chinese forebears.  The larger cup size accommodated the new habit of adding milk and sugar to tea.  Once source attributes this new habit of drinking tea with milk and sugar to Dutch influence of the time. Another source claims that it was a Parisian innovation.  In any case, tea drinking took new forms as it reached new audiences in the West.

Monday, May 28, 2018

My First Home Matcha

This morning I made matcha at home for the first time.  My daughter's friend had given her a canister of matcha powder, so being a lover of all things tea, I wanted to try it.  I looked up instructions online on how to prepare matcha, and this is what I came up with.

First, (above) I strained the matcha powder with a small kitchen strainer.

Second, (above) I poured just under boiling water into the powder and whisked it.  I must not have done it properly because, as you see, I did not get any froth.  This mixture tasted bitter and powdery to me, so I added sugar and milk to the bowl. See below.  Now that turned out to be delicious.

I don't think my methods were orthodox, however I produced a matcha which I enjoyed.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Tea Bag Holders

I have spent the morning searching for information about these little teapot-shaped thingies, variously called "tea bag holders," "tea bag rests," or "tea bag dishes." I have unintentionally amassed a small collection of them simply because: 1)  I drink a great deal of tea, 2) Friends give them to me as gifts, and 3) I buy them because they are so darn cute.

I have not found any historical information about these tea accessories.  If you can point me to references I would greatly appreciate it!  I can only guess that these developed and became popular as use of tea bags grew and became popular over the course of the 20th century.

It is not hard to find information about the invention of and spread in popularity of the tea bag.  Two nice summaries can be found HERE and HERE.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Blooming or Flowering Tea

Blooming or Flowering Teas are an art form originally from China. Each creation is made up of tea leaves hand tied around one or more flowers. The leaves and flowers are formed into a pod or bulb shape and are then set aside to dry.  When boiling water is poured over the pod, it unfurls to reveal a beautiful flower-like creation. This is an art form that requires time and contemplation - and a glass teapot or cup.

The two flowering teas I am highlighting here are "Seven Sons Congratulating" and "Dancing Snowflakes" both from Harney & Sons teas.  This first flowering tea pictured below is "Seven Sons Congratulating."  You see that once the pod opens you have a beautiful dark pink flower surrounded by a ring of white and a second outer ring of tea leaves.

The second tea pictured here below is "Dancing Snowflakes."  As the pod unfurls in hot water, tiny white flecks of flower rise to the top of the pot.  - thus giving this particular artful tea its name.

© my tea diary
Maira Gall