2
   

The Need for Teapots and the History of Tea

 
 
Reply Sun 18 May, 2003 11:13 am
The Need for Teapots and the History of Tea

The story of teapots begins with their necessity -- the development of tea and its regular consumption required an efficient, and later an aesthetically pleasing, vessel for brewing and drinking.

There are two legends about the invention of tea. Some attribute the discovery of tea to Shen Nung, a Chinese Emperor in the 3rd century BCE, who sat under a tree while boiling his drinking water. When the leaves of Camellia sinensis fell into his bowl, the agreeable taste prompted the genesis of tea drinking. An alternative account gives credit to a Dharuma Buddhist monk who travelled to China from India in the 5th century CE. During his fifth year of a seven year meditiation undertaken to prove his faith, he became sleepy. In an effort to remain focussed he cut off his offending eyelids and threw them onto the ground, whence sprang the tea plant. He decided to make a drink from the leaves and discovered it kept him awake, allowing him to pursue his spiritual studies.

Camellia sinensis, the common tea plant, was first cultivated in the 4th century CE, after wild specimens were brought to China from India. Actually an evergreen tree which may grow up to 50 feet, the domesticated plant is pruned to a bush-like state and kept at a height of five feet. After three to five years of growth, its leaves may be harvested to make tea. Today, women constitute the majority of pickers, and there is no machine that can exceed the 60 to 70 pounds of leaves per day that an experienced worker can collect. These 60 to 70 pounds of fresh leaves produce approximately 20 pounds of dry tea, or 2800 cups of tea. (To find out more about the process of making tea, go to our page From Tree to Teapot.)

Teapots were not used immediately upon the discovery of tea. From the
8th century CE, tea leaves were rolled by hand, dried and then ground into a powder. At first, this powder was mixed with salt and formed into cakes that would be dropped into bowls of hot water to form a thick mixture. Eventually the powder was left in its loose form, to be mixed in a bowl with boiling water and whipped into a froth. This method of tea-making was introduced into Japan in the early 9th century CE. Tea was considered medicinal in both China and Japan for the next 500 years.

At the beginning of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in China, leaf infusion as we know it now became popular. The earliest examples of teapots come from this period, made from the zisha, or "purple" clay, of the YiXing region of China. Pottery in the YiXing tradition has been strong since the Sung Dynasty (960-1279); wares are valued for their fine texture, thin walls, and naturally beautiful coloration ranging from light buff to deep maroon tones. The transition from drinking bowls to teapots was a smooth one. YiXing teapots were, and still are, used to brew tea as well as act as the drinking vessel -- one sips directly from the spout of a single-serving pot. YiXing teapots gradually season, the unglazed clay absorbing the flavor of brewed tea, making them a favorite choice for tea lovers. The dissemination of YiXing teapots greatly influenced not only the forms of teapots found throughout the world, but also prompted the
invention of hard-paste porcelain in the western world. (Modern YiXing teapots can be found at www.YiXing.com, along with information about the manufacture and use of these legendary pieces.)

Japanese demand for teapots created a growth in the industry of this new form of pottery. By the 15th century CE, both the Chinese and Japanese were drinking tea for ceremonial purposes, and the beverage was no longer regarded solely for its medicinal properties. Chinese scholars and intellectuals involved themselves in the design of teapots. The "cult of tea" in Japan, led by the artist Sen Rikyu (1522-1591), became an impetus for stylistic and artistic evolution in YiXing teapot designs. Cha-no-yu, the tea ceremony which forms the basis for Japanese Buddhist "Teaism," serves as a natural expression and discipline of zazen meditation and is viewed as an art. (The Japanese tea ceremony is described in detail on our page Chado: Adoration of the Everyday.) Teapots detailed with themes from nature or sutras were desirable adjuncts to this art, and YiXing pots themselves became prized as creative works. The Japanese began making red clay or shudei teapots; they imported Chinese artists to teach them potting methods, and developed new techniques for creating these delicate wares. The old province of Bizen became an increasingly important center for Japanese ceramics. Raku, rough and dark earthenware, emerged.

The emergence and early evolution of teapots spanned several hundred
years. Tea drinking had spread South through Asia, and was noticeable in Formosa (Taiwan), Siam (Thailand), Burma/Myanmar and the islands of Sumatra and Java in Indonesia. The next 300 years would see the global spread of tea -- and, of course, the teapot.
  • Topic Stats
  • Top Replies
  • Link to this Topic
Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 2,947 • Replies: 18
No top replies

 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 May, 2003 12:29 pm
I am a tea fanatic - not so much involved for the history, but I consume gallons of it per week: green, pekoe, black, Pau d' Arco, etc.
0 Replies
 
New Haven
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 May, 2003 12:36 pm
I own several teapots and rarely do I drink tea. I find it a wee bit too stimulating.
0 Replies
 
New Haven
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 May, 2003 12:38 pm
FEATURED POET ARCHIVES

JOYELLE McSWEENEY


Tea-Strainer


Leaf-keep, un-sibyl; if the soul
Has the weight of a swallow, what less
Has the weight of a sip? You equal
This riddle, unposed in your dish
As a hand at rest in a lap. Held to,
You hold back what can't be
Prevented, what's no more palatable
For that: the unfine; formerly, our future.

JOYELLE McSWEENEY will receive her M.Phil. at Oxford this year and plans to attend the University of Iowa in the fall. As an undergraduate at Harvard, she won the Lloyd McKim Garrison prize and the James Buell Munn Award for Literary Achievement.

This poem appears in the July 1999 issue of POETRY.
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 May, 2003 12:39 pm
Thanks, BBB. another fun reference.
I love love love my tea.
0 Replies
 
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 May, 2003 12:41 pm
I am getting more and more into tea. It's just about the only way I drink water during the winter. I have two standard sized teapots and one single serving one. One of the pots I bought at a yard sale in high school or early incollege. It's hot pink with gold printed roses all over it. Very girly.
0 Replies
 
steissd
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 May, 2003 12:41 pm
I really miss the times when there were no tea bags (they appeared in the USSR only in late '80s), and all the tea was prepared in the tea pots; it tasted much better, at least, in my opinion...
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 May, 2003 01:27 pm
LittleK & Steissd & Ciceroni
LittleK, I have a collection of tea pots, some for show and some for use. I had a hot water dispenser installed in the sink of my new home in New Mexico. Makes wonderful hot tea instantly.

What is your favorite tea?

Steissd, can you tell us any stories about making tea in Russian samovars?

ciceroni, do you have any stories re the Japanese tea ceremony?

----BumbleBeeBoogie
0 Replies
 
margo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 May, 2003 02:45 pm
Teabags have taken some of the romance and interest out of tea. I have to admit that I use them most of the time these days. And I have a collection of teapots - all of which hae been used regularly at some time.

Tea was the standard drink in the Aussie bush of old.

You put your billy on to boil over the open fire, when camping (or humping your bluey; or waltzing your matilda). When the water boils, throw in a handful of tea leaves, and stir with a stick. Leave a few minutes, off the fire, and then whack the side of the billy with the stick. This makes the leaves settle, and then it's time to drink - black of course - there's no refrigeration for milk, and of course, milk is for wusses and babies!.
0 Replies
 
cavfancier
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 May, 2003 03:19 pm
I also have a few teapots, but I like collecting teacups as well. My collection is modest, and mostly mid-value Chinese and Japanese ceramic, with some antique glazed wooden ones too. My folks inherited a lovely selection of china teacups and plates which they use for company. I got into the study of tea for a while, but had to give up all caffeine when I developed acid reflux. The tannin in tea actually was worse than that in coffee. However, I used to go to Chinatown and buy the highest grade Dragon Well I could, in tiny amounts, and that was wonderful. I am also fond of Japanese Sencha, Chinese Oolong (semi-fermented, not technically black tea) and a good Jasmine. I also use lower grade Jasmine tea for Chinese tea-smoking, a terrific way to quick-smoke foods in your home.
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 May, 2003 04:37 pm
Margo
Margo, wonderful story - I loved it.

BumbleBeeBoogie
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 May, 2003 04:52 pm
Cavfancier
Cavfancier, does anyone like Lapsang Souchong, a wonderful smokey tea, as much as I do?

BumbleBeeBoogie
0 Replies
 
dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 May, 2003 04:59 pm
Assam tea made in a french press with roiling water.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 May, 2003 05:10 pm
I take my tea out of the bags before I make a pot.
0 Replies
 
cavfancier
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 May, 2003 05:18 pm
BBB, yeah, I like it...just found the lighter teas more soothing....maybe Lapsang for me is more a winter tea.
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 May, 2003 05:26 pm
I collect cups and tea-things that have tea-advertising on them. One of my favourite finds was a little milk pitcher from the 1940's that says 'tea time is any time' on it.

In the winter, I like to take the time on a Sunday morning to mix my own blend. I've got special little tea filters to put the leaves in. If I'm not doing a 'ceremony', I make the tea in a coffee-maker that isn't allowed to have coffee anywhere near it.
0 Replies
 
cavfancier
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 May, 2003 07:03 am
My favorite teacup is a Japanese number, not terribly valuable, but amusing. It has a very nice standard dragon pattern on it, raised texture, but if you look into the empty cup and hold it up to the light, there is a lovely Japanese naked lady hidden in the bottom. Apparently this was a conventional style at one point, but I cannot remember the name of it.
0 Replies
 
satt fs
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 May, 2003 08:19 am
Although I usually drink coffee, I know the delicate tastes of tea. The taste of tea seems to be much more sensitive to the quality of water than that of coffee.
BBB, is your source of the origin of the tree of tea is sure?
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 May, 2003 08:56 am
Satt
Satt, The following Librarian Guide to the Internet site is my source: http://lii.org/search?query=Tea;searchtype=subject

BBB
0 Replies
 
 

Related Topics

Quiznos - Discussion by cjhsa
Should We Eat Our American Neighbours? - Question by mark noble
Favorite Italian Food? - Discussion by cjhsa
The Last Thing You Put In Your Mouth.... - Discussion by Dorothy Parker
Dessert suggestions, please? - Discussion by msolga
 
  1. Forums
  2. » The Need for Teapots and the History of Tea
Copyright © 2021 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 10/18/2021 at 02:56:21