Friday, June 5, 2009

Harvard Business Review on Tea

The Harvard Business Review has an interesting article on tea in China in the 19th century. Excerpt:

Chinese methods of processing and enjoying tea were reinvented over the centuries. As late as the Song dynasty (960-1279 A.D.), powdered teas were gourmet extravagances, which gave rise to the varieties central to the Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu). Tastes changed decisively in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.) to favor types of loose, whole-leaf teas like those of the present day. No longer beaten to a froth in bowls and drunk out of them, tea was now brewed or steeped in teapots (another innovation of this period) and sipped from cups. By the middle of the eighteenth century (the mid-Qing dynasty), the three major classifications of contemporary Chinese teas had emerged—the fully fermented black teas (hongcha) favored throughout the former British Empire, semi-fermented teas (gingcha), such as the oolong so popular in North America, and unfermented green teas (lücha), which secured a following in more limited markets, such as North Africa. As evident in the nomenclature, the degree of fermentation or oxidation allowed in tea processing largely determined the nature of the output. Whether done manually or mechanically, the manipulation of newly picked leaves activates their oxidation, and firing or drying halts the process at the desired point.

Very interesting! You can read the rest and see more rare photos here.

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