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Roy Moxham wrote about different ways that British King’s used to benefit from the tea trade. The original method wasn’t very successful and was short-lived. For some reason first attempt to tax took place on the retail counter of coffee houses. There was a 3 pence tax for every gallon of sold tea. Now you can imagine what kind of tea that was. It is quite much likely that by pouring boiling water over old pair of used socks one would have been able to make better tea that was offer in London coffee houses between 1660 – 1690.

WHY TEA TAX PER GALLON OF READY TEA MEANT APPALLING TEA?

This is quite simple matter, really. There was no standard given for how tea should taste. This lead into a situation where coffee house keeper was trying to make the most money per used pound of tea leaves. In practice, every coffee house diluted the offered tea to a degree that the taste was close to water and at that time water wasn’t too clean.

TAX ON TEA LEAVES

Now this was a better idea. There was less problems with the quality and there was an added benefit with collecting the tax. It is difficult to keep up with tens of different sales locations without the aid of computers. It is much easier to collect the tax early in the production chain like for example an importer’s premises, custom houses or wholesale locations. This method of taxing tea finally caught wind into sails and the rest is also history.

I ordered few books from the Amazon and already I can say that tea intertwines with every aspect of the society in such an interesting manner that it would be a shame not to write about it. Currently I’m reading Roy Moxham’s A Brief History of Tea, which so far has been a fascinating read.

I’m going to start a series of posts that dive into the long history of tea. I’ll build small tidbits from here and there so it won’t be too academical, dry and boring. Have you ever heard of history that is not boring? I haven’t, so that’s I try to invent non-boring history. Let me know if your face is starting to turn green in a non-tea manner and I’ll make it even more non-boring.

The case is about applying the right to use Geographical Indicators rule from the WTO. I’m sure that many of you tea enthusiasts also gulp down some bubbly every now and then so you might recall similar case done by France regarding the Champagne area. Now Sri Lanka Tea Board is on the job and we just have to sit back and wait… and possibly drink several hundred cups of tea while doing all that waiting.

GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATOR – WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

It could mean that only tea with the right to be called Ceylon tea would have to be grown in the island of the Sri Lanka and especially on those traditional tea growing areas. Now that could seriously dent the business of other producers and companies that make some kind of tea mixes with a hint of Ceylon tea and masses of some other crap.

Naturally the positive side of this is that in the future the brand Ceylon would actually guarantee, to a degree, the quality of the product. I would like to see that because it is so tedious job to try and keep updated on good Ceylon tea. Oh by the way, Kenilworth Estate Ceylon Tea is possibly the best Ceylon tea, which is easily available on the market and you can get it with a push of a button from here.

So the Emperor wrote this post about pork rib tea, surprisingly I found myself being mentioned in that post too! As mentioned in his post:

pork rib tea is just pork rib soup served along with a cup of tea and cup of rice and just to make sure there is no tea in the soup.

Then he mentioned that I, the Empress, have been drinking pork rib tea. Well, that’s not true.

Before clarifying the matter, you might want to know first, if pork rib tea is not tea but soup, what’s in it?

Pork rib tea – a delicious dish from South-Eastern Asia

Pork rib tea is a very famous and delicious dish from South-Eastern Asia. It is also called bak kut teh locally, which literally means “meat bone tea”, pronounced in the dialect of Fujien province in China. Pork rib contains both meat and bones, thus offering both nutrition and calcium for human body, especially after it is simmered for long time with Chinese herbs and spices. It is usually served with rice or with noodles.

There are different versions of bak kut teh as mentioned in Wikipedia:

In Singapore, there are three types of bak kut teh. The most common variant is the Teochew style, which is light in color but uses more pepper in the soup. The Hoklo (Hokkien), who prefer saltier food, use more soy sauce, which results in a darker soup. The Cantonese, with a soup-drinking culture, add medicinal herbs to create a stronger flavoured soup.

Here you can see slideshow of pork rib tea from Flickr:

Just as Emperor said, I do make every now and then pork rib soup served with a cup of rice and a cup of tea, but the “pork rib soup” I make is far from the “pork rib tea” discussed in this post. While the taste of pork rib tea is in my opinion relatively greasy and strong (thus the need for a cup of tea for a balance), my pork rib soup is usually very light without needing to balance the taste with a cup of tea. Below is my pork rib corn soup, NOT the same as pork rib tea you see in slideshow.

The ingredients of the pork rib tea are pork spare ribs, white peppercorns, garlic, mushrooms, coriander leaves, dried liquorice root, red chili dark soya and light soya, while the ingredients of my pork rib soup are pork spare ribs, sweet corns, carrots and salt, sometimes I add apples as well. One can find bak kut teh in Taiwan without much difficulties, but it is still more prevalent in South Eastern Asian countries.

As you see, although both recipes are some kind of “pork rib soup”, one is bit saltier with distinctive strong taste, while the other one is lighter with somehow sweet flavour thanks to the sweet corn. Chinese are good in achieving balance in our diet and in different dishes, and a soup with almost the same name in English can be completely different dishes.

However, I can’t blame that the Emperor mixed up these two different dishes, after all, he might have not tried the famous “pork rib tea” which is part of the Malaysian and Singaporean cuisines. He does end up drinking often my home-made “pork rib soup with sweet corns” which is a common dish in Taiwan.

Interestingly, despite of being two different dishes, both are said to be good for human health. You see, we Chinese often approach dishes and their ingredients from the health aspect. The purpose of mixing various ingredients in different versions is to achieve balances both in taste, colour and health benefits. Cuisine is truly an art form in Chinese culture.

How to write pork rib tea, bak kut teh, in Chinese:

Finally, you might want to know how to write bak kut teh in Chinese to order it in Chinese world. While you might see bak kut teh written in menu in some South Eastern Asian countries, in Taiwan we don’t use bak kut teh as a dish name at all, instead we write it in Chinese characters.

In Chinese, meat as a character consists of pieces of dry meat wrapped in a bundle. it is written like this, pronounced as “Rou”:

Meat character above also evolved into a character part like this:

So many characters with the supplement part on the side or within, have something to do with “flesh” and “meat”.

Bone is written like this, pronounced as “Gu”:

It combines the part of bone,

and the part of flesh:

Because the bone forms the framework of human body and closely connected with flesh, so from bone as a character you actually see both bone and flesh.

As have introduced in this post, tea in Chinese is written as: (pronounced as Cha)

So pork rib tea = bak kut teh = (literally: meat bone tea) Pronounced as Rou Gu Cha.

Now you know perfectly how to order it no matter where you visit, enjoy!

Dec 30

Pork rib tea

I can be slightly experimental with my tea tasting, but I get nowhere near the level of the Empress or what would you say about drinking pork rib tea? I’d put it to the same category as liver tea or kidney tea both of which get a baffled expression on my face. How about you, would you like to take a sip of pork rib tea?

NO SURE?

Well, let me tell you more about pork rib tea. It is not as bad as it sounds. In fact the pork rib tea is just pork rib soup served along with a cup of tea and cup of rice and just to make sure there is no tea in the soup. Chinese culture really knows how to balance the food and you can read more about the pork rib tea over here.

In the United States and especially in the Southern states sweet tea is already a household name in case you fancy a refreshing drink. Sweet tea refers quite simply to sweetened and iced black tea. Hot tea was something that didn’t catch fire in the Southern heat of the night. It was totally different matter when you could gulp it down on the porch while listening to the cicadas. Now the sweet tea has taken the benefit of the growing tea trend and has become the beverage of choice in many establishments like for example McDonald’s as you can read in this article.

When my husband, the emperor suggested me to write for Tea Emperor, I was initially uncertain about it. I do like tea, always prefer tea to coffee, always willing to try new teas, always enjoy teas, however I am not a tea reviewer, not a tea collector, not a tea expert, never bother to distinguish one tea leaf to another, I wonder thus, can I actually be a contributor to Tea Emperor?

My cup of tea, photo by Empress

Amazingly, just in a few weeks of time my thought has completely changed. Now I start to think that Tea Emperor is exactly a place where I would love to devote my passion and time, why?Because I just recently realised the connection between tea, herbal remedies, Chinese medicine and health during a chain of events (which I wish to share with you more in this blog). As a person who is extremely interested in health-related issues, this “discovery” made me realise that to explore more on tea would be a rewarding journey in my life.

I will start by telling you one of the events that leaded my thoughts on this.

Bach’s flower remedies

During my visit to London last October, I learned about Bach’s flower remedy from a friend. “It is a commonly-used home remedy in UK. You could even find it from supermarket. Dr. Bach’s idea is that everybody should be able to heal themselves by using the natural flower remedies” said my friend. According Dr. Bach who created flower remedies in the beginning of last century, all human diseases come originally from our own emotions. The way to cure diseases is to retain balance of our body. Bach believes that the cure of our emotional imbalance can be found from flowers grown in nature, thus he has tried hundreds and hundreds of flowers grown in England to develop his flower remedy which in the end consists 38 different flowers, 38 basic remedies.

Honestly I haven’t tried the flower remedies yet, but I am highly interested in it and I do believe the idea behind it. I guess this has something to do with my Chinese cultural background.

Chinese herbal remedies (Chinese medicine)

As mentioned in this article, a legendary creator of Chinese medicines has also tried hundreds and hundreds of plants from nature to test their functions regarding human health. According to Chinese medicine theory, all the diseases come from the imbalance of our body system. Disease is not an enemy, instead it is a way through which our body tries to communicate with us and remind us: it’s time to retain balance in our mind and body again.

Both remedies focus on plants and herbs, human body as a system of balance

I noticed that the ancient Chinese herbal remedies (Chinese medicine) and the modern British flowe remedies are not so different from one another from those aspects. The may differ in the plants they use, in the methods they use, in the way they interpret the relations between human body and disease, but in essence they both believe in achieving balance of mind and body is a way to be healthy. Be it flower or Chinese herbs, they are just ways to help us achieve the healthy state.

People in both countries love to drink tea

Interestingly, both British and Chinese are especially active tea drinkers in the world! Tea has also been said as healthy drinks in both countries. As mentioned in this post, Chinese called any water cooked with plants as tea, I think in western world it often goes the same way too, such as rose tea, jasmine tea, berry tea… none of them have to have “tea leaves” in, but they are all tea anyway. They are flower tea, herbal tea, just like Chinese herbal medicine from which you can find flowers and plants. By the way, Chinese also like to put rose and jasmines into different kinds of tea!

Tea, a drink to achieve balance of body and mind?

Could it be so that tea in ancient times, be it in China or in Britain, is considered to be drinks that are cooked with plants/leaves/flowers that can help us to achieve healthy mind and body state? So maybe drinking tea has never been just custom of a nation, but also a way for people to contemplate, to feel calm, to feel balanced, to be healthy? Sure that not everybody drinks tea to be healthy, one can also drink tea for fun and enjoyment. But isn’t it so that the feeling of enjoyment and fulfillment is exactly the sources of a person’s mental health and will also result in a more balanced physical state, no matter you deliberately think about this or not?

At least that’s what I think.

Then I know this blog is really for me too, through which I hope to explore more about tea as tao, tea as way of living, tea and health, and how we as human beings can achieve a healthy mind and body state with the help of all kinds of tea. Those are what I am to share with all of you.

In my previous post I was writing about the upward trend regarding wholesale tea prices. One of the explaining factors was the increasing consumption of tea. It is actually becoming trendy to drink tea especially because there are so many varieties. You can shine among your friends if you manage to drop a fascinating tea brand in the middle of a discussion.

Image source: Starbucks online store

SO WHAT ABOUT THAT STARBUCKS?

Starbucks can spot a trend that’s why they became so big in the first place. They took light-roasted middle European coffee and introduced it in the States, then they took the rest of the world. Now they are planning to do the same with tea by introducing great tasting loose leaf teas into their brewing selection. Let’s see how the world receives Starbucks tea.

One could say that we have a tea collection, but to say so would be incorrect. We merely buy more loose tea than what we consume. Poor is the faith of some of our purchases as tempting tea packages lay in some forgotten cupboard corner only to be tossed to the trash.

MAINLY LOOSE TEA

As you can see from the photo below there are mainly loose teas in our collection, but we have made some room for daily quick fixes and few specialties. With quick fix I refer to the morning bulk bag tea, which is fast, black, cheap and easy. Come to think of it that is almost how I like my women, but don’t tell that to the Empress…

Our collection of loose teas.

FEW SPECIALTIES

These we get from our travels to Asia and Northern Europe. Let’s face it, in Asia they know how to make a good cup of tea and in Northern Europe they have pristine nature with all sorts of wild plants just dying to be dried and labeled as X tea. So you want an example? Birch leaf tea, Bilberry leaf tea, Bilberry berry tea, Buckthorn tea, Cloudberry tea and then there are all those meadow herbs… I’d like to see them grow those in the Orient.

THE TEA COLLECTION

The good thing about having more than one tea brand in your slate is that you can offer more variety for the visitors, and more importantly, you can add some taste into your life just the way you need it. For some people tea collection might be a source for little competitive spirit. There’s nothing wrong in real tea collections, but remember that very few teas age well.

WHOLESALE TEA PRICES ARE GOING UP ALL OVER THE WORLD African tea prices have risen about 5% year-on-year in the most of the producing countries, like Kenya, Uganda, Burundi etc. It doesn’t end there as reports from India, Sri Lanka and other countries in the Orient have claimed similar price increases. This is good news for the producers and doesn’t really affect consumers because of the raw material cost of a tea bag is something so little that you need a microscope to see it. What is driving up the wholesale tea or bulk tea prices? It could be popularity, tough weather conditions and opportunity costs or something else. TEA IS BECOMING MORE AND MORE POPULAR Tea is more than just a small part of the English breakfast. Today we have tea houses that are as much focused on tea as coffee shops on coffee. In this kind of establishments you can get a cup of regular coffee if you insist but that’s about it. It is safe to say that tea has taken hold of other parts of the world than just East and that small right hand corner of an English breakfast table.

WEATHER CHANGES BRING UNCERTAINTY OVER TEA CROPS Global warming or not the fluctuating weather patterns over the globe have made it even more uncertain to farm cash crops. This year Africa has seen lot of droughts and that has increased tea prices more than what they would have risen given the increased global demand for tea. Storms also do their trick as heavy rains soak the bushes. TEA HAS TO COMPETE WITH OTHER CASH CROPS Tea farmers are running businesses and they make cultivation decisions based on the return for their investment. World market prices make sure that some years tea is not very profitable while other crops might do very well indeed. This affects to cultivation decisions, farmers might swap into other plants or new farmers might initially choose something else than tea farming. Many a time tea’s biggest competitor is not coffee but some fruit for example. FUTURE TEA PRICES? Let me consult the tea leaves on the bottom of my tea cup… Ah, it looks like some changes will take place.

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