Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Tea East & West
"The country cannot do without a ruler for one single day. The ruler cannot do without a cup of tea for one single day."
- Chinese Emperor Qianlong, who reigned 1736-95
I usually have to read at least a little something to get to sleep at night, and thanks to NBC's decision to run Michael Phelps' races late at night here in the U.S., let's just say the sleep schedule is a little wacky at our house. (Go, Michael!) This week, my nighttime reading is the 2003 book "Tea East and West" edited by Rupert Faulkner.
In the chapter on China, one of the most interesting things I learned was that whisked tea was popular in China in the 11th century, so much so that it had become a game. "Five or six people would each place powdered tea in a bowl, over which boiling water was poured. Using a bamboo whisk, each person would try to whip up as much froth as possible. The criteria for winning were that the froth should be rich, that it lasted for a long time, and that the powdered tea had dissolved completely. If the froth disappeared quickly or some of the tea powder remained visible in the bowl, the contestant would be considered a failure." Too bad that game isn't still around, or else we might be staying up late to watch the tea-making competition at the Olympics!