Browsing the archives for the history tag

The original Oriental Beauty

As some of you know, I’m a historian in my day job, and my new project is working on the history of how ideas (drinking practice, health concerns, etc) and technologies (plantation methods, processing techniques, etc) pertaining to tea moved across borders. Taiwan turns out to be the most interesting place to look at, because of its close connection with China, but at the same time because of its distinctive history and geopolitical location, thanks to it being under Japanese jurisdiction for the first half of the twentieth century. It ends up being a nice, big melting pot of stuff, perfect for my purposes. As a result, a side story I’ve been pursuing on and off is the history of the tea Oriental Beauty (dongfangmeiren), more commonly known locally as Pengfeng tea (bragger’s tea). There are two kinds of legends surrounding the origins of this tea. One has something to … Continue reading

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Tea is poison

I’m currently in Heathrow waiting for my plane to Munich, where I’m going to be giving a (pretty terrible and rough) paper that I’ve been working on regarding early ideas about tea in Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Specifically, I was trying to look at how people thought about tea’s connection with health. It was quite interesting, really, because for anyone trying it for the first time, tea is obviously doing something to your body. It’s not just water – it’s more than that. If you drink a strong cup of tea, it will do certain things to you – and these are effects that are universally noticed. However, that doesn’t mean people all have the same conclusion when it comes to tea and what it does to your body. Whereas in the very early eighteenth century when tea was still a rare and unusual commodity, people writing … Continue reading

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Kitano Tenmangu and Sh?k?ken

We are spending a quick few days in Kyoto, and one of the nice things about Kyoto is that there’s tea pretty much literally everywhere you go. Today we spent a little time at Kitano Tenmangu, an important Shinto shrine for the god Tenjin, the deification of the person Shigawara no Michizane, but more importantly, the shrine was also the site of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s famous Grand Tea Ceremony, held in 1587 and was supposed to run for 10 days, even though it ended up only being about two days. It was, for the most part, a grand show of power and patronage by Hideyoshi, but there was some tea involved as well. Among the collections of Kitano Tenmangu are a number of artifacts related to the tea ceremony, as well as some good looking raku ware chawans. More interestingly, there’s a painting of the scene of the Grand Tea Ceremony, … Continue reading

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Ways to cheat in tea

It’s been a busy few weeks, what with grading, trying to finish a few papers, so on so forth. One of the papers I was trying to write and still in pretty shambolic state is one on the Taiwanese industry. Among the more interesting documents I’ve come across are a set of articles of association for the Taipei Tea Merchants Association. They were always concerned with inferior, fake, or just bad tea, among other things. Taiwan teas, even back in the early 20th century, had a premium over mainland Chinese tea, and they were very keen to keep it that way. So, in an effort to prevent problems, they listed what was not allowed in terms of teas that they sell. These are: 1) Powdered tea – this is not matcha wannabes, but rather teas with significant amounts of powdered tea leaves mixed in to make the tea heavier, so … Continue reading

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Rough thoughts on Oriental Beauty

I’m working on a paper on Oriental Beauty (dongfangmeiren ????), the highly oxidized oolong from Taiwan. It’s still in nebulous form, but I thought it might be interesting to jot down a few things that I have found so far that are worthy of mention. The first, and most important, is that the name Oriental Beauty didn’t seem to appear until at least the 1970s. Before that, the tea was called “pengfeng cha”, which some of you know as “bragger’s/liar’s tea”. The reason it was called that was because, supposedly, the tea fetched such a high price that the folks back home in the village (probably Beipu) didn’t believe him, so they called the tea pengfeng cha, and the name stuck. Now, the question is – when did this happen? I’m sure some of you have read stories about how Queen Victoria drank this tea and thus called it Oriental … Continue reading

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British Oppression: Top 5 Google Searches

When Americans think of tea, many of us think of the British. Nowadays, Americans are more likely to picture the British as pleasant, tea-drinking people, less so in the role of heinous oppressors, imperialists and colonialists. The attitude has shif…

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A Quintessential Invention

MadameN and I have co-written a paper and presented it at a local conference on the recent history of tea and tea practices in East Asia, using mostly the Taiwanese/Chinese re-invention of chayi/chadao as an example to illustrate a case … Continue reading

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Create The Conditions For Your Business To Thrive: Che Guevara Offers Business Advice

One thing that I find a useful concept in business is an idea that I first encountered from a rather unlikely source, an individual who is best known for his anti-capitalist views: Che Guevara.This post aims to address those sorts of tough business pro…

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The faith in old trees

Before I go on – it just occurred to me that my blog is now six years old. It isn’t a very long time, but longer than I probably thought when I first started this venture. Thank you all for … Continue reading

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On Tea and Friendship (III)

*MarshalN: Last installment, see prior posts for what came before. This is the part where he talks about making tea. At the end he includes a few paragraphs from Ch’asu, but I will post those at some other opportune time. … Continue reading

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