The history of tea drinking is long and complex, spreading across multiple cultures, for over a thousand years, but the habit most likely originated in China.
Tea was introduced into the west by priests and merchants returning from eastern lands, and grew in popularity in Britain around 1840, initially being a drink of the upper classes and enjoyed by the aristocracy. Over time, this tea drinking habit filtered down to the working classes. During the industrial revolution, strong tea became part of daily life, the caffeine boost allowing for long hours of gruelling work forced onto the labourers.
The term "high tea" is understandably unknown to many South Africans, as it is essentially a throwback to colonial times. Traditionally, this was afternoon tea, served with sandwiches and cakes, to see one through to dinner time, and it became a social event for the aristocracy.
It was later labelled high tea, and was made popular by the working classes returning from the factories as it supplemented a later dinner, being served between five and seven o'clock.
The reinvented high tea has a certain old-world charm to it, and is offered at an endless number of distinguished establishments around the country, and is well worth experiencing, even if only for the delicacies offered.
The typical, well known " tea ceremony " is a ritual performed in east Asian countries, dating back to medieval times. In Japan, tatami mats laid out on wooden floors create an ideal venue for this ritual. Great symbolism is attached to the ceremony, and the adoration of non-physical elements like humility, restraint and simplicity is included.
Tea tasting is a specialized profession within the tea industry, an art not dissimilar to wine-tasting, both demanding a high level of expertise. Tea tasters require unique taste buds to differentiate between the various fragrances released by the tea. A Kwa-Zulu based company has insured the tongue of its master tea blender for R5 million. This is believed to be a national first for taking out insurance cover on a specific body part.
Just about all teas are produced from the Camellia Sinesis plant and many premium teas originate from countries like China, Japan, Taiwan and Sri Lanka, once called Ceylon. Thus the fame, and name, of Ceylon tea.
The following types of teas are enjoyed by people world-wide:
White tea – This is the most pure and least processed.
Green tea - A beverage of choice in the Far East, sometimes with the inclusion of flowers, for example, Jasmine tea.
Oolong tea – Full bodied and fragrant, commonly served in Chinese restaurants.
Black tea - The familiar teabags that we immerse into boiling water fall into this category.
Herbal tea - This does not contain any of the leaves from the Camellia plant, but is an infusion of flowers and herbs.
Rooibos tea - Naturally sweet, derived from the unique South African red bush. During the process the leaves are bruised and ground, then left to ferment. All the varieties of Rooibos tea are caffeine free.
Owing to the wonderful discovery of Rooibos and its properties, extracts of Rooibos are used for medicinal purposes and are included in select beauty products. These inclusions are mild and gentle on the skin, are least likely to cause allergic re-actions and have healing properties.
The MATSIMELA team have introduced Rooibos into their Rooibos and Honey Range. The anti-oxidants in Rooibos are known to slow the ageing process, and the products are gentle, with a beautiful fragrance, and a soothing and calming effect.