Tea changes our life——Sidelights on the Germany-China Tea Symposium

[Source]    Xinhuanet [Time]    2015-05-14 16:23:42 

At the symposium

Over 400 years ago, Dutch merchant ships brought various Chinese goods like tea and porcelain to Europe. Just for this reason, Ostfriesland, a region in Northwest Germany bordering Holland, started its long history of close bond with tea since then.

400 years later, people of Ostfriesland, who have already developed their own unique tea culture, have a happy encounter with scholars of tea culture from China because of tea. Although they have different tea-drinking habits, one thing they share in common is that they believe that tea brings people a harmonious life.

On April 11th, 2015, the Germany-China Tea Symposium, jointly hosted by the Confucius Institute in Hannover and four museums in Ostfriesland, was held in Emden.

At the symposium, Prof. Christiaan Joerg, a Dutch expert on exports of porcelain from East Asia, was invited to offer a talk on the history of Chinese tea and porcelain in Europe to over 100 tea culture enthusiasts. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch East India Company imported tea, silk and porcelain to Holland first, which were then exported to other parts of Europe. In order to lessen the bitter taste of tea, people in Europe started to add sugar and milk. Then, the tea cups started to have handles because the cups were too hot for them to hold.

Prof. Joerg introducing the history of the export of Chinese porcelain

Such changes could easily be seen in the tea drinking habits of the people of Ostfriesland. For the people of Ostfriesland who love tea, a cup of black tea with crystal sugar and cream is a perfect start for a day.

Before the symposium, Franz Thiele, General Manager of Thiele & Freese GmbH, a family tea business in Emden, demonstrated the Ostfriesland procedure of making tea to the Chinese tea culture scholars. First, big cubes of crystal sugar are put into a teacup with a handle, and then hot water is poured into the cup. The sugar makes some clear clinks in the hot water. Next, whipped cream is slightly added in along the inner side of the cup. Due to its small density, the cream sinks into the tea for a brief moment and then rises up like pieces of clouds, blossoming on the surface of the tea.

Living a comfortable and relaxing life, people of Ostfriesland have an exceptional love for tea with rich and fragrant tastes. As Mr. Thiele introduced, in Ostfriesland, the annual average tea consumption per person reaches 300 liters. Among different types of tea, the mixed one based on Assam black tea from India is always the favorite of the local people.

Tea experts from China, Germany and Holland appreciating the tea

Why do people of Ostfriesland love tea so much? Annette Kanzenbach, a historian from the Ostfriesischen Landesmuseum Emden offered one of the opinions by the experts. In the 17th century, the water in Ostfriesland was of really bad quality and didn’t taste good. People tended to choose to drink beer. When tea was introduced here, people soon discovered that one benefit of drinking tea was that, unlike having beer, one could avoid being too drunk to work after the midday.

Although China is the home of tea trees and tea culture, the Chinese tea drinking habit appears rather new to many European people. To address such differences, Mr. Ding Yishou, tea culture expert from Anhui Agricultural University, China, elaborated the evolution of Chinese people’s tea drinking habits and tea types in China. In addition, Mr. Ding emphasized that tea could help people contemplate in silence and carried the traditional harmonious concepts of the Chinese society.

Among the attendees of this symposium, Martha Claassen traveled from the nearby city Leer. She said that the talks by the guests were very interesting and she learned a lot. She also said that although she knows little about Chinese people’s tea drinking habit, tea is always the important part of the life of Ostfriesland people and could make people feel at peace.

“We drink tea since we were very young,” she said, “Whenever I feel distressed, my mom asks me to sit down and have a cup of tea, which brings me a completely different world.”

By Guo Yang & Ban Wei

Xinhuanet; Emben, Germany; April 11


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