Tea: Origins

Dear reader,

On last July ago I wrote a small article about the origin of coffee, the favourite drink of most Brazilians, like this amateur writer  😉 This time, however, I will try to write a short review about the origin of tea, definitely the most consumed drink in the world, after water of course! 🙂

Tea plants are native to East Asia. According to Wikipedia (Tea) “some studies indicate that likely a single place of origin exists for Camellia sinensis (a species of evergreen shrub or small tree whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce tea), i.e., an area including the northern part of Burma, and southwest part of China (Yunnan and Sichuan provinces). Tea drinking may have begun in the Yunnan region during the Shang Dynasty in China, when it was used for medicinal purposes.” Also, “the earliest known physical evidence of tea was discovered in 2016 in the mausoleum of Emperor Jing of Han in Xi’an, indicating that tea was drunk by Han Dynasty emperors as early as the 2nd century BC. It was popularized as a recreational drink during the Chinese Tang dynasty, spread later to other East Asian countries. Portuguese priests and merchants introduced it to Europe during the 16th century. During the 17th century, drinking tea became fashionable among Britons, who started large-scale production and commercialization of the plant in India to bypass the Chinese monopoly.”

Tea plantation in Anshun city, Guizhou province in southwest China

Tea leaves (Camellia sinensis species)

Also, “the etymology of tea can be traced back to the various Chinese pronunciations of the word. Nearly all the words for tea worldwide, fall into three broad groups: te, cha and chai, which reflected the history of transmission of tea drinking culture and trade from China to countries around the world. The Chinese character for tea is 茶, originally written with an extra stroke as 荼 (pronounced , used as a word for a bitter herb), and acquired its current form during the Tang Dynasty. The word is pronounced differently in the different varieties of Chinese, such as chá in Mandarin, zo and dzo in Wu Chinese, and ta and te in Min Chinese. One suggestion is that the different pronunciations may have arisen from the different words for tea in ancient China, for example (荼) may have given rise to ; historical phonologists however argued that the cha, te and dzo all arose from the same root with a reconstructed pronunciation dra, which changed due to sound shift through the centuries. There were other ancient words for tea, though ming (茗) is the only other one still in common use” (Etymology of tea).

In my native country, Brazil, we say chá and here in Japan people say ocha ( or おちゃ).  😉

It’s worthwhile to mention here that the tea production in Brazil has strong roots due to the country’s origins in Portugal, the strong presence of Japanese immigrants and also because of the influences of their neighbour’s yerba mate culture. Brazil had a big tea production until the 80s, but it has weakened in the past decades. Right now, there’s only a few families trying to reorganize the tea production, facing strong competition against cheap prices from tea producers in Asia and also against coffee companies!  😦

On the other hand, here in Japan tea was brought in a very long time ago! As mentioned in another Wikipedia entry (History of tea), “tea became a drink of the religious classes when Japanese priests and envoys, sent to China to learn about its culture, brought tea to Japan. Ancient recordings indicate the first batch of tea seeds were brought by a priest named Saichō in 805 and then by another named Kūkai in 806. It became a drink of the royal classes when Emperor Saga, the Japanese emperor, encouraged the growth of tea plants. Seeds were imported from China, and cultivation in Japan began. In 1191, the famous Zen priest Eisai brought back tea seeds to Kyoto. The oldest tea speciality book in Japan, Kissa Yōjōki (in English its title would be “How to Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea”), was written by Eisai. The two-volume book was written in 1211 after his second and last visit to China. The first sentence states, “Tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one’s life more full and complete.” Eisai was also instrumental in introducing tea consumption to the warrior class, which rose to political prominence after the Heian Period. Green tea became a staple among cultured people in Japan – a brew for the gentry and the Buddhist priesthood alike. Production grew and tea became increasingly accessible, though still a privilege enjoyed mostly by the upper classes. The tea ceremony of Japan was introduced from China in the 15th century by Buddhists as a semi-religious social custom. The modern tea ceremony was developed over several centuries by Zen Buddhist monks.”

Finally, the picture below shows the best regions in the world to plant and harvest tea. Not surprisingly most of places are located in Asia, especially in China, with some exceptions like Argentina and South Africa:

The world’s best places for tea cultivation

I hope you have enjoyed this introductory article about tea. In a near future I will definitely write about production and types of tea as well, so stay tuned!  😉

Works Cited

  • “Tea” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 28 November 2017. Web. 30 November 2017.
  • “History of tea” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 November 2017. Web. 30 November 2017.
  • “Etymology of tea” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 September 2017. Web. 30 November 2017.
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Choices…

Dear reader,

Have you sometimes thought why determined events happened in your life and others did not? Have you guessed ‘what if’ you had done this instead of that? What would be the outcome for you? Occasionally I make the same questions to myself…  🙂

For years I have been thinking why some people have a better life than others, why other people have a very miserable existence and why some people just try to survive during their pale presence on this chaotic planet?

There are of course many reasons such as lack (or not) of formal education, (good or bad) health, a nice (or not) family, (good or bad) luck, and probably many others that we could cite here. However, I think that every single moment of our lives is just a matter of choice! I mean, we are constantly making choices, usually not the correct ones (that’s why most of us are always complaining)…

Most of people don’t realize that some of the choices we make on a daily basis are unconscious ones. For example, you didn’t want to talk with someone today because you were so busy or thought that it wasn’t important. Because of that maybe you missed an interesting opportunity in your life… Another (opposite) example: you greeted someone at your work or at school and because of that you started a conversation with him (or her) that resulted in something good (or bad) to you later.

There is an quite interesting metaphor fork in the road, based on a literal expression that by analogy means a point where from only two possibilities to be taken a choice has to be made.

                              A real fork in the road, in Carlsbad, California – US                                         (unfortunately it was removed later)

We are always deciding which route to take (although most of the time we don’t realize it). Only the fact that you have spent some time to read this post (thanks a lot! 🙂 ) can make (or not) a difference in your next move though your long journey in this world.

Therefore, when possible, you always should ask yourself:  Which path should I choose?  😉

Our future is set by the choices we make every single minute…

I will finish this article (I hope you liked it) with a beautiful poem, entitled The Road Not Taken, written in 1916 by a famous American poet called Robert Lee Frost.

It’s really worthwhile to think about it… 😉

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Books

Dear reader,

Last month I wrote a brief introduction about magazines, so nothing more logical than writing now about books.. 😉

I really do love reading books, although I haven’t read much of them during my childhood if compared to magazines and comics. Probably the biggest reason was because comics and magazines are in general more appealing to kids since they’re colourful and easier to read.

However, there is something that books can offer and we don’t find it in magazines and comics. I mean, since most of the books don’t have so many illustrations we have to immerse ourselves in the story or narration with the purpose of understanding deeply what the book author wanted to say to us. In other words, our imagination goes wild! 🙂

This happened to me when I was at the middle-school (I think I was twelve or thirteen years-old). During almost six months I read a lot of books related to Tarzan adventures in the jungle. It was quite challeging because they didn’t have any pictures at all, so I had to imagine everything: forests, animals, weather, etc. It was like watching a movie with closed eyes!

From that time I have learned an important lesson: If you want to become a critical thinker you should read as much books as you can. 😉 Otherwise, if you just want to stay an empty minded person then watch TV all the time… 😦

Unfortunately I haven’t read so much fictional books as I wanted, most of them were just related to my profession, i.e. , electronics (hardware and software included). Anyway, I hope someday to start changing it. Even during this digital age I do love the smell of a printed book!  🙂

Best Regards from the Land of Literate People,

A critical thinker is like a human bookstore: his (or her) knowledge acquired through the years is immense!

Magazines

Dear reader,

As you already know (I hope you have read some of my previous articles here) , reading is definitely one of my favourite pastimes. Although it really started with comics, I also started reading magazines at a very early age, i.e., eight-years-old. 😉

During my childhood I read just one specific magazine (more precisely, it was a Brazilian  magazine about soccer). However, from my high school days I started reading magazines about news, music and entertainment and after entering university I also started reading magazines about computers and electronics.

The list of magazines I have been reading during my life has been increasing through the years also because of my ability in reading them in a language different from Portuguese (my mother tongue). The good side of this “hunger” in reading a lot of magazines is that my knowledge in general has been improving through all these years. The bad side is that I usually I can’t stay updated with the latest news or trends since I’m not able to keep reading all their most recent issues… 🙂 🙂

One of my objectives in this page related to magazines is to include, describe and give my opinion about all the magazines I have been reading during my lifetime. Some of them are already out-of-print, but there are still quite a lot being published even these days!.

Best Regards from very hot Japan,

  PLACAR:  one of the first magazines I read during my childhood!

Coffee: Production

Dear reader,

This month I just wanted to write a very short article describing the current production of coffee in the world. Can you guess how many countries actually produce and / or export coffee these days? Yes, more than 50 countries in the world are coffee producers! 😉

                     The map above shows areas of coffee cultivation by type of coffee:
r:  coffea canephora (also known as robusta)
m: both coffea canephora (robusta) and coffea arabica (arabica)
a:  coffea arabica

I will not list here all the current coffee producer countries in the world, but accordingly to ICO (International Coffee Organization) the largest ten coffee producers countries are:

  1. Brazil (YES, it’s my home country!  🙂 ),
  2. Vietnam,
  3. Colombia,
  4. Indonesia,
  5. Ethiopia,
  6. Honduras,
  7. India,
  8. Uganda,
  9. Mexico, and
  10. Guatemala.

I think the only countries above which I still haven’t proved their coffee are India, Uganda and Mexico. What about you, dear reader, have you tasted coffee from all the countries cited above?

In the next article about coffee (scheduled for the end of this year) I intend to write about some different kinds of coffee plants including their taste and quantity of caffeine present in each variety.

Until there let’s just enjoy a delicious cup of coffee…

Best Regards from this blogger coffee lover!  😉

Coffee: Origins

Dear reader,

Four months ago I wrote a short article about coffee and tea, where I just commented how popular they’re in my native country, Brazil, and here in Japan where I’ve been living for almost twenty years..

Now I intend to write a short review describing the origins of coffee, basically where it came from and when it was introduced in Brazil, Japan and other parts of the world (I also intend to write a similar article related to tea in a near future).

According to the Wikipedia “coffee dates back to the 10th century, and possibly earlier with a number of reports and legends surrounding its first use. The native (undomesticated) origin of coffee is thought to have been Ethiopia. The earliest substantiated evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree is from the 15th century, in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen. Coffee was primarily consumed in the Islamic world where it originated and was directly related to religious practices. By the 16th century, it had reached the rest of the Middle East, South India, Persia, Turkey, and Africa. It then spread to the Balkans, Italy and to the rest of Europe, to South East Asia and then to America.”

Sufi monasteries of Yemen: the first evidence of coffee drinking!

It’s also very interesting to understand the its meaning: “The word “coffee” entered the English language in 1582 via the Dutch koffie, borrowed from the Turkish kahve, in turn borrowed from the Arabic qahwah ( قهوة). The word qahwah originally referred to a type of wine, whose etymology is given by Arab lexicographers as deriving from the verb qahā (قها, “to lack hunger”) in reference to the drink’s reputation as an appetite suppressant. The word qahwah is sometimes alternatively traced to the Arabic quwwa (“power, energy”), or to Kaffa, a medieval kingdom in Ethiopia whence the plant was exported to Arabia.”

Made in Ethiopia: probably the first origin of coffee!

The first coffee bush in my native country, Brazil,  was planted by Francisco de Melo Palheta, a Portuguese military man, in the state of Pará (north of Brazil) in 1727. According to the Wikipedia, “the Portuguese were looking for a cut of the coffee market, but could not obtain seeds from bordering French Guiana due to the governor’s unwillingness to export the seeds. Palheta was sent to French Guiana on a diplomatic mission to resolve a border dispute. On his way back home, he managed to smuggle the seeds into Brazil by seducing the governor’s wife who secretly gave him a bouquet spiked with seeds!”  😉

Here in Japan “coffee was introduced by Dutch people in the 17th century, but didn’t become popular due to the trade restrictions that were lifted only in 1858. However, during the early 1930s there were over 30,000 coffee houses across the country; availability in the wartime and immediate postwar period dropped to nearly zero, then rapidly increased as import barriers were removed.”

It’s interesting to mention that “the introduction of freeze-dried instant coffee, canned coffee, and franchises such as Starbucks and Doutor Coffee in the late 20th century” increased the coffee popularity here at this side of the world to the point that Japan is now one of the leading per capita coffee consumers in the world! 🙂

Finally, the picture below shows how coffee was also spread to other parts of the world. It’s interesting to see the distribution pattern across the continents:

Historic distribution of coffee around the world

If you don’t mind I will take a cup of instant coffee with some powder milk right now since it’s still early in the morning and I’m very tired (slept only five hours last night!)  😉

See you around next month!  🙂

Works Cited

“History of Coffee.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 July 2017. Web. 30 June 2017.

Languages

Dear reader,

Another item on this blog menu is being added today: Languages. I have decided to add this new item because I have been studying and learning idioms since I was a kid. I think my interest and curiosity for languages is probably due to my family roots since most of my close relatives descended from German and Italian immigrants…

My first contact with another language besides Portuguese (my mother tongue) was German. I can’t believe I used to pray in German when I was just a four-years kid! Unfortunately I didn’t learn the idiom when I was at school, so it got vanished from my memory through the years…

Therefore my first official contact with a foreign language was at the sixth grade at elementary school (equivalent to the first year at middle school) when I started learning English. It was very difficult to me to learn English during the middle and high school years, especially in the first three years. Fortunately I was able to overcome it when I enrolled in a English language course school during my undergraduate days.  🙂

Some years ago I also had the opportunity to start learning and studying Japanese, a complete different language if compared with the Western ones! The concept of ideograms (originally from China) had a profound impact on me because I was able to realize that learning and studying distinct languages make you think in a very completely different way! It really opens your mind since it becomes easier to understand other countries cultures, including local people’s manners and morals.

Very recently I also started learning and studying Italian and even Dutch (completed some on-line introductory courses, respectively)! Besides, I’m studying German once again (had to interrupt twice during my lifetime), very focused this time since I promised my grandmother (deceased), Maria Alma Schmitt that I would master the basic level someday… 😉

This section will include anything related to languages, especially the ones that I already have some basic knowledge. It won’t be a self-paced course about idioms, but it will contain at least some hints and curiosities about them, OK?

See you! Até logo! Ci vediamo! Tot ziens! Wir sehen uns!  😉

Old World Language Families Trees (not including Asian idioms)

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