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TEA WISDOM: Our five favourite quotations

Not only were the Chinese the very first to drink tea, they also invented paper and were the first to write extensively on the subject of tea.

The first mention of tea drinking occurred in the Shijing (The Book of Songs) written in the 7th century BC, and in the 6th Century AD the tea master Lu Yu wrote the immense Cha Jing (The Tea Classic) which covered everything from the cultivation of tea to advice on tea etiquette.

We like to think our tea collection inspires similar high-mindedness, and here are five of our favourite tea quotations from Chinese history. Let’s start with pyjamas:

“Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world. It is not for those who eat rich food and dress in silk pyjamas.

Wise words from T'ien Yi-heng, author of a treatise on the best way of boiling spring water. We don’t share his dislike of silk pyjamas and we won’t say a word against chocolate, but we do agree that tea is brilliant for a bit of escapism.

We’d say fragrant Cherry Blossom for a bit of aromatherapy and delicate White Peony for simplicity of processing and purity of taste.

“Autumn stars shine through gaps in the wall... He brews midnight tea by the light of the stove.”

This line from a traditional Daoist song reminds us of smoky Lapsang Souchong from Fujian Province. Lapsang was first created when a tea farmer from Fujian province resorted to drying his tea leaves over smouldering fires of pinewood. A travelling army had used his tea barn as an overnight stopover, leaving the leaves reeking of soldiers’ sweat – the only antidote was to mask the smell with smoke.

We love Lapsang sipped around the bonfire or under the fireworks. It’s also an important ingredient in our Russian Caravan blend.

“Drinking a daily cup of tea will surely starve the apothecary.”

Chinese Proverb

This is the Chinese version of ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. Tea is often touted as a cure-all elixir, and although we can’t vouch for its health-giving properties we will say that a cup of tea never fails to improve our mood.

One of our favourite feel-good teas is antioxidant-rich Sencha – we’ve chosen our high quality Chinese variety for its vegetal freshness and buttery smoothness.

Some tea cakes have the tanned look of boot leather, others are rounded like a zebu’s chest or curled into wreaths like the clouds floating over the mountain.”

These immortal words from Lu Yu’s tea classic might not make tea cakes sound entirely appetising. Then again, these aren’t cakes of the flour-butter-sugar variety but tea leaves traditionally compressed and shaped into a block, ideal for keeping fresh on long journeys.

Our take on traditional Chinese tea cakes takes two forms: our Tuo Cha are individually wrapped rounds of Hunan black tea, and our Jasmine Tea Cake is moulded in the shape of a five-petal orchid. Chip off your desired amount of tea, ‘wake up’ the leaves, and brew in the style practiced for centuries. 

“A true warrior, like tea, shows his strength in hot water.”

Chinese Proverb

Eleanor Roosevelt is known to have made a similar claim: ‘A woman is like a teabag; you never know how strong it is until it's in hot water.' Some of our strongest black teas are sourced from China, including dark, rich Keemun and Yunnan tea, characterised by their plummy notes and hint of smoke.

The intensity of Chinese black teas makes them an ideal choice for breakfast – we love our fruity Keemun with a croissant and raspberry jam.

Got any wise words about tea you’d like to share? Or heard a great quote? Spread the word on Facebook or Twitter!

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