Casual discussion amongst spiritual friends.
User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 4539
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: Tea?

Post by Kim OHara » Thu May 02, 2013 11:38 am

zavk wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote: But it suggests the possibility that the normal English tea I grew up with was a degenerate (simplified) masala chai in the first place. :thinking: Weird!

The history of tea cultivation and how it came to be adopted as an English habit is an interesting read. Roughly speaking, tea had to be promoted as a viable return cargo for the East India Company. The mass cultivation of tea in India and Ceylon occurred in the 1800s and was a means to break China's monopoly on tea trade, to force it to enter into a different trade relation - and it is worth noting that getting its people hooked on opium (cultivated and imported from South and Central Asia) was a part of this process.

So in a manner of speaking, the drinking of tea migrated from China to South Asia to England. Compared with the long history of tea culture in China, Japan, and Korea, and the ways in which South Asians make their tea rich and strong, some might say that the English approach of having tea with a spot of milk (and biscuits) is an 'adulterated' and 'degenerate' form of tea drinking. I think that is an unhelpful, decontextualised, hubristic and inhospitable way of thinking; a way to shore up cultural capital for oneself, to establish cultural hierarchies, rather than to appreciate tea.

A parallel could be drawn with the recurring discussions we witness here about 'authentic' or 'original' vs. 'adulterated' or 'degenerate' approaches to the Buddha's teachings, I reckon.... Yet, I don't think we are going to see heated debates about who has gotten it 'wrong' about tea - and hence, in need to be told off or convinced of the 'errors' of their ways or to lose their unnecessary 'cultural baggage' - any time soon, are we?
Hello again, Ed,
I had no idea that I could come up with "an unhelpful, decontextualised, hubristic and inhospitable way of thinking" so easily! :tongue:
Actually, I was (and am) no more than half serious anyway. I was certainly not proposing to disparage anyone's tea-istic beliefs (sorry :toilet: ).
I do know a fair bit of the history but the real impulse behind my comment was rather different. My mother was English and was a very "English" cook all her life (partly because my father was so conservative food-wise) even though she came to Australia before I was born, so we kids grew up on "meat and three veg" main courses and steamed puddings, etc, for dessert. And the veggies were always "well cooked", which by today's taste means overcooked: greens were often greys, and so on. Don't get me wrong: she was a good cook within those limits, and we ate well and healthily - especially compared to today's fast-food kids. But moving out of home and coming to inner-city Melbourne with all its Greek and Italian and Lebanese food - and Victoria market!! - was astonishing, let's say, and wonderful.
Anyway "curries" in the English tradition were made with curry powder from a tin (and so little of it that you had to be told it was a curry). And it struck me that English tea bore the same relation to masala chai that English curries bore to Indian curries (I nearly said "real curries" there :embarassed: ).


User avatar
Posts: 1161
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:04 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Tea?

Post by zavk » Fri May 03, 2013 12:52 am

Hi Kim

There's a misunderstanding. I was evoking a rhetorical 'some might say' to allude to those (e.g. the author of the article) who may perhaps attempt to legitimise their opinions with the claim that English-style tea is a 'degenerate' or 'adulterated' version of 'original' or 'authentic' masala tea. This is what I find problematic. This bad habit of seeking recourse in supposed 'origins' to imbue one's opinions with an air of authority, when what it does is in fact to efface all sorts of mitigating factors. Not disagreeing with you as such. :smile:

In fact, the widespread drinking of tea in India is a recent phenomenon which occurred only in the 1950s, where there was a huge surplus of tea and a campaign was introduced to promote it. Prior to that, only Anglicised Indians drank tea. I dunno if they spiced their tea or if they drank it like the English, who btw, had more or less adopted it as a common practice by around 1750. Given the cross-influences, cross-adaptations - intercultural mimesis - it becomes problematic to delineate things with clear cut boundaries to lay claim to 'originality' or accuse others of 'degeneracy'. And this is where I see a parallel with the kinds of debates we witness here and elsewhere about the Buddha's teachings.

The same could be said for curry, which is more or less regarded by the English as a kind of national food. What they regard as proper 'curry' (even if cooked by Indian migrants or citizens of the UK) would be very different from what is found in India, or for the matter, say, Japan. But I'm not about to dismiss the curries found in different parts of the world as a a 'degenerate' form of curry. The Japanese curry katsu is an entirely different dish from anything found in Indian cuisine - I love it and kudos to the Japanese!

So to get back to topic. There are other kinds of tea - a kind of candified or dessert tea so to speak - that I like, bubble tea, which emerged from Taiwan, a country with a strong tradition of classic Chinese tea. I'm sure everyone's aware of bubble tea. But I've recently discovered matcha (japanese green tea) bubble tea with sweetened red (adzuki) beans!

I'm not at all embarrassed to say in the same breath that I like exquisite Chinese tea like longjing cha as much as Devonshire tea as much as masala chai as much as bubble tea! Which is more 'authentic'? Well, I'm happy to let others argue over it whilst I watch from the side whilst enjoying my teas.


With metta,

Posts: 95
Joined: Sun Jan 06, 2013 5:50 am

Re: Tea?

Post by K.Dhamma » Fri May 03, 2013 1:20 am

K.Dhamma wrote:With or without milk?

I prefer milk and honey. But only with certain brands and I usually get the Irish Morning blend. How about you guys?
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Stiphan and 37 guests