Too Good For Ordinary People!

by Athina Ibrahim


Shen Nung, the second of China’s legendary emperors, might not really be aware that his inadvertently discovery of infused drinking technique around 4700 years ago had later on created a luxury ritual behavior in western countries, triggered imperialism, and evoked world domination. In the name of dried leaves that were carried by a gust of wind then fell right into the boiling pot of Shen Nung, soon a delicate, invigorating, and refreshing drink was believed to quench the thirst, lessen the desire to sleep, cure the wound, and at the same time gladden and cheer the hearts.

The green leaves of Camellia sinensis var. sinensis originated from China, and can be found around China, Tibet, Japan, and Taiwan. The other Camellia sinensis var. assamica, originally from India’s north-eastern province of Assam produce significant taste of infused drink — what we all are familiar with the name of tea…

The astringent after taste of tea after all was not bitter in economical impact. Tea merchants from Fujian, China pioneered the use of tea, in a form of bricks, as a trade currency to provide light, measurable, and functional value that could be consumed when it was necessary. Although the Great Britain has successfully introduced tea as part of their culture to the world, they imported it from China at a high cost and enormous exertion, marking imperialism and the introduction of trade globalization at its infancy period among its colonies and other colonists.

It did not take long time until tea became a premier commodity and preferred beverage across the world. Colonized countries were impelled to plant tea because tea induced high demand in world trading — meaning bulk profit. Famed as one of tea producers in the equator, Indonesia also grows its tea plants mostly among the highland of Java and Sumatra. Our country holds significant (yet peculiar) drinking tea culture. Tea is Indonesian’s best friend. It marks the triumph sales of beverages throughout the region, with a pinch of sweetness after taste, strong fragrance of jasmine or vanilla, thick dark brown color, and strong astringent body.

But, do you ever question why?

Why do we drink such tea? Actually, what are the best tea criteria? And how to appreciate more?

Most of us are well acquainted with the terracotta brewed teapot with a pinch of jasmine fragrance of tea in Javanese style of cup. We often add rock sugar to cryptically vague the bitterness of its after taste. We enjoy drinking thick tea with strong aroma and, of course, sugary extortion at high level. There is nothing wrong with that, in fact that style of tea shaped our drinking style and our social permeation.

But to tell you the truth, that kind of tea was actually below the par quality in the world of tea!

It happened back when the native people could not consume what they have planted because simply all the best products were directly shipped by the Dutch to their homeland for further processing and packaging and sold at the highest price. Alas! We were left with tea branches, defected tea leaves, and other parts. What to do then? Thanks to the creativity owned by local traders, Chinese immigrants, and tea planters, the art of tea blending was involuntarily created by mixing various left over and to hide the mouldy aroma, dried jasmine or other flavor were added during the blending process.

Then, if that kind of tea is below par, what makes an above par tea?

Although not well known by many, Indonesia also produces one of the best quality tea and it is usually consumed by limited connoisseurs due to its delicate process causing a high price. When we often associate tea with dark brownish color, in actuality the most highly acclaimed tea was named white tea with 3 main varieties : silver needle (the highest quality), white peony, and long life eyebrow. White tea terminology derives from the fine silvery-white hairs on the unopened buds of the tea plant, which gives the plant a whitish look; soon it will have a pale yellow color after brewing. White tea has a light, mellow, and slightly sweet after taste, which the specific taste can vary from fresh or dried fruitiness.

I have tasted one of the best silver needle tea produced by a local tea plantation near Ciwidey, Bandung and the taste was essentially flavorfully elegant with a dash of fresh sapodilla after taste, of course it requires precise temperature of brewing since the tea is so delicate. It holds TGFOP (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe), the highest quality leaves in tea grading. Hmm, so divine!

Of course, there are also the widely famous green tea, oolong tea, black tea, yellow tea, and even pu erh tea (fermented tea in bulk round shape) based on particular processing of tea leaves, starting from harvest treatment, drying to halt the oxidation process at certain time, and temperature control.

But origin of territory also determines distinctive taste which can’t be duplicated because nature does not fake its generosity and Indonesia provides quality for tea, not for ordinary people, but for sure, it is available to please your palatable taste.whiteboardjournal, logo