Tea’s refreshing change

Chinese beverage takes on renewed meaning and styles to draw in younger generation

Rather than while away their time in coffee shops like most of their peers, Li Jiayi and her friends are happy to spend 1,000 yuan ($158, 122 euros) between them over a pot of tea.

Of course, it is not just a cup or two of tea they get. This regular “ceremony” involves a tea-themed dinner accompanied by tea-related performance art and followed by a tea-oil massage.

“It’s not like the old-fashioned teahouse where old folks get a pot of tea and chat all day long. We get all-round service here – shopping for tea, drinking, dining, massages, enjoying art performances. It’s a perfect place for friends gathering, and for business banquets,” says Li, a 27-year-old company manager in Beijing.

The ancient tea drinking culture, though still popular among the older generation, is making a comeback as it takes on various forms to attract a greater and younger range of customers.

“Tea can be a daily drink or an art form or a relaxing leisure pursuit,” says Liu Lei, an industry expert and executive of Xiangguo Teahouse. “At a time when bottled drinks are constantly facing safety issues, tea can be considered a healthy replacement.”

Originating in China, tea is deeply rooted in the country’s culture and people’s lives. It is considered as one of the seven necessities, along with wood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce and vinegar.

Legend has it that tea was discovered by an emperor, Shennong, about 5,000 years ago, when several tea leaves fell into the water he was boiling under a tree. The refreshing and slightly bitter flavor gradually became popular among the upper classes. By the time of the Tang (AD 618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties, it had become the drink for all

Japan restricts green tea over radiation fears

TOKYO – JAPAN banned the shipment of green tea leaves grown in four prefectures around Tokyo on Thursday after radioactive caesium above legal levels was found in samples, a media report said.

It was the latest produce shipment ban since the massive March 11 seabed quake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant northeast of Tokyo, which has since leaked radiation into the ground, air and sea.

The ban covers tea leaves from parts of the Tochigi, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures and all of Ibaraki prefecture, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said, Kyodo News agency reported.

Kanagawa, southwest of Tokyo, said in early May it had detected radiation above the legal limit in tea grown there and blamed it on the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant, which suffered partial meltdowns.

Kanagawa prefecture then started a recall of the tea after measuring about 570 becquerels of caesium per kg in leaves grown in the city of Minamiashigara. The legal limit is 500 Bq/kg.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant is located some 220km north-east of Tokyo and 280km from Minamiashigara. — AFP

Japan restricts green tea over radiation fears