Tea drinking a way of life in the city

Coffee enthusiasts may boast the privilege of being able to indulge themselves at the burgeoning coffeehouses across the city, but one thing remains certain, tea lovers insist drinking coffee does not blend naturally with philosophy, culture, and community.

"Unlike that of coffee, appreciation of tea is not limited to just enjoying the taste. It goes beyond that," Bambang Laresolo, a tea expert and moderator of Tea Lovers community told The Jakarta Post recently. Green, yellow and white From oolong to long jing, to gyokuro, all have become the latest buzzwords in tea drinking, a culture-slash-lifestyle that has attracted more and more urbanites in the past few years.

"The philosophy of tea embodies what the Japanese refer to as iva [harmony], kei [respect], sei [purity], and jaku [tranquility]," he added Bambang has several times taken part in chanoyu, a sacred ancient Japanese tea ceremony, which ishosted by the Japan Foundation in South Jakarta. He said tea drinking should be performed in harmony, something that can be formed among all matters, from tea bowls, leaves, flowers and seasonal selection.

Camellia sinensis, more commonly known as tea, has been part of Bambangs life since he was young, when he always carried around a container filled with green tea. He explained that tea production in Indonesia was geared more towards the export market, as there was little appreciation of tea among local consumers. "We actually have many variants of tea that are renowned in the international market. For instance, Indonesian black tea is very popular in France and sells well at a renowned French teahouse Manage Freres," he said.

Apart from black tea, white tea from Bengkulu is gaining popularity, especially among urban tea aficionados, as it leaves a natural litchi aftertaste, very smooth and fresh, Tea Lovers community director Ratna Somantri says. No matter how popular they are, though, the traditional signature Indonesian tea, teh poci (tea pouch), is still favored by many Indonesian tea drinkers. It has a peculiar zesty taste due to its high level of catechin, a powerful antioxidant, Ratna said. "Some people add sugar when drinking the bitter teh poci, the taste of which is vividly different to that of Japanese or Chinese tea. Both the latter have lower catechin levels and taste natural," she told the Post.

Ratna added that members of her organization gathered twice a month to exchange information and learn about tea, sometimes performing a simple tea ceremony, and learning about tea culture in countries such as Japan and China. She said the Japanese treated tea drinking as more of a centuries-old culture, a way of life that needed to be observed based on a set of predetermined actions, spoken phrases and unspoken gestures to create the most sophisticated means of serving tea to guests.

Gyokuro, a fine and expressive Japanese green tea used in the tea ceremony, can cost up to Rp 27 million (US$2,916) per kilogram, whereas fine local white tea only reches up to Rp 1.4 million per kilogram."Meanwhile, the Chinese tend to pay close attention to the technique of serving the tea itself How to boil, stir and regulate the temperature, all just to ensure guests will taste the finest flavors and aromas," Ratna added. Avid tea drinker Se Tjie said he joined the tea community to learn the culture and tea brewing technique.

"For instance, oolong or white tea can impart different flavors when we bring it to the second or third boil, with varying temperatures," he said. A common thread among professional tea drinkers in Jakarta is their professed dislike of flavored tea, which is sometimes mixed with artificial flavors to enhance aroma and impart a fruity taste."The artificial essence can be so strong that it diminishes the original taste of the tea. I think it defeats the purpose of tea drinking," a tea fan said, (tsy)

This article was taken from Bataviase.co.id. Read the original article.