Time for tasting
2007-09-21 15:48:10 [ Big Normal Small ]     Comment
Time for tasting

China has a long history of drinking tea, that's why you'll find traditional Chinese tea houses all around Beijing easily. But if you want to find a place having authentic British afternoon tea, you should not miss Morel's.

Though Morel's gets its fame for good Belgium food, it also provides great British style afternoon tea. Tea time starts on 2:30 p.m., you'll have variety of tea brews, Earl Gray, Darjeeling and Ceylon. Price of 58 yuan includes unlimited refills. What's more, you will also get a cake-stand filled with delicious sandwiches, cakes and pastries to make your afternoon a truly enjoyable experience. But before you sit down at Morel's for that British cup-o-tea, let's dig up a few facts about that wonderful British tradition.

An imperial beverage for British high society

According to legend, it was the Chinese emperor Shen Nung who first discovered the taste of camellia leaves in 2737 B.C. Tea drinking was further refined during the Ming Dynasty, before the beverage became known in Japan, where it gave rise to the tea ceremony. Tea was introduced to Britain in 1645 by traders from the East India Company traveling from Canton (Guangzhou) and later Amoy (Xiamen). Britain jealously guarded its monopoly on the tea trade, thereby keeping the price of tea high and only affordable to the higher classes. It became a status symbol and a fashionable luxury.

Angry at the high prices of tea delivered by the East India Company, protesters dumped the tea in Boston Harbor in the famous Boston Tea Party, which would lead to the American War of Independence. In 1784, then British Prime Minister William Pitt reduced the tax on tea and it became also affordable to the poor. Entrepreneur Thomas Lipton set up his first tea shop in Glasgow in 1871. By 1900, he had a chain of a hundred shops. All over the world, the "Lipton" brand became synonymous with tea. Fast sailing boats, called tea clippers, were built to reduce transport time, from 15 months in 1845 to 99 days in 1866. The most famous of them all is the Cutty Sark. Besides the tea houses, garden parties also became popular. They are still a regular event at Buckingham Palace.

The Chinese drank their tea from tea bowls without handles, but the bowls were too hot to handle for the British ladies. This led manufacturers to design teacups with handles. Ever more elaborate teapots and teacups became collectors' items.

Time for tasting

Among the more than 2,000 tea varieties, Darjeeling is rated top of the bill and the semi-fermented Oolong teas are considered the most expensive. Scented teas are made from green, oolong or black teas to which herbs and spices or flowers such as jasmine are added. In Britain, a debate was even held about the proper time to add milk to certain teas.

Until the 1840s, tea was only drunk at breakfast and after dinner. The Seventh Duchess of Bedford felt so hungry between lunch and dinner that she ordered tea and cakes to be served in the afternoon. The concept of afternoon tea was born... While traveling by road, rail or air, the British could never leave their cup of tea behind. Combining tea drinking with dancing, the Thé Dansant was brought into vogue. In between sipping tea, the tango and later on the Charleston, were the favored dances. Today, tea dances are still regularly held at the Savoy Hotel and the Royal Opera House in London. For those who preferred their teas in a quiet setting, tearooms began to emerge.

Afternoon tea has been a popular British tradition, never more so than during the war years, when tea was rationed. Those times are long past and now you can drink tea as much as you like, from morning till evening.
Morel's Gong Ti Restaurant
Address: 1/F, No.5 Red Block Xin Zhong Street ,Dongcheng District (Opposite to Worker's Gym. North Gate)
Tel: 010-6416 8802
Fax: 010-6416 6658

Morel's Liang Ma Restaurant
Address: 1/F, East Block No.27 Liangmaqiao Road, Chaoyang District (Besides Liang Ma Antique Market, Opposite to Ai Jia Furniture Center )
Tel: 010-6437 3939
Fax: 010-6437 3232
(Source: Chinadaily)
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