by Cassandra Vincent
Innovation is awesome. I appreciate the brilliant minds and the technical advances they have created that have made so many aspects of my life easier or more interesting – from the illumination of the light bulb in all of its varied shapes and uses to my cordless teakettle (which recently broke sadly, but which gives me a great excuse to try out an even more tricked out model!) to my smartphone to the silly and fun apps on it. All of these amazing machine-made-machines are brilliant. I still feel great appreciation for the handmade. Tea is a great example of a product that still incorporates the nuanced expertise of a trained human hand in various portions of the process.
Aspects of planting and cultivation still use the human touch. Sustainable style estates use hand weeding as one means of avoiding the use of insecticides.
Many estates pride themselves on the hand plucking of the tea leaves. When a tea claims to only use the top 2 leaves and a bud they are most likely hand picked to ensure that claim. The woman’s touch is preferred for harvesting too – recognizing the deftness of feminine fingers. Hand sorting of the tea is also used where a skilled eye and hand separate the best of the tea from the substandard.
In the case of specialty teas there is even more in-depth hands-on skill. Puerh cakes and shapes often involve hand measuring, cake making and wrapping. Here is an informative video from Bana Tea Company on the making of puerh cakes which shows a significant amount of hands on work:
Artisan blossoming teas are hand sewn into tight balls and other shapes, often with flowers in the center, that allow for an opening or ‘blooming’ of the tea into a beautiful work of art in the brewing vessel.
Even when tools are used there is a human behind them, often guiding the process. There is bagging, packaging, label design and shipping on top of all of that. There are the people who auction tea, who create tea companies and work directly with the estates that grow the tea. And don’t forget the hands that steep you a proper cup at your favorite tea shop.
Tea is a beverage that many take for granted as it has been a common part of cultures all over the world for centuries. In the spirit of appreciation of my favorite beverage I am reminded to reflect on all of the human energy, the care, the expertise and the love that has gone into the tea I am privileged to enjoy. From that perspective a cup of tea is a magical collection of many people coming together. I encourage you to explore where your tea comes from. It enriches the experience to understand more about those that are involved in bringing you the tea you consume. I will continue to share more as I learn more too. Raising a glass to you and all of the human hands that create our brilliant tea!
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