|Decorative tea pots in the Smithsonian collection|
However, China's upper class soon adopted the fashion of presenting packages of tea as highly esteemed gifts and of enjoying drinking tea at social events and in private homes. At around the same time the Chinese tea ceremony began to develop, the tidings of tea began to spread to Japan, which soon adopted green tea as its national drink.
The connection between tea and Japan made tea the perfect topic for the Smithsonian American Art Museum to examine last weekend as its event to kickoff the National Cherry Blossom Festival, an annual weeks-long Spring celebration to commemorate the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the mayor of Tokyo in 1912. The event was co-sponsored with Teaism, a local tea shop located just blocks from the museum.
In the 1st part of the program, experts from Teaism explained the history of tea and answered questions about the drink. The information included:
- all tea comes from the same plant, the Camelia Sinesius, which is native only to China and parts of Japan
- the flavor of tea depends on factors such as location, altitude, climate, and the plucking and processing methods
- there are 4 types of tea - white, green, oolong, and black
- there is no such thing as herbal tea - what most people call herbal teas are really herbal infusions and don't contain any tea leaves
In the 2nd part of the program, museum guides explained the history behind the institution's collection of artistic tea pots. While some of the teapots are fully functional, others were created for beauty only. As you might expect, many of the colorful, ornate tea pots feature Japanese elements and design. Pictured below are 3 of our favorites.
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Despite the unexpected Spring snows and colder-than-average temperatures in much of the Northeast, the DC Cherry Blossom is underway. Forecasts now call for the peak bloom to be some time around April 3. If you are interested in attending any of the events associated with the celebration, click here for a calendar.