This section is from the book "The Beverages of the Chinese; Kung-fu or Tauist Medical Gymnastics; the Population of China; A Modern Chinese Anatomist and A Chapter in Chinese Surgery.", by John Dudgeon. Also available from Amazon: Kung Fu, or Taoist Medical Gymnastics.
Some medical men, however, at home are of opinion that a little tannin in our tea, as in our wines, may be a good tiling, as it restrains digestion and prevents our food passing out of the system too rapidly, as is apt to be the case when cookery is become, as with us, a fine art. One writer considers the effects of tannin as conducing to the exhilarating, satisfying, and narcotic action of the beverage.
The Chinese mode of infusion gives a tea free from excess of tannin, while extracting all the aroma. The difference in the amount of tannin by infusion and percolation is very marked. Such tea can be drunk without milk or sugar, and the delicate aroma and pleasant taste are preserved.
The demand at home is for the strong teas of Ceylon and India. They are cheaper, because they go farther; and, if China is to retain the English market at all, tea dealers inform me that less tannin must be expressed from the leaves. This is more important in their view than even a reduction in the duty of the higher class teas. Foreigners in China do not drink the tea as prepared for the Chinese but for the Foreign market. The difference between black and green tea is simply one of preparation. The green teas are not subjected to the same amount of fermentation, nor to such a high temperature in the final drying.
Tea-shops and tea-houses, or kwans abound everywhere, from the highly respectable to those of the plainest description. Although some of the lowest may bear a distant affinity to some of our public houses, there is the marked difference in the beverage, although spirits are to be had and are sometimes seen there also. These tea kwans, or restaurants, often occupy extensive ranges of buildings. They have usually a large space on the public street, like the continental cafes, covered over in summer with matting. Inside and outside stand square or long tables with benches; and at the further end, or sometimes in the centre, is the kitchen portion, fitted with huge kettles, teapots, and boilers for hot water. A goodly number of waiters are employed, who move about with hot kettles and cups, packages of tea, or trays of cakes or dried fruits. The people for the most part bring their own tea, and for one cash may sit there all day, sip their tea, and have as much hot water as they please. These benches are well filled all day long. Tobacco smoking is not prohibited, and conversation is freely engaged in. These places supply also basins of Warm water, and towels of loose texture for washing or wiping hands and face. Indeed this is the first thing supplied at their inns and tea houses; and, in coming off a cart journey in a country where dust so largely prevails, nothing is more refreshing than such a warm wash or wipe, and afterwards a few cups of hot tea. Music, such as it is, is often supplied at these places, and the working classes resort to them for news, gossip, amusement, or recreation. They are frequently turned into places where recitals of strange legends or tales from ancient history are poured forth. General business and disputes of all sorts are invariably settled at the tea houses. Eating houses and inns are frequently connected with them, where a substantial meal, animal or vegetable, is served on the shortest notice, and where the various culinary operations are performed under one's eye. The charges, too, are excessively moderate.
The principal Peking tea dealers proceed once a year to Foochow, to purchase their supplies. Foreign steamers make this journey now comparatively easy, rapid, and cheap. A tea shop, adjoining my residence and having several branches in the city, with a Mongol connexion, sells from 40,000 to 50,000 catties annually. The tea is flavoured with the flowers of the jasmine, called monihiva; and, on the streets, one often notices the agreeable aroma so distinctive, contrasted with the surrounding malodorous conditions, left behind the rapid carriers of these precious fresh flowers. These flowers are carried in numerous little bags at the ends of slight bamboo poles, and the tea-dealers throughout the city are thus daily supplied. Snuff is also rendered fragrant by the use of the same flowers.
It is here unnecessary to enter upon either the chemical analysis or dietetic value of tea. Suffice it to remark that it has become one of the necessaries of life in the west, tending to repair waste, reducing the amount of solid food necessary, diminishing the tear-and-wear of the body and consequent lassitude of the mind, and maintaining the vigour of both. A Chinese writer,, more than two centuries ago, wrote - "Drink it, and the animal spirits will be lively and clear." The Chinese do not generally attribute any ill effects to tea drinking. They have no stated periods for imbibing it, and they never make a meal of it. It is drunk weak, and immediately after infusion. When it stands any length of time, it becomes intensely bitter and astringent. It is sometimes said to have a hundred disadvantages, and to possess only one benefit,. viz., - that for clearing the vision. Taken before meals, it moistens the throat and stomach; after meals, it washes the mouth and teeth, fastening and preserving the latter to old age. Taken to excess, it is said to destroy the juices formed in digestion, which should go to the nourishment of the body. It is said to keep the stomach in too moist a condition, a certain amount of dryness and heat being necessary for healthy action. It is also said to discolour the white of the eye, turning it yellow.
In the work on Dietetics already quoted, it is further said, in speaking of the properties of tea, that, from the time of the T'ang dynasty, it was used as a medicine to dissipate the fat and oil of the body, to clear the head and vision, and to promote the expulsion of wind and phlegm. In Ch'en Ch'eng's