The Tea Adventure in Iran and Elsewhere
The tea culture and its consumption date back more than two millennia before Christ, and it was the Chinese who were the first beneficiaries. They are the first to have grown and infused the leaves of this now popular plant named tchây (also its current Persian name). According to legends, tea was discovered in 1737 BC. AD by a Chinese emperor named Shen Nong, civilizing hero of Chinese mythology who is also credited with the invention of the hoe, the plow and the discovery of medicinal virtues of certain plants. To believe the same Chinese mythology, the emperor became aware of the virtues of the tea leaf when one of them, carried by the wind, found himself in a bowl of boiling water that was in front of him. It is said that the Chinese continued to cultivate tea on a large scale. With the dynasty of the Hans (206 BC-220 AD), a dynasty that succeeded that of the Qin, things grew and many accessories were invented today. still the panoply of tea lovers.
Likewise, the tea plant and its wild varieties existed in Laos and in certain northern parts of India, including Assam and Tonkin. Nowadays, tea cultivation is common and practiced almost everywhere in the world, where the weather conditions are favorable, especially in countries such as Japan, China, Ceylon, India, on the continent. European, too, and of course in Iran. Wild tea trees were first discovered in the southern regions of China and southeastern India, before becoming known in the coastal areas of the Pacific Ocean and then reaching Japan. and Indonesia. For centuries tea cultivation was exclusive to China, while other parts of the world did not even know it existed. Only Buddhist monks cultivated it in their temple and used it to heal certain diseases and ward off sleep.
For thousands of years, Chinese farmers were picking wild tea leaves and exposing them to the sun for drying and preparation.
To continue in the mythological register, note also that there is a Chinese legend concerning the appearance of tea according to which a monk named Bodhidharma would have torn off the eyelashes and thrown them on the ground to avoid falling asleep. His eyelashes were then rooted and then gave birth to the tea tree whose leaves would now be used to fight against sleep.
From the fifteenth century, the tea culture flourished, especially in Europe, in countries such as England, France, the Netherlands, Germany, as well as in parts of North America and in Europe. Russia. On the side of the Europeans, it is undoubtedly to the Portuguese missionaries and traders that we must have for the first time introduced tea in Europe in the form of samples. The Dutch, on the other hand, have the reputation of having imported this product on a large scale through their large commercial fleet. This drink was therefore adopted very early in Europe. Its prohibitive price limited its consumption, however, and it was for a long time only accessible to nobles and well-to-do families. Following the marriage of King Charles II of England and the Portuguese Princess Catherine Henriette of Braganza, tea became a common product in Britain. Catherine, herself a great tea-maker, made tea easily accessible throughout her territory.
Imported exclusively from China until 1834, tea remained a luxury product for a long time. But after that date, the East India Company which was controlled exclusively by Great Britain contributed to the large-scale planting of tea in India and its importation to England, hence the gradual decline in the price of tea. and its popularity everywhere in this country especially from 1888.
From 1893, tea production took off again in the countries of the Caucasus, on the division line of Europe and Asia. It was also in this region and at that time that tea and shrubs of the Thessaceae family were started. That year, one of the inhabitants and the big landowners of the city of Lankaran (a small town in the south of Azerbaijan) named MO Novojilov imported more than two thousand tea trees to create more than six thousand hectares of fields tea plantation in the country.
With regard to the first customs associated with the consumption of tea in Iran, no fact is really true. We know that Iranians before Islam used to drink a variety of drinks including wine, banned with the arrival of Islam. The only drink whose consumption became widespread was coffee. It is also known from the stories of travel written and reported that the Iranians discovered tea in the late fifteenth century and early sixteenth century thanks to a Persian trader, a man named Hajj Mohammad Guilani, who imported tea and his ritual of consumption of one of his travels in Europe.
In 1882, another attempt was made to import Hajj Mohammad Esfahâni, whose ambition was to spread tea culture in Iran, but whose project did not succeed because of the political and social conditions of the time.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the tea culture has grown exponentially everywhere. Before 1900, the Iranians did not consume tea daily, as is the case today. It is coffee that in some ways serves as a national drink. It was found in all public places, hence the name ghahveh khâneh (that is to say "coffee house") to designate these places of relaxation and discussion that we should have called very soon "home" of tea "had regard to the very rapid generalization in Iran of the consumption of tea in place of coffee.
In 1901, in view of the special interest of the government of the time in the cultivation and propagation of tea in Iran, Prince Hajj Mohammad Mirza Kashef-ol-Saltaneh Tchaikar, then Consul General of the Iran in India, to learn about this art and to officially import the industry of tea culture and production in Iran. The latter, after devoting a year and a half of his life to learning the techniques of tea production and roasting, pledged to make Iran (as far as possible) profit from his experience by planning to create vast tea plantations on the lands of his native country suitable for this type of cultivation. After having obtained the agreement of the governors of India, he imported two thousand shrubs of tea in Iran and, after the necessary field studies, he chose the province of Lâhidjân as a pilot site. After a while, he managed to create an aromatic tea plantation of great size and harvest in the Tonekâbon region. He was obviously not satisfied with this fruitful attempt. The cultivation and picking of tea was only the first step in a project that also involved the drying and roasting of tea on the spot.
He then went back to India, China and Japan at the age of 65 and recruited an experienced team on behalf of the Iranian government to travel to Iran to teach treatment. tea to the Iranians. This attempt unfortunately failed because Hajj Mohammad Mirza Kashef-ol-Saltaneh Tchaikar died after a serious road accident at the start of his trip in 1929. A tomb was erected in his honor and according to his own will a thousand-hectare hill in the south-west of Lāhidjân, so that all remember this great man through whom tea holds such an important place in the economy of Iran. After the establishment of tea cultivation at Lahidjan, other towns in the north of the country followed the movement, including Langaroud, Siâhkal, Roudsar, Tonekâbon, Râmsar, etc. In 1930, tea plantations already covered a hundred hectares. The first tea garden was inaugurated in Tonekâbon and in 1951 there were 10,281 hectares of tea plantations in Iran.
Despite this, today's Iran unfortunately fails to achieve the desired rank in the global tea market, not only because of environmental conditions, but also because of the mismanagement of the market. potential in the country. This explains the too important place occupied in Iran by the tea of importation, of cheaper, more accessible, and packed in a more attractive way. In short, enough to reflect the leaders of the sector concerned.
As its known as “chai” in Persia, tea is one of the most important traditions of daily life. This product has become the national drink of Iran. The whole northern region of Persia along the Caspian Sea is dedicated to the production of tea. Tea is consumed in the morning, after every meal, as well as all throughout the day. Iranians are used to serve it to guests and friends instead of coffee which is more popular in western countries, and these days, among young generation. Persian tea is about more than just the beverage; it is about being with family, friends, relaxing, and exchanging conversation. Persians always drink their tea in glass cups to feel better the warmth emanating from the drink.
Every morning, in houses all over Iran, a gas burner flickers under a kettle that will continue to boil all day.