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Tea is purportedly the most widely consumed beverage in the world after water. With such wide variety in production and consumption methods around the globe, as well as hundreds of blends and flavors, moving past an Earl Grey or iced tea and on to the elusive loose stuff can seem to be quite the ordeal.
This class will explore the history of Chá (Mandarin for tea) in China, the country that lays claim to the discovery of the Camellia sinensis plant and uncovering the simultaneously calming and stimulating effect of its leaves when steeped in water. While discussing the origins of tea, its proliferation across the globe, and the industry today, we will also sip on one of the more traditionally prepared and yet still highly prized teas, Pǔ’ěr.
This fermented tea from Southwest China often sells for thousands of dollars for a small brick, and the importance of aging and terroir of Pǔ’ěr are similar to those of wine. During our session, we will prepare a few different types of Pǔ’ěr through the Gōngfù brewing method, including a 16-year shēng/raw. Participants will come away with a better understanding of Chá, as well a taste of the curious gān flavor lingering on their tongue.
About the teacher:
Starting his Chinese language studies as a freshman at Sewanee, Marcus Murphy quickly caught the “China Bug” after traveling to Shanghai in the summer of 2005. His first cup of tea in China was a scalding jasmine tea as he was welcomed into the home of an octogenarian Shanghainese that he was interviewing for his research project. The tea was a small example of the incredible hospitality he was greeted with daily while living in China for over four years. His second cup of tea in China cost him almost $50 after being invited to what was seemingly a nice tea house with a friendly young girl and her talkative uncle (only later did he realize this is a well known scam in China known as “being teahoused”). Looking back, this drastic juxtaposition is quite telling of the tea industry in China. A chance to meet wonderful people over a cup of steeped leaves saturated with history and culture. But at the same time, there is also a chance for deception and for one to come away with little more than a bad taste in one’s mouth.
Now, as a Chinese language teacher, he hopes to inspire students daily to more deeply explore the world around them and beyond. Hopefully through tea, he can help others do the same. He also reassures students that he is a student alongside them, and looks forward to learning more about not only the subject at hand, but also to learn more about them as a person.