Monthly Archives: November 2016

WHICH COUNTRIES ARE THE TOP PRODUCERS OF TEA? (Part 2)

By Yvonne Blackwood~

King Tea reigns supreme!         cup-156743_1280

We now know that tea is the most popular drink in the world (after water) and we know which countries are the two top tea producers (see part 1 of our previous blog). Let us now turn our attention to the numbers 3, 4, and 5 top tea producers.

Kenya, East Africa, is the third largest tea producer. Tea was first planted in Limuru near the capital, Nairobi, by G.W.L Caine in 1903. At the time the bush was planted for merely ornamental purposes. Commercial tea cultivation in Kenya began in the 1930’s. Today tea is one of Kenya’s most important cash crops, and the country is known as one of the world’s leading Black Tea producers. Kenya’s high quality tea is used for blending other teas that are sold on the world market.

The Tea Industry in Kenya has two components—corporate planters and small holders consisting of more than half million registered growers. The Tea growing areas in Kenya have the ideal climate for Tea—tropical, well-distributed rainfall, long sunny days, coupled with rich volcanic red soil. The best tea growing regions are located in both east and west of the Great Rift Valley within altitudes ranging from 1,500 meters to 2,700 meters. Kenya exports about 95 % of its total tea production.

 Sri Lanka is the number four top producing tea country in the world. The question one asks is how did a small island off the coast of India become so highly ranked in tea production?

Tea was first cultivated commercially in Sri Lanka (Formerly Ceylon) in 1867 by the Scotsman James Taylor, who was a British planter. Almost 200 years after James Taylor’s death, tea production grew rapidly. Many plantations which once grew coffee were converted to tea, and former coffee stores became tea factories resulting in a dramatic increase in tea production.

Harvesting tea, Sri Lanka
Harvesting tea, Sri Lanka

Tea is serious business in Sri Lanka, and is produced according to strict traditional methods and standards. The Tea Board, set up in 1976, is the main regulatory and administrative body of the Sri Lankan tea industry. It incorporates representatives from both private bodies involved in the industry such as cultivators, manufacturers, traders, exporters, and government. Today tea export is one of the most important sources of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka. The country has developed quality teas. When the “Pure Ceylon Tea” stamp with its Lion logo is placed on a sack of tea you know it symbolizes 100% pure Ceylon tea packed in Sri Lanka, and is world-renowned as one of the finest tea in the world.

Turkey is the number five top producing tea country. Tea production mainly started after 1923 when Turkey became a republic. Most of the tea plantations are centered around the Black Sea region and the town of Rize where the first tea factory was built. The tea produced is primarily black tea, known as Turkish tea, or Rize tea (named after the Rize area).  A tea corporation was established in 1971, and in 2015 the country produced 175, 000 tonnes of tea. Turkish tea is very strong, therefore it is not served in large cups but in small tulip-shaped glasses. Turkey consumes most of its tea, exporting only a small amount.

Turkish Tea served in glasses
Turkish Tea served in glasses

Tell us about your special teas.

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THEME DAY: ARCHITECTURE—A PILLAR OF FIRE BY NIGHT, OF CLOUD BY DAY (Part 3)

By Yvonne Blackwood~

The words “Martha’s Vineyard” conjures up affluence, fun, and the Kennedys. I recall reading somewhere that this place is the playground of the Kennedys. Of course, the Kennedy compound is not far away in Hyannis Port, on Cape Cod. I had always wanted to see and experience “The Vineyard.”  Besides, we can all remember that John Kennedy Jr. and his wife died while he was flying his private plane from NY to Martha’s Vineyard in 1999.

I had an opportunity to visit “The Vineyard” when I embarked on a New England cruise in 2013 which ended in Boston. Since my best friend from high school lives in Boston, I arranged to spend two extra days with her. “How about a day trip to the famous Martha’s Vineyard,” I asked. (Who knows, maybe we would run into a Kennedy!)  My friend, being the lovely person that she is, acquiesced to the request.

On a sunny day in May, two other friends joined us; we piled into my friend’s car and drove to the docks. We boarded a ferry with the big, bold “Martha’s Vineyard’s Ferry” written across the top, and headed into deep waters.  A ferry is the only way to get to the Vineyard unless you travel by plane or private boat. From the ferry the landscape was picturesque, and the waters fairly calm.

Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard
Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard

Martha’s Vineyard is divided into six towns, and although we did not visit all the towns, we spent a delightful day going from one place to another by shuttle buses or by walking. We spent time in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs which is known for its gingerbread cottages. We explored the quaint little shops, ate ice-cream while sitting on park benches, and dined at a crowded, rustic restaurant.

In Edgartown I spotted a gorgeous lighthouse. Standing off and away from the shops and houses, The Edgartown Lighthouse intrigued me. You can walk up to it. Why was it standing in that particular spot? It appeared clean and well-kept. Who maintains it?

The Edgartown Lighthouse, Martha's Vineyard
The Edgartown Lighthouse, Martha’s Vineyard

Built in 1828, on a small man-made island in the harbour, The Edgarton Lighthouse was constructed a quarter mile from shore. At first the only way to get to the lighthouse was by boat, but later a foot bridge was built. The original structure was replaced in 1938. Sand eventually filled in the area between the island and the mainland, so the current lighthouse stands on shore. There are five lighthouses on Martha’s Vineyard.

Tell us about your favourite lighthouse.

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THEME DAY: ARCHITECTURE—A PILLAR OF FIRE BY NIGHT, OF CLOUD BY DAY (Part 2)

By Yvonne Blackwood~

Continuing with our previous “theme post” ( Part 1) we begin this article with verse 2 of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Lighthouse.”

Even at this distance I can see the tides,
Upheaving, break unheard along its base,
A speechless wrath, that rises and subsides
in the white tip and tremor of the face. . .

The island of Aruba is tiny—only 70 Square miles or 184 square kilometres in area—but it has some interesting features, and a fascinating history. It is a constituent of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, therefore the citizens have a single nationality—they are Dutch.

Aruba is much different from the other Caribbean Islands; it is extremely dry. As I strolled about this tiny island, a desert came to mind—the landscape is strewn with cactus. The soil is barren because of the lack of rainfall. Another unique feature of the island is its lack of natural fresh water. Most drinking water is obtained by desalinating seawater.

In spite of the negative features mentioned, Aruba is a paradise for tourists. For one thing, you need not worry about rain; you are guaranteed sunshine. In addition, the beaches are lovely.

One of the most intriguing lighthouses that I have seen during my travels across the globe is located on this little morsel of paradise called Aruba! It is the quaint California Lighthouse. Originally  built in 1916 to warn ships from the coastline, it has become a landmark for tourists. The lighthouse was named after the S.S. California, a ship which sunk near the shore, and it stands on a small hill where one has a great view of the rocky coastline on the western side of the island and its sandy beaches. The old stone lighthouse, called “Hudishibana” by the locals, stands tall and proud as a sentinel.

California Lighthouse, Aruba
California Lighthouse, Aruba

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WHICH COUNTRIES ARE THE TOP PRODUCERS OF TEA? (Part 1)

By Yvonne Blackwood~

There was a time when the most popular drink in the world (after water) was coffee. This is no longer the case. Now King Tea reigns supreme! According to Tea Association of the USA and an article in National Geographic (2016) tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water.

chinese-tea-pot

Bearing this fact in mind one must ask, why has tea become so popular? There is a very intricate and detailed answer to this question which I will address in a future blog. For now, though, I will mention that one reason is that tea is one of the few beverages usually served hot or cold, and is served anytime and anywhere. In fact it is served on almost any occasion. Statistics show that on any given day, more than 158 million Americans drink tea, consuming well over 80 billion servings, or more than 3.6 billion gallons. When you factor in the rest of the world including China and Japan where tea is their national drink, we begin to see why tea now reigns.

First, we must define what we mean by tea. Tea it a beverage brewed strictly from the tender leafs of the Camellia sinensis plant. Depending on how the tea leaves are processed, the beverage produce can be either white, green, Oolong or black tea. Tea brewed from any other plant is really herbal tea or tisane; I will cover this in another article.

The second important question is, which countries are the top tea producers? According to World Atlas, in 2016 the top five rankings are China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Turkey respectively. In this article, I will deal with the first two, and cover Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Turkey in a subsequent article.

The camellia sinensis plant is native to Southern China and South East Asia. It is small wonder then that these areas are the top producers and that China is number one. Tea made from the camellia sinensis was developed in China about 2000 years ago, but become widespread about 1000 years ago. Tea is produced in large areas covering the South Eastern part of China from Shanxi to Yunnan and Guangdon in the extreme south. These provinces have climate that is humid and ranges from tropical to subtropical.  The varying geographic locations and climate, produces various kinds of teas. China currently produces just over a million tonnes of tea. 

 India is the number two tea producer. There is an interesting story about how tea came to be grown in India. As we know, Britain was once India’s colonial master. In an effort to break the Chinese monopoly on tea, Britain introduced the plant into India using the Chinese varieties of seeds and employing their planting methods. They also offered land in the Assam region to any European who agreed to plant tea for export. Now that India is the number two tea producer in the world, it is fair to say that Britain succeeded in that quest!

Tea plantation, Kerala, India
Tea plantation, Kerala, India

In the early 1800s after tea plantations were established in India, only Anglicized Indians drank tea, but by the early 1900s, tea became popular with the natives. India now produces some very well-known teas such as Assam and Darjeeling which are grown exclusively there. Over 70 percent of India’s tea is consumed within the country.

The main tea-producing states in India are: Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Sikkim, Nagaland, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Bihar, and Orissa.

Tell us about your favourite tea?

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THEME DAY: ARCHITECTURE—A PILLAR OF FIRE BY NIGHT, OF CLOUD BY DAY (Part 1)

By Yvonne Blackwood~

A unique structure seen in countries with rugged coastlines is a lighthouse. Tourists are always fascinated with lighthouses for a number of reasons, one being that they are always off and away from the general population; there is a mystique about them. Certain questions come to mind when you gaze upon them. Why are they standing in specific locations? Who maintains them and when? Does anyone live in them? How many lives have they helped to save? In addition, novels and movies have featured lighthouses, adding to their intrigue.

Poets have even written romantic poems about lighthouses—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Lighthouse,” a classic example.

The rocky ledge runs far into the sea,
and on its outer point, some miles away,
the lighthouse lifts its massive masonry,
A pillar of fire by night, of cloud by day…

Designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses, lighthouses serve practical purposes. They serve as navigational markers for marine pilots out at sea, they mark dangerous coastlines and reefs, they assist boats to enter harbours safely, and they assist aerial navigation. Lighthouses are not as popular as they once were, and there are fewer in operation today because they are expensive to maintain, but more importantly, because electronic navigational systems are now used with the improvement of modern technological advances in global positioning of satellites.

During my globetrotting escapades I have come across numerous interesting lighthouses. For the next few Saturdays, I shall cover different ones in my Theme Day posts. Today, I will begin with a fascinating lighthouse in Canada.

It’s been said that you can’t truly appreciate the magnificence of the Atlantic Ocean until you have traveled along the winding coastal road of the Lighthouse Route to the quaint fishing village and see the well-preserved beauty of Peggy’s Cove. One of the best-known lighthouses in Canada is Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse. Located in a small rural community on the eastern shore of St. Margaret’s Bay in Nova Scotia, it was built in 1868. It is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world.

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse, Nova Scotia
Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, Nova Scotia

 

Of course the lighthouse has been upgraded over the years. The first structure, a wooden tower built atop a keeper’s dwelling, had a red light and used a catoptric reflector to magnify the kerosene oil lamp. The tower was replaced by the current one in 1915. Today a sturdy concrete octagon, the lighthouse which once showed a white light magnified by a series of glass prisms, has had several colour and character changes over the years. The latest colour change being from white to green in 1979. In addition, the white iron lantern on top of the tower was repainted red.

Do you have a favourite lighthouse?

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THEME DAY—LANDSCAPE: ARE THOSE BREASTS THAT I SEE?

By Yvonne Blackwood~

One of the reasons why I enjoy art so much is that individuals can see a painting from many different perspectives, and there is nothing one can do to make them see it as you do. We can say the same about landscapes; from a distance you may see a horse while I could swear that the view is that of a large rotten apple.

On a tour of Mykonos, one of the Greek Islands, known for its partying, we stopped at a restaurant near the beach to have lunch and a quick swim (for some people). After dipping my feet in the turquoise waters, I looked across the sea to the landscape on other side of the Island. An interesting sight caught my eyes—two mounds separated by a flat area. Our tour guide said we were looking at Aphrodite’s Breasts! I could clearly see two breasts.

Aphrodite's Breasts, Mykonos
Aphrodite’s Breasts, Mykonos

Breast-shaped hills or mountains in the shape of human breasts—sometimes called paps—are  found all over the world. In some cultures they are revered, and people regard them as attributes of Mother Goodness, a goodness that can signify motherhood, fertility, and nature. Two other examples of this anthropomorphic feature are Mola Murada, a mountain in Spain, and Nassa Hablood (“Virgin’s Breast Mountain”) located in Somalia.

Can you see breasts in the picture above?

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BEWARE OF TURKS OFFERING TEA!

By Yvonne Blackwood~

A few years ago I was touring Istanbul when I had an interesting encounter with Nazik, a young Turkish gentleman. I was with a group of tourists when Vilma, my touring buddy, and I decided to go off on our own. At the time the bustling city of Istanbul seemed harmless enough. We headed for the Hagia Sofia only to find a queue a mile long, waiting to enter. It was a hot day in September, and since we did not want to get baked waiting in line, we decided not to join the queue. We dashed across the street and headed toward another mosque. It was the Blue Mosque, one of the major tourist attractions in the city, and it’s an active one—it was prayer time. What should we do? How long would we have to wait?

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul-still active
The Blue Mosque, Istanbul-still active

Our bus driver had given us clear instructions about where and when our group should meet with him. We still had a couple of hours to go. We were walking slowly back to the meeting place when a young Turk, waving his hands frantically, called out to us from the side of the road. “Come and see my store. We have lots of nice rugs,” he said. I politely said thank you, and assured him that we did not want any rugs. “Come, come, we have very nice rugs,” he insisted. Vilma reiterated that we did not need anything.

Then he said the magic words! “Look, you don’t have to buy anything, just come and have a nice cup of tea with us then you can go.” He seemed like such an honest, hard-working man, and we had time to spare. We followed him to his store which was on a short street that ran off the main road. He said his name was Nazik, and gave us his business card. He pulled out comfortable chairs for us to sit. Within minutes Nazik’s assistant came into the room with a quaint, double-spout teapot and little glasses placed on saucers. Nazik poured tea for us and as we sipped the delicious, rich-dark Turkish tea, he told us about himself. He had travelled to the United States where he has relatives and had been to Canada.

Turkish Tea served in glasses
Turkish Tea served in glasses

While Nazik spoke, his assistant had been subtly bringing in several beautiful rugs which he rolled out in front of us like magic carpets! Vilma reminded Nazik that we didn’t want any rugs. Besides, they’re too bulky to travel with.  “Oh just have a look. You don’t have to buy. Anyway, we can ship it to you,” he said. More rugs arrived; each more intricate than the first ones. We sipped our tea and tried to ignore the products.

Finally, Nazik said, “Okay, you don’t want rugs; how about some tablecloths?” On queue, the assistant entered with some the most magnificent table cloths—they were woven like tapestry. Unwittingly, Nazik had zeroed in on my weak spot. How could I leave without possessing one of these masterpieces?

A masterpiece Table Cloth
A masterpiece Table Cloth

Our tour guide had advised us earlier not to accept the first price offered by sellers; we should haggle. So I haggled. After Vilma and I drank two cups of Nazik’s Turkish tea, we departed from his store.  I carried a neat zippered bag with a handle, and inside was a tablecloth that one could easily hang on a living room wall. It has become by pride and joy, and a conversation piece when I entertained.

SIDE BAR:

Turkish tea, also called çay, is a type of black tea made from the Camellia sinensis leaves, similar to other teas. The Turks have developed their unique way of making and drinking tea to the extent that tea-drinking is a part of their culture and a way of life. Tea or coffee is usually offered as a sign of friendship and hospitality wherever you go in Turkey. According to World Atlas, in 2013 Turkey was the fifth largest producer of tea in the world, with China and India at first and second respectively.

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