Let's have a tea party!

Today, tea is one of the most popular drinks in the world. Tea may be consumed early in the day to heighten calm alertness, as it contains L-theanine, theophylline, and bound caffeine. While tea is the second most consumed beverage on Earth after water, in many cultures it is also consumed at elevated social events, such as afternoon tea and the tea party. Tea was originated in southwestern China, where it was used as a medicinal drink, and later popularized as a recreational drink during the Chinese Tang dynasty. Portuguese priests and merchants introduced it to the West during the 16th century. During the 17th century, drinking tea became fashionable among British people, who started large-scale production and commercialization of the tea plant in India. This exhibition will bring us the experience of exploring our morning tea drinking habit today, as well as back to British tradition of afternoon tea in the 18th Century and outdoor tea party in Japan in the 16th Century; alongside with introduction of tea making process, including picking and drying tea leaves, tea storage, and preparing tea on the table for a tea party. Let’s take a break to enjoy a tea journey now! 

This breakfast tableware, designed by Australian ceramicist Janet DeBoos, expresses the 21st Century breakfast culture. It evokes the morning repast - tea, fruit and juice - and, as importantly, the rituals associated with serving and sharing the meal, and the time spent in so doing.
The Swiss-French painter, Jean-Etienne Liotard painted this afternoon tea table setting documented the tradition of the tea time in the 18th Century Europe. Chinese porcelain and tea-drinking were the rage of fashionable Europe when Jean-Etienne Liotard was born. In this painting of tea-time disarray, a tray is set with six cups and saucers, a teapot, sugar bowl, milk jug, and a lidded vase perhaps containing an extra supply of tea leaves. A large bowl holding a teacup and saucer could also be used for dumping the slops of cold tea and used tea leaves. By the time Liotard painted this work in the late 1700s, tea-drinking had become fashionable among the middle as well as the upper classes.
This hand-colored albumen silver print is a photograph taken in Japan the late 19th Century. It documents the authentic working environment in 1870s Japan of picking tea leaves from the tea trees - the process to get ready for making the dried leaves for brewing tea.
After picking tea leaves from the plant, the next step is to dry the tea leaves to make them shelf-stable, and to enhance the flavour. Tea leaves are usually spread outdoors on shallow bamboo baskets to dry in the sun, reducing the moisture level in the tea leaves to 2-3%. Doing so makes the tea leaves shelf stable and slows oxidative processes within the leaves to nearly a full stop for a best flavour. The photo shows the process after sun exposure - the action of tossing and screening the tea leaves with bamboo baskets. Which would make sure the best dried tea leaves are left for storage or brewing.
Tea leaves that have been packed in molds and pressed into bricks for storage and shipping purposes will usually need a hammer and mallet to break them down into small portions, then further pounded in a wooden mortar. There are various sizes of mortars and they are generally made from cedar, birch and blackwood. The mouth and the bottom of pestles are often decorated with patterns.
After preparing the dried tea leaves, they are usually stored in tea caddies. These pairs of silver caddies in a black-stained shagreen box, are popular ones from the 18th Century Britain.
Used to dispense hot water when brewing a fresh and scented cup of tea, this urn is the earliest documented object made in colonial America in the Neoclassical style. Its form, arcade and bead moldings, and stylised rosettes and laurel leaves all derive from English designs inspired by ancient Roman sources. By the mid-1780s this style, which came to be known as "Federal" after the American Revolution, had taken hold in Philadelphia.
This tea bowl represents the tradition of using tea bowl to drink tea in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) in China. The Jizhou kilns were best known as their tea bowls, though they produced a varied range of ceramics during that time. This bowl is decorated with a single leaf on the inside. Tea drinking became widespread during the Tang Dynasty (618-970) and remained popular throughout the Song Dynasty. The ceramics used in tea drinking were an important part of the ritual. Tea bowls have long been particularly prized in Japan, where they are known as temmoku.
This oil portrait of a British family illustrates the fashionable afternoon tea tradition in 1745's Britain. The biscuit, sugar, tea, teapot, tea set, table, servant, accompany with young lady playing the piano, are icons in this tradition.
This paper ink painting depicts a vivid outdoor tea party while people enjoying the view of maple foliage beside the Kiyotaki river in the 16th Century in Japan. On the right bank of the river, a tea vendor is making tea, a man is drinking the tea with tea bowl standing beside; and the women, who are drinking tea and sake, with outdoor tea set, including tea caddies, lacquer container, a short-legged tea table, dessert container, and a wood bucket, seem to be enjoying this splendid autumn day.
Credits: All media
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