“Chinese Method of Preparing the Different Sorts of Tea” by Alexis-Marie de Rochon

The Scots Magazine article "Chinese Method of Preparing the Different Sorts of Tea" (screen capture from site)
The Scots Magazine article “Chinese Method of Preparing the Different Sorts of Tea” (screen capture from site)

Have you ever found yourself wishing for an article that was translated from French into English and published in a Scottish magazine on the topic of how the Chinese prepare tea? Well, funny you should mention it. I’ve got just the thing for you.

The Scots Magazine got underway in 1739 and it still publishing to this day, though there have been a few lapses along the way. As of 1795, they were rather well-established and were known as The Scots Magazine; Or, General Repository of Literature, History, and Politics. It was in this year that the magazine published a translation of an article called Chinese Method of Preparing the Different Sorts of Tea.

The article was written by a French scientist, Alexis-Marie de Rochon, who was also known as Abbé Rochon. He kicks things off by describing the tea plant itself, which in China was being harvested three times a year in those days. The author claims that there are those who prefer Japanese tea to Chinese but doubts that there is any real difference.

Rochon goes on to devote a section to the three kinds of Bohea tea, a variety that he says takes its name from a mountain in “Fokien” province. He claims that this tea when steeped should impart to the water a yellow color, “inclining a little to green” and remarks that only old tea produces a red color in the cup. Which is actually a term (red tea) that the Chinese sometimes use to refer to what we call black tea.

Next it’s on to a section on green tea, which is “brought from the province of Nankin.” Some of the author’s notions about green tea seem bit peculiar by today’s standards. He points out that they “ought also to have a burnt or scorched smell, not too strong, but agreeable.” Then he goes on to note that the French like to find in their green teas “an odor similar to that of soap.” Which doesn’t sound all that appealing to me but as I’ve said more times than I can count now, we all like what we like.

If you’re interested in taking a look at this one you won’t have to invest too much time in reading it. Click here to access it.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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