A Chinese friend told me: “When I lunched for the first time in Belgium, I was astonished at the drinks people had with their meal. Although the food is warm, they have ice-cold water or soft drinks. In Eastern Asia, it’s normal that you drink warm things, like tea, to match your meal.”
I thought it well worth the effort to write a post about it. Western food isn’t particularly spicy or sour. Neither is the weather unbearably hot. So why don’t we have warm drinks?
In Japanese restaurants, green tea (cha茶) is served with the meal, usually for free. This is not best quality tea, but you can drink as much as you want. So you only have to pay for your food. I remember that I had free tea too in a Japanese restaurant in Shanghai.
Tea became the standard drink in the Edo period (1603 – 1868) and reached its most sophisticated form in the tea ceremony (chadō 茶道). Japanese traditionally drink tea with every meal, and even between the meals. But with the arrival of alternatives like coffee, its popularity has decreased. Now, cold green tea in plastic bottles and canned hot tea are available in Japan’s enormously amount of vending machines.
Are tea-with-meal-drinkers healthier? My parents would say yes. As physiotherapists, they always told me not to drink ice-cold water during the summer. Adjusting the temperature of your drink to your meal would lower the risk of thermal shock in the oropharyngeal cavity. In other words, you can compare it to a dive in an ice-cold pool on a hot day. Your blood flow gets disturbed and vessels will react, with the possibility of a cardiac arrest as result. Of course this is in extreme situations, but you want to take care of your body, don’t you? So, from now on you can take your tea time at twelve o’clock.
Facts for Fun
– The Japanese word for brown is cha–iro (茶色), “color of tea”. That’s quite surprising because normally Japanese tea is green. On this blog you find two possible explanations.
– The tea variety used in the tea ceremony is maccha/matcha (抹茶). Nowadays it is known as a healing drink full of antioxidants.