food / travel

Tea Farming In China, Boiled Down In Five Facts

Tea Farming In China, Boiled Down In Five Facts
Patrick Randall

The 12th Shanghai International Tea Culture Festival ended last week in the Chinese megalopolis. Hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world came to buy, taste and learn more about the ancient and ever-popular beverage.

But where does tea come from and how is it produced? Here are five facts tea drinkers can ponder over their next cup of chai, accompanied by some breathtaking photos of tea farmers in the southern Chinese county of Sanjiang Dong, courtesy of Xinhua and ZUMA.

1. The very first records of tea consumption go back to the 10th century BC. But Chinese legends say it was discovered by the Chinese Emperor Shennong in 2737 BC, when tea leaves fell into water he was boiling, which he then tasted and found refreshing. Also known as the "Emperor of the Five Grains," Shennong is credited with inventing hoes, plows, axes and digging wells.

2. Although India is the largest tea-drinking country, China is its biggest producer, turning out about 30% of the world’s supply. There are four main tea-producing areas in China, each one with special kinds of leaves: the Jiangbei and Jiangnan districts, southern China and southwest provinces.

3. The smaller the leaf, the more valuable the tea. One of the world’s most expensive teas is served for about $200 per cup. Tea bushes are fertilized with panda waste, which preserves a large part of the nutrients found in the bamboo the pandas eat.

4. Some of the oldest cultivated tea trees can be found in the mystical forests of the southwestern Yunnan province, also called the "land of tea." The most ancient tree there is said to be more about 3,200 years old.

5. Tea is consumed as a beverage during meals or for simple pleasure, but this wasn't always the case. In Ancient China, tea was generally used as medicine. Now that the beverage has become synonymous with comfort and social gatherings, there are now some 1,000 varieties of tea.

BONUS Did you know that in China, there is a special ritual to prepare and present tea that some call the "kung fu tea ceremony?" The aim is simple: make the tea as tasty as possible.

Read more about tea here, or news about a different kind of Chinese farming.

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"The Truest Hypocrisy" - The Russia-NATO Clash Seen From Moscow

Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale.

NATO chief Stoltenberg and Russian Foregin Minister Lavrov

Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS via ZUMA
Pavel Tarasenko and Sergei Strokan

MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative.

These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."

In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped in strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."

The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.

Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.

NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.

"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.

The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."

Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."

The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.

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