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history of gastronomy

sclbcake's picture

o.k. may get tired of me but I need your help on another project...I am to give a program on "History of Gastronomy" in March..I can slant it anyway I want...I found some book American Century Cookbook-most popular recipes of the 20th century, Chocolate by Christine McFadden, Food in History by Shirley and John Curley(boring) too medieval..15 to 20 minute...i don't want it to be and entertaining !!! did you know the Chinese never used milk in their tea ?
and that coffee came from Ethiopia ?

chefathome's picture

(post #67239, reply #1 of 15)

That sounds delightful!  A topic I am smitten with as well.  I am currently reading several books on cooking through the ages - I am now in Medieval times.  I find it fascinating how foods were seasoned and presented.  The lengths they went to - wow.  Warblers' and flamingoes' tongues - how many warblers would it take to make just one dish?  One recipe I have includes stuffing 19 types of birds in each other - can you imagine how that would look?

"The joys of the table belong equally to all ages, conditions, countries and times; they mix with all other pleasures, and remain the last to console us for their loss."
Jean Antheleme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste
sclbcake's picture

(post #67239, reply #2 of 15)

Yes it is interesting but I only have a narrow window of time to present a program so I have to narrow it down to something...have you gotten to cannabilism ? it is plum awful what they our world has changed from eating for necessity to pleasure !!!

donpedro's picture

(post #67239, reply #3 of 15)

When your reading time is very limited, then try M.F.K.Fisher "The Art Of Eating". It is a sampler volume, containing several of her books. In the section "Serve It Forth" you will find on about 120 pages a concentrated history of cooking and eating from Ancient Greek 3000 B.C. to Modern America. "Serve It Forth" is also issued as a separate volume.

You could also try Ben Schott "Schott's Food and Drink Miscellany", which is a real Ali Baba's Cave of important and not so important, but always interesting and often curious and hilarious facts about cooking, eating, drinking over the centuries.

Greetings from the Palatinate!


sclbcake's picture

(post #67239, reply #4 of 15)

thanks....what do you think is the most popular food and/or drink now in the U.S.? I think I might narrow my subject to "tea"..origin, who, what, where, why, etc.

donpedro's picture

(post #67239, reply #8 of 15)

Since my first and last visit to the United States is now over 40 years ago (I then was a student at the University of Heidelberg, seeing friends from North Carolina to California), I can not be considerd beeing an expert on the matter of what drink is now most popular in the U.S. But if you need basic information about tea, then let me know and I will try to translate some from German into English, although my capability in the english language is quite limited, because I never learned English in a school.

Greetings from the Palatinate!


sclbcake's picture

(post #67239, reply #9 of 15)

thank you...anything on the history of tea ! good luck on your English !
get some tapes....

donpedro's picture

(post #67239, reply #11 of 15)

Tea Part A (Part B follows in a separate message)

Before we start:

In principle „tea“ can be made of every plant containing aromatic and tasty ingredients which are watersolluble. For clarification, the word „tea“ is used for a „brew“ made out of the leaves of the teaplant, and specified into black or green tea. Using other plants results in an „infusion“.

For the ordinary teadrinker the most important qualities of his brew are aroma, taste, color, degree of adstingency and the content of coffein (in earlier times called teein). The coffein in tea is basically of the same chemical formula as the coffein in coffee, but it reacts differently because of interactions with other ingredients, especially the tannin, which gives this typical adstringent-feeling of tea.

Green tea, besides looking and tasting differently, has a higher content of tannin than black tea. For the more or less 4000 years of teadrinking, it was only green tea in the cups! The habit of drinking black tea ist not older than roughly 150 years!

Now first a bit of botanical background:

The plant from which we get the leaves we are used to call „tea“ is one of the Camelias, which is called Camellia sinensis or Thea sinensis, or oversimplified just „teaplant“.

As a matter of facts, there are basically two varieties of the original teaplants, found living wild in their appropriate surroundings: a) Camellia sinensis, var. sinensis, and b) Camellia sinensis, var. assamica.

a)    Camellia sinensis, now widely called Thea sinensis, is, when living in the wild, a bush of 3 to 4 meters high. It lives in the so called „moderate zones“ and tolerates even a bit of frost. The plant is cultivated in China for more than 4000 years, which results in over 5000 varieties beeing cultivated.

b)    Camellia assamica, now widely called Thea assamica, is, when living in the wild, a formidable tree of 15 to 20 meters high. It lives in the so called „subtropical monsoon zones“, needs a hot and moist climate and tolerates no frost. The plant is very prolific and bears bigger leaves than Thea sinensis. The plant was found around 1830 in the jungle of Northern India. Immediately after the finding, crossing and hybridisation started with Thea sinensis.

Depending on local needs, climate, microclimate, soil etc. all the teaplants nowadays in cultivation are either descendants from the two originals or they are hybrids. And all are hold to a manageable size of around 1 meter high for easier harvesting, because all harvesting is made by hand.

Harvesting/Picking: „two leaves and a bud“ is the order given to the pickers of quality tea. The tiny ends on the twigs are broken over the thumbnail. A good picker can harvest up to 50 kilogrammes of leaves per day, which yields about 12 kilogrammes of finished tea.

The processing of the leaves can be made either in the traditional way, called the Orthodox Method (this yields higher qualties, but takes more time and more skill), or in a modern way, called the CTC-Method (which is quick and cheap and simple, but yields in most cases inferior qualities).

Let’s look on the orthodox method of processing first, where we have two partly different processes, depending what tea is to be obtained, black tea and Oolong tea on one side, or green tea on the other side (basically all come from the same plants!)

Orthodox Method of processing for Black Tea and for Oolong Tea:

a)    Wielding: the freshly picked leave is fragile and tends to break. But for Rolling (the next step, which is necessary for the devellopment of the quality) the leaves must be tender and elastic. The leaves are put on sieve-like flat plates for 8 to 12 hours for a bit of drying. They loose around 30% of their moisture.

b)    Rolling: Rollers are machines using disc-like metal plates which roll the leaves between them. The regulation of the rolling machines results in more „leave“ or more „broken“ qualities. In the same time the rolling forces brake open the cellwalls of the leaves, so the saps can come out of the cells and get into contact with the air. The oxygen in the air then starts a fermenting process, which in this stage of processing is not so welcome, but inevitable. So the temperature which rises during the rolling process has to be controlled and should not be higher than 35°C. At the end of the rolling, the leaves are sieved to sort different qualities. The leaves beeing sieved out first are considered the highest quality. Now the leaves are ready for the fermentation.

c)     Fermentation: This is the most critical step of the whole processing and it needs the highest skills! The leaves are put on big tables in a room of 25°C and 95% humidity in the air. The whole fermentation process takes between 1 and 3 hours and must be closely watched. During the fermentation the sap of the cells gets more and more out of the cells and becomes oxydized. The oxydised sap sticks to the tiny hairs of the leaves. To short fermented, the brew in the cup will be of little color and taste rough, aggressive and bitter. During the fermentation process the leaves change their color from green to a coppery brown-red. In the same time the content of the adstringent tannin is reduced to about 11%, compared to the about 18% of an unfermented green tea. The Oolong tea, which is so popular in the U.S., is only half-fermented.

d)    Drying: At a certain point the fermentation process has to be ended abruptly by the master teamaker to avoid that the leaves „die“, which means that they become flat and dead tasting. So the leaves are quickly transported on big trays into a chamber of hot dry air at around 85 to 95°C for about 20 minutes. In this time the oxydised sap on the tiny hairs of the leaves becomes solid and produces a golden or silvery color. These leaves with the color on are called „tips“. The higher the content of tips in a blend, the higher the quality of the brew. In contact with hot water, this color disappears and gives to a quality brew its special glow. While drying, the general color of the leaves changes to a darker brown, even to black. And by loosing moisture the leaves become durable.

e)    Sorting: The „grades“, the parts of the leaves sorted out according to their sizes, are defined in up to 5 to 8 different sizes or grades, depending on the producer. The four most widely known grades are Leaves, Broken, Fannings and Dust. Fannings and Dust are in general found in teabags.

Orthodox Method of processing for Green Tea:

There are two main differences in the processing of green tea compared to black tea. The first is, that the leaves are not wielded to soften them, but damped, using vapor. After the Damping the leaves for green tea go to the Rolling, like those for black tea. Then there is the second main difference: leaves for green tea are not fermented but go directly to Drying and then to Sorting.

CTC-Method of processing tea: Crushing-Tearing-Curling:

Metal cylinders carrying spikes cut the freshly picked leaves into pieces of the same size, usually very small, into the grades Fannings and Dust, using a rotating movement. By this crushing the bits of leaves get a very big surface and the saps of the broken cells can get out quickly. Therefore the fermenting process and the drying is a matter of a few hours. All this can be done in a chain of machines, mostly automatically. Therefore this CTC-Method is cheap, but it results not in a high quality. So CTC made teas appear mostly in teabags.

Greetings from the Palatinate!


donpedro's picture

(post #67239, reply #12 of 15)

Tea Part B (Part C follows in a separate message)

A good many teas have on their packages some mysteriously looking abbreviations. Unlike until about 40 years ago, in our times these abbreviations are no longer certified by teatraders and their boards, but they are nevertheless in use, although not so closely defined as earlier.

These abbreviations are different for the different Grades.

I) First those for the Leave-Grades (= the best and highest grades, coming mainly from Darjeeling and Assam; to a lower extend also from Southern India and Ceylon/Sri Lanka, especially further down the list):

FTGFOP1 = Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange-Pekoe First Grade Leaves

SFTGFOP1 = Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange-Pekoe First Grade Leaves

FTGFOP  = Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange-Pekoe

TGFOP1    = Tippy Golden Flowery Orange-Pekoe First Grade Leaves

TGFOP    = Tippy Golden Flowery Orange-Pekoe

GFOP1     = Golden Flowery Orange-Pekoe First Grade Leaves

GFOP      = Golden Flowery Orange-Pekoe

FOP1         = Flowery Orange-Pekoe First Grade Leaves

FOP         = Flowery Orange-Pekoe

OP           = Orange-Pekoe

Behind each of the words in the expressions describing and characterizing teas are some clear meanings, but unfortunately also not so clear meanings, and meanings that differ from country to country.

Tippy: A „Tip“ is the expression for the high quality young and tender parts at the end of the branches („two leaves and a butt“). Under these parts are tougher ones. The upper parts do not contain as much of the bitter tasting adstringent tannin as the older leaves beneath the young ones. So in the Rolling and Fermenting these high quality young leaves do not become as dark. A Tippy is therefore a tea containing many young leaf-tips, making a pleasant brew with little tannins.

Golden: When the tannin leaves the cells together with the saps during Rolling and Fermenting, this liquid solidifies on the tiny hairs of the leaves and creates a golden shimmer if handled with care and knowledge. So in itself the expression „Golden“ does not mean directly a high quality, but as it is a clear hint to a careful handling and processing (usually by hand) of the leaves, it is indirectly a promiss of good quality.

Flowery: A flowery tea has a vivid, fresh and flowery aroma and taste, which is a sign of a superb quality. (Low quality teas can have a stale, flat, even dead taste). It is a tea of the finest and youngest leaves from the first picking, just on the opening, unrolling of the leaf. So the leaves are rather short.

Orange: There are three different explanations. a) The first says that in times quite long ago, in China teas would have been scented with orange-blossoms, and the teaworld being as traditional and oldfashioned as it is, still clings to this expression. b) The second says that Orange is not related to the fruit orange, but is related with the color (some kind of a code of arms) of the Dutch Kings (in dutch: Oranje). Therefore this expression is said to be related to a „royal quality“ and meaning in the end „very good, outstanding quality. c) And the third explanation says it would come from the Malayan word „orang“, meaning „big“. And in fact, the expression „Orange“ together with „Pekoe“ often means a good quality Pekoe, but having bigger leaves. It is widely used in our days to describe a good black tea, either from India or Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

Pekoe: This word comes from the chinese „pak-ho“, which means „tiny soft fluff“. The youngest leaves stil have white fluff around them, which, when they are dried, still is visible. Beeing first used only in connection with a special variety of teaplant, the „Pekoe-plant“, it now is used for indicating the Grade of every good black tea from India or Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

Orange-Pekoe: Interestingly, the use of Orange and Pekoe together in one expression often, but not always means something a bit different: a Orange-Pekoe can be the „second class“, describing a tea having some bigger leaves, but being very aromatic and showing little adstringency, less than the Flowery.

Souchong: from the chinese „siao-chung“, meaning „coarser leaves“.

Broken: Expression for tea whose leaves have been broken during processing into small pieces and sieved out in the first sieving. These teas are often of an excellent quality; usually they give a quick and darker colored brew. If „Broken“ is not mentioned expressly, than the tea is Leaf-Tea, even if the word leaf is not mentioned (exception: Fannings and Dust, which are by definition not Leaf-Teas).   

Fannings: describes the very small partikels of the tealeaf, originating during Rolling.

Dust: describes the finest particles stemming from the last sieving.

Both Fannings and Dust are cheap and inferior qualities compared to Leaf-Grades and Broken-Grades. Fannings and Dust usually are found in teabags.

II) Now those for the Broken Grades:

P/FP = Pekoe/Flowery Pekoe, thicker, harder,broken leaf (mainly S.India, Ceylon)

BOP = Broken Orange-Pekoe, coarse broken leaf

BPS = Broken Pekoe Souchong, coarser and less strong than OP

TGFBOP1 = Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange-Pekoe Grade 1, highest grade of Broken Teas in Darjeeling, many tips, same size of all leaf parts.

GFBOP1 = Golden Flowery Broken Orange-Pekoe Grade 1, highest grade of Broken Teas in Assam, many tips, same size of all leaf parts.

GFBOP = Golden Flowery Broken Orange-Pekoe, a bit of a lower grade than above.

GBOP = Golden Broken Orange-Pekoe, less tips, different sizes of leaf parts.

FBOP = Flowery Broken Orange-Pekoe, even fewer tips, coarser broken, not from Darjeeling.

BOP = Broken Orange-Pekoe, the standard Broken Grade in Southern India, Ceylon, China and Indonesia.

BP = Broken Pekoe, lower Broken Grade.

FBOPF = Finest Broken Orange-Pekoe Flowery, interestingly with tips.

BT = Broken Tea, a very simple tea from not so famous areas.

III) Those for the Fannings (abbreviated):

GFOF = Golden Flowery Orange Fannings, finest Fannings from Darjeeling for high grade teabags of very good quality.

FOF = Flowery Orange Fannings, among the Fannings a good quality, a bit similar to lower Broken Grades, good for teabags.

All the Fannings Grades carry a „F“ for distinction.

All the Dust Grades carry a D“.

Greetings from the Palatinate!


sclbcake's picture

(post #67239, reply #13 of 15)

WOW ! your knowledge of tea is textbook ! thank you soooo very much ! I have been searching web sites and ordering tea catalogs. I also ordered some sampler tea and some paper diffusers to use for the ladies..the logistics of serving them @ another location etc. warranties this technique...anyway, I don't know if I can go that much into detail about tea... but where, do we get our tea especially in the South ?

donpedro's picture

(post #67239, reply #14 of 15)

Tea Part C (Part D will follow in a separate message if wanted)

Countrys of origin for tea: In principle tea can be grown where the climate is the so called „Camelia-Climate“, which means a climate where camelias like to grow: yearly average temperature around 18°C. no frost or only very little frost for a short time (only during the night), about 1600 liters of rainfall during the year-if possible evenly distributed over the year, a minimum of 4 hours sunshine daily and well drained soil with a little acidity. In fact, such an ideal position is rarely found on earth, so teaplants have been selected for a climate being a bit more average, which means a „Subtropical Monsoon-climate“, offering humid and hot summers, and relatively dry, cooler winters. So tea is grown in many countrys like China, India, Japan, Ceylon/Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Taiwan, Africa, Turkey, Georgia (former USSR), Brasil and so on. However, there are big differences in type and quality. And one shall not forget that a general description of the character of the teas of different countries can only scratch the surface and will never be more than a help for orientation. It is similar to try a general description of the wines in a country.

China: The country with the longest teagrowing tradition is without any doubt China, since the Chinese grow tea at least since 4000 years roughly in the area between the Jangtse River and the southern borders of China. Apart from some modern plantations, teagrowing in China is still more or less made in an ancestral fashion, which implies that the majority of tea is processed as Green Tea, as it has been since time immemorial (let’s not forget that the custom of Black Tea is only about 150 years old!). But answering the needs and likes and fashions of modern times, the Chinese process also Half-fermented Tea and Black Tea, and, as a rarity, White Tea (White Tea is not processed in the usual sense; it is only wielded and dried in the sunlight. So it becomes the typical look: little fluffy white hairs, giving the leaves a white shimmer). As a reverence to Chinese Teatradition, I will mention more names of Chinese teas than it will be possible for the other countrys.

Examples for Green Tea: i) Yu Lian = white lotus-flower, finest tips; ii) Lung Ching = fountain of the dragons, extremly green lightly sweet and adstringent; iii) Yünnan Green Silvertips, the most famous flowery green tea of China.

Example for Half-fermented Tea: Oolong = black dragon, Black Tea, very flowery. Loved in the U.S.!

Examples for Black Tea: i) Keemun, liked by the Chinese Imperial Court and therefore often called „Yünnan Golden Imperial“ (at least the highest qualities); ii) China Keemun Hao Ya A, lily-scented; iii) Szechuan, very elegant and aromatic. The Keemun has in China the same position as the Darjeeling in India.

Examples for White Tea: i) Jade White Needle,mellow and flowery; ii) White Monkey-Pekoe, green and yellow, sweetish taste; iii) Special White Yin Long Silverdragon, sweet and aromatic, silvergolden.

Formosa/Taiwan: Highclass Oolongs, extremely popular Black Tea and sought after in the U.S.! Also the Pouchong, a lightly fermented Black Tea. And as a speciality the heavily smoked black teas: Tiger Tea and Crocodile Lapsong Souchong.

India: In the last 100 years India has become the largest producer of teas, from the highest quality down to the lowest. So in short they are:

Darjeeling: In the North on the slopes of the Himalaya, „teagardens“ about 2000 meters above sealevel. „King of the teas“, light, bright, fine, elegant, flowery and aromatic. No growth – no harvest during winter. „First Flush“-harvest in the beginning of March until mid of April“ (spring tea“): exremely light, Champagne-type, lovely and flowery, a hint of „Muscatell-Flavor“. „In Between“-harvest from mid of April until mid of May: a bit of First and Second Flush, not so well known. „Second Flush“-harvest from May until September („summer tea“): ripe full in aroma, strong Muscatell-Flavor. „Autumnal“-harvest in October (between the end of the summer monsoon and the start of winter: „fall tea“): little adstringency, light and delicate, but extremly dependant on the weather (not reliable in this season).

Assam: In the north-east, on both banks of the Brahmaputra River, about 600 meters above sealevel. Body, dark malty, aromatic.

Sikkim: North of Darjeeling, ancient Kingdom of Sikkim, teagrowing since about 1980, plants from Darjeeling deliver tea of a new, very fresh character, promising. Dooars: South-southwest of Darjeeling and Assam, very similar to Assam.

South-India: Mountainous area of the Western Ghats, 200 to 2000 meters above sealevel (therefore big differences!), best known is „Nilgiri“. Similar to Ceylon teas.

Ceylon/Sri Lanka: It is quite a long time since Ceylon changed officially her name into Sri Lanka, but in the traditon-based teaworld, the teas are still named Ceylon. Thirdbiggest teaproducer in the world. Best qualities come from plantations in the UVA-District, 1500 to 2000 meters above sealevel. A brew showing a red-brown color and being fruity and fresh, a bit adstringent. Even fresher ones come from the central Highlands in the Nuwara-Eliya-District.

Nepal: The teagardens in the Kingdom of Nepal are in the western vicinity of Darjeeling and the teas are very similar to the Darjeelings.

Bengalen: On the border between India and Bangladesh, delicate teas with a hint of almonds in the aroma, ideal teas for breakfast.

Bangladesh: very similar to Bengalen teas, flowery and tasty and light for breakfast.

Indonesia: Teagrowing for about 100 years on Java (light, fruity) and Sumatra (a good allrounder, especially for blends).

Japan: It is said that Japan produces in her cool climate the best Green Teas in the world. Small production on small plantations.

Africa: Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Cameroon are the biggest producers. For climatic reasons harvest all year round, mass produced standard teas, best qualities from Kenya.

Turkey: especially in the Rize district in northeastern Turkey: a light Black Tea for mass consumption.

Georgia: former member of the USSR, allround Black Tea. Attention: the tea from Georgia is often falsely called „Russian Tea“, but Georgia is not Russia! Also the famous „Russian Tea“, also called „Carawan Tea“ does not grow on Russian territory! This tea is a blend of teas of different countries with a distinct „smoke-aroma“.

Brazil: Teaproduction only starts, mainly in the hands of Japanese teagrowers, promising quality.


Now, SCLBCAKE, there should follow the last part, about how to prepare different teas, water and so on. If you would like to get it, despite the whole mass of information, which is probably too much for one use, please let me know. It would be less than half of the above.


Greetings from the Palatinate!


sclbcake's picture

(post #67239, reply #15 of 15)

thanks...I have gotten all the info and put in my tea notebook for the program..also ordered the book tea companion....this has really turned out to be a fun project and have learned alot about something I knew very little ! thanks...received tea from upton yesterday.....

CookiM0nster's picture

(post #67239, reply #10 of 15)

Your English seems excellent to me.

Glenys's picture

(post #67239, reply #5 of 15)

Margaret Visser's Much Depends on Dinner supsersedes and outdates Michael Pollan, who sadly dismisses her as a predecessor..  Any of Kurlansky's work. 

sclbcake's picture

(post #67239, reply #7 of 15)

thanks so much....the old foodie site is wonderful and so interesting !!

Tess's picture

(post #67239, reply #6 of 15)

Perhaps not for your project but this site is fascinating:

Tess's Japanese Kitchen