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Tea: a symbol of friendship between China and Nepal

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In one popular Chinese legend dating back to more than 2 millennia BC Shennong, the celebrated Emperor of China, was drinking a bowl of boiled water honoring his own decree that his subjects must boil water before drinking it, when a few leaves were blown into his cup from a nearby tree, changing the color of the water. The emperor took a sip of the brew and was pleasantly surprised by its flavor, and with prolonged observation, by its restorative properties.

Whether this legend has any factual basis or not, the value of tea is widely acknowledged in both China and Nepal. This aromatic beverage has served in enhancing the quality of life of individuals and has contributed in the economic prosperity of both countries.

Nepal, like China, is also credited to be one of the countries where tea originated. However written records indicate that tea came to Nepal as a gift from a Chinese emperor to a Rana Prime Minister of Nepal during the nineteenth century. In the years that followed, Tea has become a symbol of friendship between the two countries.

Serving tea is integral to both Nepalese and Chinese culture. The people in Nepal welcome their guests with a cup of tea. It is something that is offered to strangers and friends alike. In China, virtually every dwelling even down to the simplest mud hut has a set of tea implements for brewing a hot pot of tea. These implements are symbols of welcome for visitors and neighbors. Additionally, tea is also an offer of sincere apology, to express gratitude and to connect large families and friends. Hence, Nepal and China share common values when it comes to enjoying tea.

Tea has great antioxidant properties and it may prevent many diseases insuring good health in human beings. Green tea, which is popular in China and far east, has been credited to prevent gastric, pancreatic, bladder and ovarian cancers. Green tea may also lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It may destroys bacteria that contribute to the cavities in the teeth, and also help in preventing coronary heart disease and blood clots. The black tea which is more common in Nepal also has many health benefits such as strengthening the immune system and making oral and skeletal health more strong. These health benefits also have played an important role in promoting commercial production of tea in Nepal and China.

In Nepal, 11.7 million kg of tea is produced every year from various tea estates. Out of this, two million kg of tea is the "orthodox tea" -- a very valuable tea made in the higher altitudes of Nepal. This tea is exported to India, France, Germany and the USA. Nepal ranks 19th in tea production in the world. China is the top producer of tea in the world boasting an array of tea leaves varieties. Tea production in China has rapidly increased over the past decade: from seven percent of the total domestic beverage volume to twenty five percent in 2012. It is expected that in 2013 the annual production of tea will be worth $14.7 billion with about 230 enterprises. These statistics indicate that the tea industry is enormous and is contributing in enhancing the GDP of both countries.

Because of its health benefits drinking tea is becoming increasingly popular in health conscious people. However, too much tea may also be responsible for some health problems. If drunk in excess, tea may cause gastric ulcers. Tea might contain tannic acid and if drunk too much may result in anemia and iron deficiency. The person who consumes a lot may also develop the kidney and liver diseases. Therefore observing moderation in tea drinking would be a wise practice for both Nepal and China.

Perhaps we can say there is lot more in a cup of tea than that meets the eye. As 21st century is drawing Chinese and Nepali people more closer in everyday life, it can be hoped that tea will continue to warm friendship and nurture relationship between the two countries. It had been a symbol of friendship in the past, and there is every reason to believe that it will remain so in the future as well.

(China.org.cn by Aunrag Maskey, Aug. 8, 2013)

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