Olympic Worthy Tea

By Christine Rillo

Olympic Pu-Erh

Yixing-Like Pot for the Games

Preparing for a Ceremony at Qingdao

Every four years, countries from around the world send their best athletes to compete against each other in a multitude of sporting events. For two weeks, the world comes together to experience the drama of the competition; all the glory, honor, as well as defeat and disappointment. Stories are made and records are broken, but along with the spirit of competition, for two weeks or so we are also privy to the host country's culture.

The host country usually works right up to the games to build eye pleasing venues and Olympic villages. Plenty of in-between-segments are filmed to capture the culture of the host country, their Olympic team's personal lives outside of their respective sports, and natural beauty of the country. And of course, merchandise is produced- everything from mouse pads to plush toys emblazoned with the Olympic Rings,and that year's logo, or whatever cute mascot conjured up by a creative marketing team (this year it is the Fuwa- five adorable and colorful creatures, modeled after China's most popular animals and the Olympic flame).

As you may all know (unless you're living under some rock), this year's Summer Olympics are being held in Beijing, China. Many tea fans have taken notice of the Olympic Games, as China is where many of our favorite teas are from, as well as the drink of choice among the Chinese. In celebration of the games, many tea-related items have been specially made for the Olympics.

Coca-Cola, an Olympic game sponsor and the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee unveiled in June specially-produced cakes of Pu-Erh. These special Pu-Erh products are part of a limited edition of 50,000 and were produced in the Yunnan region of China by the Longshen Tea Factory. Among all the teas that China does produced, Pu-Erh was chosen, as they hope that the Olympics can help promote the unique tea (either you love it or hate it!) and it's health benefits to the international community. The beautifully wrapped Pu-Erh cakes will be sold in licensed shops in Beijing starting July 1st, as many visitors make their way to the city for the games. Along with these officially-licensed products, many unofficial tea products will make their way to store shelves in honor of the games.

VIP's to the Beijing Games will also be treated to a special gift. The Beijing Organizing Committee commissioned the Indian-based Lochan Tea Limited Company to produce 5,000 special gift packages that will include Assam and Darjeeling teas. Along with these limited edition gifts, tea from the famed Makalbari estate will be served alongside Chinese teas at the games. The inclusion of these beautiful Indian teas at the Beijing Games can be seen as a symbol of international cooperation and the sharing of each culture's take on the nearly-universal beverage.

With all this tea, you'll definitely need some special Olympic teaware to go along with it. The official Olympic merchandise being sold worldwide features a variety of glass and porcelain ware for everyday use- teacups, teapots, travel mugs, cafe mugs, all featuring the Olympic logo, or printed with those adorable little Fawa creatures. For the tea connoisseur, for whom a simple souvenir mug won't cut it, they will be pleased to see yixing-like pots produced alongside the regular tabletop wares. A variety of designs and colors are available to view here.

Artist He Wenqi designed and created a series of teaware last year, in honor and anticipation of the games coming to Beijing. Each teaware highlights the Olympic sports of weighlifting, rowing, cycling, basketball, track and field, etc. His wares have been on display since last year upon completing the seris in Yuzhou, Central China's Henan Province. Though not mass-produced for sale, the beautiful ceramic wares capture the spirit of the athletic competition and each is creatively designed to include those elements of each specific sport. View the slideshow of these fantastic pieces here.

Part of the Olympics experience is the ceremonial aspect. There are the the torch relay up to the start of the games, the welcoming of each country's delegation to the Olympic village, the theatrics of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, etc. And in the theme of tea at the Olympic games, traditional tea ceremonies are being performed at the Beijing and Qingdao Olympic Villages for athletes and visitors to view this time-honored tradition. Along with tea ceremonies, many tea cafes and shops have also opened in the two Olympic villages so that guests to China can have tea at their disposal.

So, pour yourself a cup of Pu-Erh or Yunnan Gold when 8/8/2008 rolls around and enjoy this display of international community through sports and the sharing of culture. Even though you won't be breaking any records in shot-put, know that someone out there in the world is also taking pleasure in their cup of tea.