OAK HILL -- Tea is a way of life, and the 8th Annual Tea Festival in Oak Hill on Aug. 30 is offering a new blend of tea, named after an American movie and created by Dr. Hassan Amjad of Oak Hill.
Named for the famous Hollywood classic, “Casablanca” is an American tea, from its name to its beginnings.
Amjad developed the blend after offering a series of tastings to 1,000 tasters at the Oak Hill Tea Festival — the only tea festival in the country — over the past 5 years.
He discovered that Oak Hill residents and American tea connoisseurs who visited the festival like a strong, black tea instead of the milder green tea, which is more commonly enjoyed by the Japanese.
Casablanca is a blend that’s sure to please local tea lovers.
“It is a very strong tea,” he reported.”It has the color, aroma and a little bite at the end.
“People like that,” Amjad explained. “So it’s really like having a drink which is not alcoholic, but it has the beauty, aroma and some touch of a red wine.”
Based on five years of tea-tasting contests, he said, the consensus was that Americans like tea to have a sharp, biting taste with a rich aroma and a deep, wine or mahogany color.
“These qualities are considered essential for any would-be American tea,” he explained. “So I blended select teas with spices and called it America’s choice.”
Mint julep, mango jasmine tea and lemon-ginger tea were also ranked high last year and will be offered all day at Amjad’s office.
Amjad, founder of the Tea Festival, is one of only two people in the United States who are known to blend tea.
“It’s kind of an exotic tea,” he said. “The main reason was to do something for the town of Oak Hill. If there are any profits, we’d like to donate it to the town.”
The founder of the annual Tea Festival, Amjad is a lover of tea, healthy living and Oak Hill.
He discovered the only tea tree in America in 2000 and named it the Franklin tea tree, after Benjamin Franklin.
He’s written an illustrated book, “Elixir of Life: Meditations over a Cup of Tea” on the history and benefits of tea drinking and is currently writing a book on the history of Oak Hill, his adopted town.
Amjad was born in Pakistan two weeks after the country split with India. An anthropologist and psychiatrist, he’s lived in the United States since he was 22 years old.
One of Amjad’s passions is to get more West Virginians drinking tea, since tea has health and emotional benefits that aren’t offered by coffee, energy drinks or other caffeinated beverages.
For starters, he said, tea is actually a medicine. Consuming at least three cups per day can lower the risk of stroke and heart attack because regular tea consumption lowers cholesterol, he said.
Amjad added that while both coffee and tea deliver caffeine, a stimulant that speeds the metabolism and gives a burst of energy, only tea has theanine, an amino acid that acts as a relaxant and has been shown to shut down the brain’s “worry mode” to promote relaxation and concentration.
Amjad said that with coffee, there is only a burst of energy.
A tea drinker gets the benefit of the increased energy, followed by a sense of calm.
Those who regularly drink green tea lose weight because their metabolism is raised, he said.
Amjad explained that he’s even an advocate of placing tea in schools for children because it has health benefits.
“Tea is a way of life, it is not about culinary art, a beverage, or a drink,” he said. “It is liquid meditation, a bridge of jade which connects the body and soul.
“It is a spiritual journey with good company,” Amjad added. “It is brain food.
“Tea drinkers live and last longer.
“Tea is the choice of poets, thinkers, yogis, mystics and intellectuals, while coffee is a favorite of truck drivers, sleepy souls.”
The tea festival is a perfect time for families to come and learn about health benefits while enjoying a group activity, he said.
“It’s a healthy drink,” said Amjad. “You can have a festival where you bring your grandmother and your child, and you can be healthy.”
At his Church Street office, Amjad will offer both the tea tasting and talk about nutrition, diet and living healthy.
“This tea festival is all about promoting herbal treatments so you take care of your body with food alone,” he added.
In addition to the serious health benefits of tea, Amjad also offers fun facts and history about his favorite elixir.
A fun literary observation is that William Shakespeare, the famous English playwright, never mentioned tea because tea didn’t become popular in England until the 17th century — after Shakespeare’s lifetime.
Tea entered English life when King Charles II married Catarina de Braganca of Portugal, and the new queen brought a dowry of tea to England.
It became popular among noble women to drink tea at that time, and tea drinking soon spread throughout the kingdom.
Black tea is green tea that has been roasted, he explained. (There’s also a third tea, oolong, he added.)
He explained that Chinese treated tea as a medicine and that Asians drank their green tea, the natural form of black tea, for centuries in cups without handles.
Europeans liked their tea served hot, due to the cooler climates.
“So if you see a teacup with a handle, it’s always European,” he explained. “They couldn’t handle the cups without these handles.”
The English added sugar to tea to encourage the sales of cane sugar.
Tea played a role in women’s and worker’s rights in England, Amjad added.
“Tea is an equalizer,” he said. “It brought the woman into the coffeehouses, where tea was being served.
“Otherwise, it was only a man’s place in coffeehouses.”
During the 1820s, English managers made it mandatory that employees who were coming to work drunk should have a tea break, said Amjad.
“They wanted them to be alert and oriented,” he said. “Then, it became a part of the labor issue.
“Tea was one of the factors which gave the labor movement its break.”
Of course, tea played a prominent role in the founding of the United States.
Amjad said that businessmen in the New World began to resent the high taxes British rulers placed on tea.
Intellectuals and revolutionaries took up the tax cause to form a rebellion, and the Boston Tea Party, started America’s break from England, said Amjad.
Teapots from around the world will be on display in Amjad’s office, located at 225 Church Street in Oak Hill, at the Tea Festival.
The tea tasting starts at 10 a.m., with lectures on meditation on tea and using peppers and spices for health purposes by Amjad.
Herbalist Debbie Hughes will speak about the benefits of turmeric, fennel seeds and cayenne, and nurse Donna Walker will offer a presentation on medicinal teas.
Janice Sumpter, a herbalist, will speak on kitchen herbs and Dr. Zonaira will talk about meditation and mysticism.
More information is available at 304-255-1600.