If you say it aloud quickly, this series of words looks like the utterance of a child who doesn't master language yet... but on a Tea Tuesday - with Tea Cup Tuesday, Tea Time Tuesday and Tuesday Cuppa Tea - everyone has already understood what it is about...
Why is it that the Portuguese name for tea (chá) is the most similar to the Chinese cha and quite different from its equivalents in the other best-known European languages?
|A flor do chá ou Camellia Sinensis|
The tea or Camellia Sinensis flower
About that, I've already heard a story, kind of a joke, which tells that many European languages use a name with an identical sound to the letter T because the boxes that came from the Orient containing the precious leaves would bear a T meaning "transport"... :) It sounds like a joke, doesn't it?
The fact is that in the several dialects or languages of the great China there are variations of the word and according to the region where the European merchants made business, they heard a certain sound for tea which they later adopted in their countries.
Em Macau, onde os portugueses se estabeleceram e comerciaram a partir do século XVI, era a versão cha que ouviam e foi essa que importaram... vindo a dar o nosso ternurento chazinho. :) Claro importaram a palavra ao mesmo tempo que importavam o produto e também os delicados recipientes para o servir, como as tacinhas de porcelana que se veem em cima.
In Macao, where the Portuguese established and traded from the 16th century on, the version cha was the one they heard and imported...which resulted in our sweet and tender chazinho. :) Of course they imported the word as they imported the product as well as the delicate recipients to serve it, like the porcelain little bowls you can see above.
|Pormenor de uma gravura de William Hogarth do séc. XVIII |
Detail of a William Hogarth's 18th cent.engraving
|A gravura completa com cena de rua em Londres e o London Monument ao fundo|
The complete engraving with a London street scene and London Monument in the background
In this detail of an engraving by William Hogarth (London, 1697 - 1764), from the series "Industry and Idleness" we can see a young couple at the window, belonging to the successful bourgeoisie of the 18th century, sipping their tea from delicate tea bowls. Notice the way they hold them to avoid getting burnt!!!
|Taça chinesa com um motivo "Cantão" |
Chinese tea bowl with a "Canton" pattern
|Taça chinesa em porcelana azul e branca|
Chinese tea bowl in blue and white porcelain
|Taça chinesa com decoração "família rosa"|
Chinese tea bowl with "famille rose" decoration
This shape and "famille rose" decoration ended up being very much copied by European manufacturers, specially English ones, as I have already shown here in a post last year.
Entretanto, com a invenção das chávenas de chá, graças à asa ficámos com o problema resolvido de como pegar para não queimar, mas eu continuo a ter um fraquinho pelas tacinhas de chá, não só as chinesas, mas também as que se continuaram a fabricar pela Europa fora.
Meanwhile, with the invention of tea cups, thanks to the handle we had that problem solved of how to hold not to burn, but I still have a crush on the little tea bowls, not only the old Chinese ones but also the ones that continued to be made all over Europe.