Thursday, October 11, 2018

Cha if by Land, Tea if by Sea

There's a very interesting post on Quartz, titled Cha if by Land, Tea if by Sea: Why the world only has two words for tea. Actually, its only one word, represented by the Chinese character 茶. This character is pronounced in most of China as "chá" but in the coastal provinces where the Dutch traded, it is pronounced "te". The Dutch brought tea back to Europe on ships where variations of the word were spread, while overland trade to other regions led to variations on chá, such as chai.
The map above was clipped to fit this page better. To see the entire image with legend and credits click on it. Blue dots are variations of "te" based on the Min Nan (south coastal Chinese) dialect while magenta dots are variations of Sinitic (common to most forms of Chinese) dialects. There are a few scattered gray dots where other local words are used. These are mostly in native tea growing regions, where the crop developed independently.

 Countries along the Silk Road trading routes, as well as parts of East Asia and East Africa have "chá"-like words for tea while most of Europe uses "te"variations. Eurpoean exceptions include Portugal, whose trade was conducted through Macao, where chá was used, the Basque region, possibly due to proximity to Portugal, and parts of Eastern Europe where trade was likely to have been from overland routes.

For New Zealanders, who may be upset at the omission from the original map (wider maps show up less clearly in this format), here you go:

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