Thursday, December 6, 2007

Fancy salt in your tea?!

Ever since my son (now 3 years old) was born I’ve noticed some (for me) strange things happening when visiting the grandparents in South Africa. Troy loves to bath and play in the bathtub, and the grandparents love to give him a bath, so that’s well and fine! It gives us a 20min to an hour break. A few times I’ve noticed that the water seemed slightly “colored”. I never questioned anybody about this as I thought it could be due to colored tap water (although I know the tap water in South Africa is good), soap or bath foam giving color or some other logical explanation to it. Recently however when I checked on my son in the tub, I noticed something floating around in the water. Instinctively I’m thinking; “Troy, you’re too big for that now”! He has plenty of toys in the tub, both cars, boats and spidermen, but these were Unidentifiable Floating Objects (UFO’s) at first glance. A quick investigation revealed however that it was in fact teabags – 4 teabags?! Without drowning levels of water, it actually gave a slight color. How can you put “food stuff” in the bath tub?? Troy was not off the hook - this could only be a toddler’s idea! Busy scolding him, he looks at me with big innocent eyes saying; “What the heck are you talking about papa. What did I do wrong now"? "Grandma put it”!
When Troy was still a baby “we” read in a pregnancy magazine that Rooibos tea (bush-tea) was good for babies for a number of reasons – colic and constipation amongst others. My wife used to bring Rooibos tea from South Africa every holiday, so this was easy accessible and something we decided to give from an early age. Colic and constipation wise we’ve been fine all the way - knock on wood! A closer inspection of the bathwater teabags revealed that this was also Rooibos tea. I did not taste, so I’m not sure whether grandma put milk and sugar? “It’s good for him!”; that’s the most detailed explanation I could get, so I googled it in stead! Rooibos must be as close as you can possibly get to the fountain of youth! Aside from colic and constipation its good for insomnia, stress, depression and a lot more. It makes me think about a certain tree in Zanzibar that the locals called the “20remedy tree”. Rooibos easily beats that! I have now decided to encourage the tea bath!!
I have always thought of tea as an English or commonwealth thing. Norwegians drink tea also, but not as frequent, quantity wise… or with milk! My own brain scan survey tells me that Norwegians have mostly black tea, although it could be a personal preference and nothing more. The history of tea is very interesting though. Just like some Norwegian food traditions (I’m sure of it!), tea was discovered by accident! According to the myth, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung (over 5000 years ago) had ordered his people to always boil water before drinking it. One day some dried leaves from a nearby bush fell into the water, and a brown liquid was infused into the water. Shen Nung tested and found it very refreshing – tea was invented! Lu Yu, because of his book "Tea classic" was granted the title "Father of Tea" in China as late as around 700AD though! Buddhist monks later used tea to enhance meditation. The Buddhist priest Yeisei brought the first tea to Japan, and was known as “The Father of Tea” in Japan. Tea filtered into Europe through early caravan leaders. It was the Portuguese who gained the first right to trade with China, but the Dutch and the British East India Companies made it more accessible. Soon it was brought to all the colonies around the world – including America and South Africa!

In America they poured shiploads of tea into the sea in a rebellious act (Boston Tea Party), which was a catalyst leading to the American Revolution! New shiploads found the way to America so they could indulge in less revolutionary tea parties. In South Africa/Namibia they picked up Rooibos from the San Bushmen (Basarwa) as an added flavor to the already well established tea culture. It does not entirely explain why my son is soaking in it though…?
Indians love tea. I’ve seen it in the Indian movies, but I’ve never seen anybody soak in it before my own son. Even Gandhi took inspiration from the history of tea. In 1930 he organized the “salt protest”, a march in protest against the British salt production monopoly. He held a handful of “duty free” (illegally produced) salt to a British official and stated; “The salt is to remind us of the famous Boston Tea Party”! It was a clever warning, and the salt protest became India’s answer to Boston Tea Party!

Speaking of salt! My in-laws “turn salt” for the children as protection against the “evil eye” as well! They hold a handful of rough salt in front of the child’s face and make a few circular gestures. Pretty much like Gandhi did… is there a connection I wonder?! Especially if people have uttered words of appreciation over the children, like “such a cute girl” or “handsome boy”, you have to “turn salt”! Now I know why they put bath salt for the children… cleverly camouflaged! I wonder what else is in that bath water? Indian voodoo-culture! I think I will collect samples and take them to a lab…


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Arnold said...

A well researched piece of work. This brought back many memories from my own childhood. According to an 'older' neighbour the reason for the tea in the bath water is simply because the 'rooibos' is supposed to be a mild disinfectant. If this is true I would not know.

Jonny said...

Despite el facto that I had dos anos de Espanol, mushos anos ago, mi Espanol sucks "muchos tiempos" (BIG TIME)! Actualamente, yo tengo no clue about what ustedes hablas about?! Un dia, when yo tengo muchos dineros, voy a travel to Espana por la learn Espanol proparamente! Voy a dormir en la playa and drink vino tinto (Marques de Caceres). Hopefullamente voy a ver un matcho de futbol between Barcelona y Real Madrid tambien!

Feliz navidad!

Anonymous said...

I have NO idea what was said (?)
but just to add, salt in bathwater is also good, salt is a cleaner, and good for skin.

Jonny said...

Thanx Arnold, I appreciate it! It seems to me that your comment was flying around in cyberspace a couple of days before it came to my attention...

History some times exceed fiction... so I enjoy reading up on history. I also enjoy putting bits and pieces of history together and make wierd mosaics of history/fiction... although this was strictly factual!!

Anyway, this only proves that it's a multiple remedy thingy!

Caroline said...

My first born son was born in Durban, South Africa (very humid) and I used to bath him in rooibos tea regularly-the heat rashes he had under his chin and arms used to disappear within the hour. It works wonders on the skin!

We live in England now and I buy it from Waitrose (to drink), after nype te it is my favorite tea.

I had 15 wonderful years in South Africa, it really is a beautiful country.

Take care and be alert!


Anonymous said...

Indians do not practise voodoo or any magic. Turning salt is an ancient ritual to counteract the effects of negative energy that may be surrounding you. For instance if you have a pretty child it is assumed that people who are jealous of you or your baby will creative negative energy by their jealous glances or words, hence we turn salt. You should be glad that your in-laws care so much for your child that they only want to surround him with good energy. It is ignorance that perpetuates cultural misunderstandings.

Jonny said...

I get what you are saying! Make no mistake, I approve of the genuinely good idea behind it, so I had nothing against it either! I'm just giving some thoughts from my cultural perspective... maybe from a different angle, that has no bad intentions at all!! It's only an interesting cultural phenomenon for me!!!