The Tontons’ Asli Omar talks museum memories and first-ever HMNS performance — this Friday, Feb. 8!

Asli Omar, the charming lead singer of longtime local band The Tontons, grew up in the Museum District. After stints in Georgia and NYC, she’s glad to be back in her hometown performing full-time — and delighted to be headlining LaB 5555 this Friday, Feb. 8.

The Tontons rock LaB 5555 Feb. 8We caught up with Asli to ask about her childhood HMNS memories and what she anticipates performing at the science museum for the first time:

HMNS: You’re from Houston. You told visithoustontexas.com that one of the best things Houston has to offer is our museums. Do you have any early memories of the science museum?

Asli Omar: My parents used to take me all the time! I remember being really fascinated with the water globe. My friends and I used to go and try and stop it and move it again. I grew up in the area, so I used to go on free days and on holidays with my friends and family.

HMNS: Do you have a nerdy, geeky side?

AO: Most of me is nerdy/geeky! I had a rock collection when I was a little kid and used to buy rocks in the gift store.

HMNS: Is there anything in particular you’re excited about seeing when you’re here for LaB?

AO: I haven’t been in about a year, but I always loved the gem room. Every girl probably likes the gemstones. It’s honestly an honor to be a part of something like LaB. Houston has great museums and think it’s cool that so many are incorporating music and diversifying their audiences.

Catch Asli rock it out with The Tontons this Friday at LaB 5555: Tea, where Te House of Tea owner Connie Lacobie will be on-hand to discuss the culture of tea drinking and the historical and political impacts of the tea trade. Get your dancin’ pants on with this live performance of The Tontons’ single, “Sea and Stars”:

What: LaB 5555: TEA
When: Friday, Feb. 8 from 7 to 10 p.m.
Where: HMNS Main; 5555 Hermann Park Dr., 77030
How Much: $20
Tickets: HERE!

LaB 5555 this Friday: Steep yourself in culture, say oolong to the stress of the week and TEA off with The Tontons

Today’s blog comes to us from Te House of Tea owner Connie Lacobie in advance of our tea-themed LaB 5555 this Friday, Feb. 8, featuring musical guests The Tontons! Steep yourself in the culture of tea from 7 to 8 p.m. before you hit the dance floor by reserving tickets here.

Tea was first discovered in China about 4,000 years ago, but it was not until 400 to 600 A.D. that was tea heavily demanded and mass cultivation started to fit market demand. The Chinese used tea as a medicinal drink mixed with onion, orange, ginger and other spices.  It was considered a precious gift to the Emperor and nobles only.  Around 479 A.D., Turkish merchants began trading tea around the Mongolian borders.

In the 700s, tea was introduced to Japan by Lu Yu, who wrote the first definitive book about tea. This tome, The Classic of Tea, attracted the interest of Zen Buddhist monks in Japan, and tea began its journey to the East. From the 600s to the 900s, between the Tang Dynasty and Sung Dynasty, matcha green tea powder was the most commonly used and traded tea to India,Turkey and Russia and was transported via horse, donkey and camel caravans.

Steep yourself in the culture of tea at LaB 5555 this Feb. 8!

During the Yuan Dynasty under Mongolian Emperors, tea was a common drink. But even though Marco Polo had ample contact with the dynasty, he did not bring back tea to Italy and the country missed its chance to earn a fortune. After the Mongolian reign, whole leaf steeping was widely used in favor of matcha, and black tea and oolong tea processing began.

A few hundred years later, toward the end of the Ming Dynasty, European missionaries started to land in Asia to spread Christianity to the East. When they returned west, they brought back new knowledge about the benefit and pleasure of drinking tea.

It wasn’t the tea-loving Brits who first encountered the beverage, however. The first European known to encounter tea was the Portuguese Jesuit Father Jasper de Cruz, who documented his experience in 1560. Dutch traders became the first Europeans to bring tea back to the west, and they profited immensely from selling this exotic beverage. The Portuguese and the Dutch collaborated in the tea trade from China, carrying the valuable merchandise to other European countries.

In 1662, Charles II married Catherine Braganza of Portugal, who loved tea and made it the most common beverage drink in England — even above alcohol. As demand increased from the west, annual tea trade was recorded in British diplomat Harry Parkes’  Report on the Russian Caravan Trade from China. Russian Caravan Tea (lapsang souchong) was documented as having been exchanged for small furs, like squirrels. Teas began traveling annually through Kiakhta, Mongolia to Russia via the Silk Road, then from Russia to the west. The Dutch started to compete against the Portuguese in the tea trade, which motivated the English empire to join an alliance with the Portuguese.

Queen Elizabeth I appointed the East India Company to control all trading business with the East. The company used India as a base to extend its ambitious influence to China, where it introduced and encouraged opium sales. Not long afterward, the Qing government attempted to crack down on opium use and smuggling in Canton and other southern provinces. However, because China had less military prowess and technology at its disposal, China lost most struggles during these “Opium Wars,” and ultimately lost Hong Kong to the English in 1842. Following that, China was scrambled by eight different European countries, with each occupying one or more provinces.

Can you believe the tea trade could lead to the scramble for China and the collapse of the Qing Dynasty?

As the demand for tea continued to grow, the English spread tea plantations to their colony in India. Nearly every region touched by the English Empire was influenced by tea.

This included the New World, where the English, being envious of Dutch success in the  area, decided to try to monopolize the tea market in New England. They passed The Tea Act in 1773, which led to Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution.

Imperialism in the 1900s even brought tea to Africa, where plantations were established in Uganda, Kenya and Malawi. Even today, tea is the second-most common beverage, second only to water, because of its history and reputed benefits.

The Tontons
LaB 5555’s featured musical guests, The Tontons

Learn all the political and social implications of the tea trade at LaB 5555 this Friday and then dance it out to the music of local favorites The Tontons — and be sure to check out their new single, out this month!